Fiat is to extend the closure of some of its factories in Italy as the company comes to terms with falling sales. The Italian carmaker had previously announced shutdowns over the Christmas period, but has now said that some facilities will remain closed further into January than thought while one will be shut until February.

Fiat factories in Italy closed on Monday this week (15 December) with plans to reopen on 12 January. However, unions were informed this week that the company's Mirafiori and Cassino plants would remain shut until 19 January. They would then close again for another week in early February.

Meanwhile the Sicilian factory will reopen on 19 January only to shut again from January 26 to February 8. Worst of all though was at Pomigliano, near Naples, where production will not begin again until 8 February.

The move affects nearly 50,000 workers.

Earlier this month, Fiat deputy chairman John Elkann dismissed talk of a possible spin-off of Fiat's car-making division, saying now is not the time.

"In the normal market conditions, it is an idea which may be considered. But now there can be no talk about it," he told the Il Sole 24 Ore financial daily. "We are going through a major crisis which will radically change the automobile world, and Fiat could play a role in its consolidation," he said.

Elkann added that Fiat will continue to make money even if revenues fall sharply, even by 20% compared to 2008 which itself is not an excellent year.

Last October, Fiat said sales volumes could fall between 10 and 20% and trading profit could plunge 65% next year as the global financial crisis takes its toll on sales.