The Stellantis Bielsko-Biala plant, which has operated since 1948 and produced such models as the Polski Fiat 126, will close with the loss of over 450 jobs.

A trade union told EU ‘restrictions on vehicle emissions’ [electrification] were behind the decision.

The FCA Powertrain plant was being put into liquidation.

During the communist era, the then state owned plant produced cars under licence from Fiat, including the 126 known as Maluch (little one in Polish) and exported under various names. In 1992 the facility was privatised and taken over by Fiat.

Wanda Strozyk, chairwoman of the branch of the Solidarity trade union representing Polish Fiat workers, told local newspaper Dziennik Zachodni “we all expected this”. She noted that 300 employees at the plant had already been dismissed last year.

Another union operating at the factory, the Metalworkers Trade Union (ZZPM), said in a statement the plant’s manager had told them “that the reason for the liquidation is the introduction of regulations by the European Commission on internal combustion engine emissions [and] the decrease in orders for engines”.

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By GlobalData

The union said the resultant redundancies would cover the entire 468-strong staff and would be implemented from February to December 2024.

FCA Powertrain’s management announced that, together with the trade unions, they will work out solutions to provide the employees with the “best possible conditions needed to go through the process of professional change,” said, citing the Puls Biznesu daily.

Stellantis has offered workers jobs at other factories in Poland.

FCA Powertain was formed in 2003 by Fiat and General Motors and the plant has produced 7.3m engines.

According to the newspaper’s automotive correspondent, Fiat Chrysler’s merger with PSA might be a bigger factor behind the closure of the historic factory than the EU’s emissions policies.

“When Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot Citroen announced at the end of 2019 that they would merge into a new company, later named Stellantis, questions immediately arose about the future of automotive factories in Poland,” he wrote.

Fiat Chrysler had car factories in Tychy and engine factories in Bielsko-Biala, while PSA, after buying Opel from General Motors, got a car factory in Gliwice and an engine factory in Tychy.

“The corporations declared that, although the merger would save money, they did not intend to close any factories. However, at the end of 2021, just before the deal was finalised, PSA closed the passenger car factory in Gliwice – Opel’s newest and most efficient car factory in Europe, and at the same time the only new car factory in Poland built [after the fall of communism].” noted also that, last year, several vehicle manufacturers announced the closure of factories in Poland, including bus manufacturers Scania and Volvo Buses.

Poland has, however, had success in becoming a hub for the manufacture of electric vehicles and their components, with companies such as Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen recently announcing large investments in Polish production.