World News

Fiat Chrysler to restart van production at Atessa plant at 70% normal rate: union

MILAN (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler (FCA) <FCHA.MI> aims to restart van production at its Atessa joint venture plant in central Italy at 70% of the normal rate, a union representative told Reuters on Thursday.

FCA and unions said on Tuesday that the carmaker planned to reopen the plant, which is a venture with France’s PSA Group <PEUP.PA>, on April 27, a week before a national lockdown imposed by Rome was due to end.

It will make use of a provision in lockdown laws that allows companies whose activity can be linked to sectors deemed “essential” to reopen.

Luca Manzi, from the UILM union, said FCA had informed unions that it planned to restart the plant at around 70% of its capacity, though he could not say precisely how many people would be back to work on Monday.

With a daily production of around 1,200 light commercial vehicles, Atessa, which is located in Italy’s Abruzzo region, is the largest van assembly facility in Europe. It has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The plant, which employs around 6,500 people, is operated by Sevel, a 50-50 joint venture between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot owner PSA. It produces vans for both groups.

“Of course safety is a priority, we’ll make sure that the agreed health measures are in place,” Manzi told Reuters by phone. “Sevel’s main external suppliers have also reassured us that they were compliant with safety rules and ready to restart operations”.

Manzi added production would restart with 17 worker shifts each week, as it was operating before the freeze.

FCA declined to comment.

Earlier this month FCA reached a deal with unions on measures to adopt at its Italian plants once the government eases restrictions on business activity put in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Susan Fenton)