MILAN -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles asked a portion of its workforce to return to its factory in Melfi, southern Italy, starting Monday.
They will prepare the facility for the final development of the new plug-in hybrid versions of the Jeep Compass and Renegade, a union representative said on Friday.
Marco Lomio, of the UILM union, said the automaker had informed unions that workers would have to complete cars left unfinished on Melfi's assembly lines when the plant was shut in mid-March following rules imposed by Rome to stem the coronavirus spread.
"We will start with 500 people on Monday and we will peak on Wednesday with about 1,000 workers," Lomio said.
This would then allow FCA to have lines free to build prototypes of new variants of the Compass and Renegade, he said.
An FCA spokesman declined to comment.
The partial restart of operations at Melfi, which normally employs 7,400 workers, adds to FCA's plan to resume van production in Atessa, central Italy, a week before a national lockdown imposed by the Rome government is officially due to end.
About 6,000 Atessa workers out of a total of 6,500 are expected to be back to work on Monday, according to a source.
Like it did for the Atessa factory, FCA has sought a green light to restart the Melfi plant from local authorities, relying on their tacit consent, as it makes use of a provision in Italy's lockdown laws that allows companies with activity that can be linked to "essential" sectors to reopen, Lomio said.
Building prototypes of new hybrid cars is considered part of R&D activities, deemed essential by the government.
Lomio said FCA would probably restart developing those prototypes starting on May 4.
He added that, following production stoppages linked to the virus emergency, FCA likely would not be able to start selling the hybrid versions of the Compass and Renegade until September. The automaker's plan prior to the outbreak was to start in July.