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Fiat Chrysler 1st quarter profit falls 47%

Carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Friday reported a 47 per cent drop in profits for the first quarter of the year due largely to changes in production, but expressed confidence that new models will help the company meet full-year profit targets.

Vehicle sales drop 14%, but most of the profit comes from North America

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 47 per cent drop in profits for the first quarter of 2019 and a 14 per cent drop in sales. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

Carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Friday reported a 47 per cent drop in profits for the first quarter of the year due largely to changes in production, but expressed confidence that new models will help the company meet full-year profit targets.

Net profits fell to 508 million euros ($763 million Cdn) from 951 million euros in the same quarter a year earlier, while net revenue sank five per cent to 24.5 billion euros ($36.8 billion).

CEO Mike Manley said the rough quarter was expected, and stressed that the carmaker was taking action to address weakness in Europe, which posted a loss of 19 million euros ($28 million), and Asia, which lost nine million euros ($13 million).

"We expect to see sequential quarters improving throughout the year, and as a result we have confidence in our guidance and believe that 2019 will be another solid year for FCA," Manley said.

Production changes in North America

Fiat Chrysler has cut a shift at its Windsor, Ont., assembly plant has invested in new production in the U.S. to make electric and hybrid versions of Jeep SUVs.

It sold 556,000 vehicles in North America, with fewer Chrysler and Dodge brand products sold as well a drop in Jeep sales. The fall in sales was offset by higher pricing, the company said. North American revenues were 16 billion euros ($24 billion).

North America accounted for virtually all profits, with Latin America making a small contribution.

Fiat Chrysler maintained its guidance for full year earnings, saying it still expects adjusted earnings before interest and taxes above 6.7 billion euros ($10 billion).

Shares in the company rose five per cent as the earnings figures beat many analysts' forecasts.

14% fewer vehicles shipped

The carmaker said it shipped 1.037 million vehicles in the first quarter, down 14 per cent from a year earlier, due mainly to the decision not to produce the old Jeep Wrangler alongside the new model. That was only partially offset by increased sales of the Ram.

Luxury marquee Maserati saw sales drop by 41 per cent, with profits diving 75 per cent to 11 million euros ($16.5 million). Manley said that sales and marketing resources have been added to boost sales, acknowledging that "the first half will be a low point in Maserati performance, with improvements coming in the second half."

The carmaker has been at the centre of merger speculation, focused in particular on the French mass-market competitors PSA Peugeot and Renault.

Manley, who has previously stressed that the company can continue to make it as an independent player, told analysts that he expects further consolidation in the industry in the near-term.

"I don't want to get in details but I honestly believe that the next two three years are going to yield very significant opportunities in this area," Manley said. He told analysts to stay tuned for future conference calls.

With files from CBC News

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