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Piaggio closes its Derbi motorbike factory in Catalonia

Production will be transferred to the country of origin of the group, Italy. The Catalan motorbike brand Derbi was bought in 2001 by Piaggio. The decision affects more than 230 jobs.


09 March 2011 12:13 AM



Barcelona (ACN).- The Italian Group Piaggio has decided to transfer the production of the Derbi factory in Martorelles in Barcelona\u2019s Metropolitan Area to Italy. The factory produces scooters of 50 and 125 cc. It employs more than 230 people. Piaggio announced the decision on Monday at the presentation of the group\u2019s results for 2010. Today the chairman of the worker\u2019s union, Josep Maria Ferràs, confirmed Piaggio\u2019s decision to CNA. The workers still do not have the details of the transfer, nor an explanation of the reasons. However, the decrease in scooter sales in the Spanish market for the last years seems to be one the causes. The motorbike sector is going through a crisis - just last month the Yamaha factory in Catalonia announced its closure and issued a mass layoff last week. According to Ferràs, the decision is \u201Cpolitical\u201D. Its objective is \u201Cto satisfy the Italian government and the Italian trade unions\u201D.

The transfer of the production represents the closing of the historical factory where Derbi and Rabassa motorbikes have been produced. Derbi was a Catalan motorbike company founded in the early 1920s that was bought in 2001 by the Italian scooter manufacturer Piaggio. Closing the Martorelles plant affects 200 fixed-term jobs and 33 temporary workers. However, they will not be the only ones affected: the supplying companies and service providers will also lose out on business. For some of them, Derbi\u2019s decision, which comes on top of Yamaha\u2019s, may represent a serious threat for their company\u2019s viability.

\u201CRationalising the Group\u2019s structure in Europe\u201D

Piaggio presented yesterday its results for 2010. The company\u2019s board announced it had approved the \u201Crestructuring of the productive activities\u201D in the factory the company has in Catalonia, in Martorelles (in Barcelona\u2019s Metropolitan Area). The factory manufactures Derbi motorbikes, under the company \u2018Nacional Motor SAU\u2019. According to Piaggio, the decision\u2019s objective is \u201Cnot only to rationalise the Group\u2019s structure in Europe and guarantee a greater efficiency and productivity, but also to improve the competitiveness of the Derbi product\u201D. Piaggio stated that the decision will \u201Csupport the growth of the Spanish brand\u2019s market shares\u201D.

At the end of February, mayors from towns close to the Martorelles factory were asking the Catalan and the Spanish Government to try to avoid the closing of the Derbi\u2019s plant. Besides, the General Union of Workers (UGT) was also claiming the public administrations to intervene to ensure the viability of all the companies related to motorbike and car industry. Catalonia is a cluster of the motorbike and car industry.

In 2001 Piaggio bought Derbi. In September 2009, the Italian company already split the company in 3 parts and 53 workers were laid off or offered an early retirement since then. In addition, the company reduced significantly the production of scooters and motopeds in Martorelles. According to the workers\u2019 union, from the 24,000 bikes manufactured in 2010, the company\u2019s forecast for 2011 is to produce 20,000 bikes.

The union\u2019s vision

The worker\u2019s union representative said that the company announced the decision yesterday at the stakeholders meeting. It officially released the decision today to the Martorell workers. \u201CFor some time we have been intuiting this. When we were asking about it, they [the factory\u2019s management] were telling us they didn\u2019t know anything about it\u201D, told Ferràs. He also complained about the fact that Piaggio refused to communicate the decision \u201Cface to face\u201D to the workers, which in his words was \u201Ca shame\u201D. According to Ferràs, since the moment the workers started to be suspicious of the company\u2019s intentions, they met will all the possible actors, including the Catalan Government. The union representative thinks that the Catalan elections interfered in Piaggio\u2019s decision as the company framed its decision when the previous Government\u2019s staff was leaving and the new one was taking office. Ferràs emphasised that the Catalan Government always listened to them and that they have \u201Calways\u201D been in contact with the Government\u2019s Director General for Employment. \u201CThey listened to us and they took care of the issue. Last week we were with the Director General for Employment [of the Catalan Government] and we had a meeting with the company scheduled tomorrow\u201D, told Ferràs.

Ferràs thinks that the decision is \u201Cpolitical\u201D as recently Piaggio transferred part of its production from Italy to Vietnam and the decision caused problems with the Italian government and the trade unions. Still according to Ferràs, the Piaggio\u2019s decision is \u201Ca way of satisfying the Italian government, the trade unions and the workers\u201D. The company is supposed to present this Wednesday a document to the workers on which it states the reasons for the production transfer. According to Ferràs, Derbi\u2019s factory \u201Cis a viable business\u201D and the closing could be negotiated.


  • Derbi's factory in Martorelles (by N. Vidal)

  • Workers assembling Derbi motorbikes (by Derbi)

  • Derbi's factory in Martorelles (by N. Vidal)
  • Workers assembling Derbi motorbikes (by Derbi)