Italian automaker Fiat on Wednesday opened a new
plant for the manufacture of Maserati sport cars near its
headquarters in Turin as it posted bigger profits for 2012 despite
continuing to lose money in Europe.
Over the course of 2012, the Fiat Group, including its US subsidiary Chrysler, sold 4.2 million cars, over 1 million more than in 2011. Net profits rose from 684 million to 1.66 billion euros (2.2 billion dollars), but debt also rose, from 5.53 to over 6.55 billion euros.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, net profits amounted to 388 million euros, up from 286 million euros in the previous three months. In the last quarter of 2011 they amounted to 265 million euros.
No dividends were paid out to shareholders.
"The results are in line with expectations. The group is healthy," Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne said.
Fiat shares on the Milan stock exchange were up by 2 per cent by around 2:30 pm (1330 GMT).
The company has been hard hit by falling sales in recession-hit Europe, its traditional core market, but has remained profitable thanks to strong performances in Brazil and North America.
Last year, losses in the EMEA region - comprising Europe, the Middle East and Africa - amounted to 738 million euros, down from 897 million euros. However, excluding unusual items, they were up from 353 to 544 million euros.
Meanwhile, Chrysler reported 1.7 billion dollars in profit, some nine times the amount earned in 2011, or twice as much after accounting for special items. Revenues for 2012 rose 20 per cent to 65.8 billion dollars.
Chrysler reported selling 2.2 million vehicles, increasing its market share in the United States from 10.5 to 11.2 per cent.
Marchionne wants Fiat's European operations to build more lucrative luxury cars in a bid to turn the company's fortunes around.
"We have a serious commitment," Marchionne said at the opening of the Maserati plant in Grugliasco, confirming that there were no plans to shut down factories in Italy.
The Maserati plant, named after the late Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli, was taken over from Bertone coachworks in 2009 and completely overhauled to produce the Quattroporte saloon and a new smaller model, the Ghibli.
Marchionne said Fiat would return to profit in Europe by 2015-2016. In 2012, European sales for the group were down 16.1 per cent compared to a year earlier.
Fiat's range includes the Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Abarth brands, as well as Ferrari and Maserati. Chrysler sells cars under the Jeep, Dodge and Ram brands.
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