MILAN — Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday that Fiat Chrysler was entitled to apply for Italy’s state-backed loans because the automaker employs thousands of people in the country, even though its legal base is located abroad.

The Italian-American group confirmed on Saturday its Italian unit was working with Rome to obtain state guarantees on a 6.3-billion-euro ($6.8 billion) loan facility designed to help Italy’s automotive industry, comprised of approximately 10,000 small and medium-size businesses.

The coronavirus outbreak, which has hit Italy especially hard, slammed the brakes on demand for new vehicles and forced automakers to halt most production, burning cash.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in a statement that talks were ongoing with lender Intesa Sanpaolo for a three-year credit facility exclusively dedicated to the group’s