Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Fiat shuts down six Italian car plants for two weeks

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Italian carmaker Fiat wants to close down its Sicily factory

Fiat is temporarily shutting six Italian factories for a fortnight.

The carmaker said the move was needed because the end of car scrappage schemes in Europe had led to "a collapse in orders".

About half of Fiat's Italian car plant workers, some 30,000 people, will be affected. There were demonstrations over the weekend at Fiat factories.

Earlier this month, Italy's government announced it would not be renewing the country's car scrappage scheme.

The plants concerned, which make cars rather than trucks and farm machinery, are in Rome, Turin, Naples and Sicily. Five of them are owned by Fiat and the sixth is a joint venture with Peugeot.

"Over the past year we have had various plant stoppages, but this is first time that all the plants have been closed at the same time for two weeks," said Fiat Group vice-president for communications Richard Gadeselli.

He added: "The car industry in the past used to stockpile new cars, but now we're only building to demand."

The unions have requested a meeting with Fiat's management and the government on the future of Fiat.

The longer-term outlook for Fiat's Termini Imerese factory in Sicily is in question. The car firm plans to shut it in a year's time and relocate some production to other Italian sites.

The Italian government is keen to see the plant remain in operation and has been taking bids from other firms to convert the factory and keep it open.

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