ITALY: Rogue transporter strike could shut second Fiat plant

By Simon Warburton | 15 March 2012

Fiat says it could be forced to close a second plant as a lorry-drivers' strike continues to bite in Italy, resulting in a failure to deliver around 20,000 vehicles.

The automaker is expressing its frustration at a 20-day walk-out by rogue elements within car transporter truck unions, that has already seen the Melfi site shut, with a threat the Pomigliano d'Arco plant could also be hit.

"The truckers strike has been going on for around 20 days - it is a car transporter strike - not all of them," a Fiat spokesman in Turin told just-auto. "We are having to shut down some plants - today [15 March] Melfi is closed and Pomigliano may well close so we are not particularly happy about this situation.

"This is not a Fiat issue - it is affecting all car transport in Italy. Obviously it affects us a bit more as we are manufacturing and export - it has had an effect on our market share. There are a number of local meetings next week with the government - the government does not seem particularly bothered."

Fiat has managed to keep some distribution going as it has its own in-house transport arm. It also uses outside contractors who in turn sub-contract and it appears it is this element that is striking.

Italy endured a mass motorway blockade in January that crippled Fiat plants at Mirafiori, Cassino, Melfi and Pomigliano d'Arco, as irate truck drivers protested against severe austerity measures being introduced by the Italian government in bid to cut the country's enormous deficit.

The Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has asked Fiat to attend a meeting in Rome tomorrow to discuss the automaker's future production plans. 

Speculation in the Italian media - strenuously refuted by Fiat to just-auto today has raised the possibility of a further plant closure in addition to its Sicilian operation - following a sales fall of 18% last month.