Lockdown set to stymie Fiat attempt to restart some Italian production

MILAN (Reuters) - A probable extension of Italy's lockdown could frustrate an attempt by Fiat Chrysler FCHA.MI to resume some vehicle production at three Italian plants next week, a union representative said on Monday.

Italy has banned travel within the country and ordered a freeze on all non-essential business activities, including the car industry, until April 3 to curb the spread of coronavirus which has now killed almost 11,000 people in the country.

FCA informed unions last week that if the government gave it the go-ahead, the automaker would be ready to resume some of its operations on April 6, Gianluca Ficco, a representative for metal workers union UILM, said.

The sites concerned would be the assembly line for the Jeep Compass at the Melfi facility in southern Italy, Atessa’s plant making light commercial vehicles in central Italy and preparatory operations for the new electric 500 in Turin’s Mirafiori factory, he said.

Ficco however said he did not know whether the government would allow non-essential activities to restart next week and thought Rome was more likely to extend the ban.

Despite hopes among Italian officials that the downward trend in coronavirus fatalities nationally would continue, it appeared increasingly likely that restrictions would be soon officially extended.

On Sunday Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia said the government would “inevitably” extend containment measures beyond April 3.

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Italian media have reported that the extension could last for a further two weeks until about April 18.

A spokesman for FCA confirmed on Monday that for now, the plan was to resume those three facilities next week.

Ficco added that, in any case, when operations restarted FCA would have to make sure that the highest health and safety conditions are assured in all factories.

Luxury carmaker Ferrari RACE.MI, which, like FCA, is controlled by Exor EXOR.MI, the investment firm of Italy's Agnelli family, said on Friday it would reopen its two Italian plants on April 14, provided it had supplies.

Exor said last week that current plant closures at companies it controls, though temporary, might continue.

Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by David Clarke and Keith Weir