HAPPY SPENDERS: Fiat haS opened a Maserati plant in Turin in light of a profits increase for 2012.
MARANELLO, Italy - Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne wants Fiat's European operations to build more lucrative luxury cars - such as Maseratis and Alfa Romeos - in a bid to turn around the company's fortunes and it is, according to him, a goal to which Fiat has “a serious commitment.”
Marchionne announced this at the opening of the Maserati plant in Grugliasco, named after the late Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli.
The Grugliasco site was taken over from Bertone coachworks in 2009 and completely overhauled to produce the Quattroporte saloon and a new smaller model, the Ghibli.
There were no plans to shut down more plants in Italy, Marchionne assured.
He said Fiat would return to profit in Europe by 2016. In 2012, European sales for the group were down 16.1% compared to a year earlier.
During 2012, the Fiat Group, including US subsidiary Chrysler, sold 4.2-million cars, more than a million more than in 2011. Net profits rose from R8-billion R20-billion (2.2-billion dollars).
In the fourth quarter of 2012, net profit amounted to over R4-billion, up from R3.5-billion in the previous three months. In the last quarter of 2011 they amounted to R3.2-billion.
"The results are in line with expectations. The group is healthy," CEO Sergio Marchionne said, adding that
Buying a minority stake in Chrysler from US labour unions to achieve a full merger with Fiat remained a priority.
"It is my objective at the end of the process for Fiat and Chrysler to be one corporate entity," Marchionne explained.
For 2013, the target is to shift as many as 4.5-million cars and to raise between R146-billion and R183-billion in profit. Debt is projected to rise to R85-billion.
2013 will mark the return of Alfa Romeo to the US market. According to updated business plans, Marchionne said Alfas would eventually use Ferrari engines.
Fiat has been hard-hit by falling sales in recession-hit Italy, its core market, and in the rest of Europe. But has remained profitable thanks to strong performances in Brazil and North America.
In 2012, losses in the EMEA region - Europe, the Middle East and Africa - were R9-billion, down from R10.9-billion. However, excluding unusual items, they were up from 4.3 to 6.6 billion rand.
Meanwhile, Chrysler reported R153-billion in profit, nine times that of 2011, or twice as much after accounting for special items. Revenue for 2012 rose 20% to R586-billion.
Chrysler reported selling 2.2-million vehicles, increasing its market share in the US from 10.5 to 11.2%.
Fiat's brands now include the Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Abarth, Ferrari and Maserati. Chrysler also sells cars under Jeep, Dodge and Ram products.