MILAN (AP) — Italian carmaker Fiat SpA on Thursday said first-quarter profits more than tripled thanks to its U.S. unit Chrysler, which posted its best quarter in 13 years, while sales in Europe plunged.
The automaker, based in the northern Italian city of Turin, reported net profit of €104 million ($137 million) for the period ending March 31, up from €29 million a year earlier, due to strong North American results and despite losses in Europe.
Fiat's European operations lost €207 million — the only region to post a loss. Fiat's car registrations in the region plunged 26 percent to 81,469 units — far outpacing the market's drop of 6.6 percent in the quarter, according to the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association. Fiat sells cars under brands including Fiat, Lancia, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo.
Fiat shares fell 5 percent to €3.74.
Strong sales at Chrysler, which Fiat controls with a 58.5 percent stake, helped boost the group's revenues, which more than doubled to €20 billion from €9 billion in the first quarter of 2010. Chrysler generated €11.3 billion of that revenue.
Excluding Chrysler, Fiat's revenues fell 5.7 percent due to declining European auto sales. Fiat also suffered a drop in production and deliveries due to a monthlong strike by trailer drivers protesting higher gas prices and government austerity measures.
Fiat said it maintained its 2012 targets of €77 billion in revenue and net profit of €1.2 billion to €1.5 billion, despite the absence of any indication that car sales will bounce back in Europe this year.