Fiat Chrysler to keep two Italian plants shut until Wednesday for virus response work

MILAN (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler (FCA) FCHA.MI will delay the reopening of two plants in southern Italy, which closed this week to complete actions in response to the coronavirus outbreak, by two days until next Wednesday a union representative said.

One of the factories, in Melfi, produces the Jeep models Renegade and Compass and Fiat’s 500X model, while the other plant, in Pomigliano, produces Fiat Panda cars.

“The group is focusing its efforts to have those plants which matter more from a market point of view ready to restart production as soon as possible,” UILM union representative Gianluca Ficco said on Friday.

The carmaker said on Wednesday it was temporarily halting operations this week at four of its Italian plants, for two or three days each, to sanitise work and rest areas and to adapt manufacturing processes to allow more space among workers.

Production rates will be reduced at the reopening, as a result of the measures taken by the group.

A source close to the matter said that FCA was examining the situation at its other Italian factories.

Chief Executive Mike Manley said on Friday in a letter to employees that the carmaker was focusing on how to keep production lines running and vehicle programmes on track, in response the coronavirus emergency.

Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; editing by Agnieszka Flak and Susan Fenton