DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley is encouraging employees to work remotely in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Staffers in places such as China and Italy have been doing this already, but that approach is being expanded to all office employees, Manley said in a message to the workforce. Some staffers, depending on their duties, will still need to go into work. The program is designed to be flexible to allow for a mix of remote and on-site work, according to a spokesman.
While speaking on the effect of the virus outbreak, Manley said: "Clearly we are now moving beyond regional hotspots and into planning for how this will impact every area of our business across the world."
"In our office locations, we are accelerating the deployment of working remotely, or 'Smart Working,'" Manley said in a late Thursday letter to staff that was obtained by Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News. "At our offices in China, Korea, Japan and Italy this practice has become the 'new normal.' For other locations, Smart Working is now available to all employees and I would ask that you coordinate with your local HR representative on how this is deployed department-by-department."
Manley said the letter was the first in a series of weekly updates he plans to issue on the coronavirus situation.He went on to say in the letter that the company has "introduced a very strict policy on external visitors at FCA sites."
"Unless business critical to the company, we are asking every employee to suspend business travel and hosting external guests on site," Manley said.
He added that FCA is postponing or canceling most company events, and that "this applies equally to large gatherings of employees as it does to our participation in auto shows and sponsorships of commercial events."
Manley also highlighted how FCA changed its "production techniques at several plants to enable greater space between employees at work-stations." The automaker has done this in Italy. When asked if this technique could expand to U.S. plants, the spokesman said the company is evaluating all options.
Earlier Thursday, FCA said an employee at its transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana, tested positive for the coronavirus. The employee is receiving medical care and those who worked near him or may have come in contact with him have been put in home quarantine. The plant is continuing production and the company has disinfected his work station and is sanitizing the entire plant.
"Managing through adversity is not new to any of us," Manley said. "Whether you have been at FCA for many years or recently joined the company, we know how to double-down on what is important for our business and ensure we are well-placed to emerge stronger than before."