U.S. and Brazil bright spots for Fiat-Chrysler as Europe declines

Global April sales for Fiat-Chrysler show how much the Americas, especially the United States and Brazil, are supporting the automaker.

Fiat-Chrysler's global vehicle sales were 394,100 units last month, up 10.8 percent compared with the same month a year before, according to Fiat's investor relations Web site. These sales numbers are not widely reported by the media because Fiat posts them only to investors while other automakers do that and also issue press releases.

North America was Fiat-Chrysler's largest market, with sales up 10.2 percent to 189,400 in April. Of those, 184,700 were Chrysler Group sales and 4,700 Fiat vehicles. U.S. sales grew 11 percent to 156,700; Canada was up 4.9 percent to 25,700; and Mexico grew 13.9 percent to 6,900.

Latin America volume increased by 29.5 percent to 84,800. Fiat did not break down the sales numbers by brands but most of the company's sales in the region are Fiat-badged vehicles. In Brazil, Fiat-Chrysler's volume rose 29.4 percent to 70,200.

The EMEA region, which includes Europe, Middle East and Africa, remained Fiat-Chrysler second largest region and showed different trends. Passenger cars sales declined by 6.6 percent to 79,600, while light commercial vehicles grew by 5.4 percent to 25,200.

Fiat-Chrysler's fastest growing region remains Asia-Pacific (APAC). Here, April sales grew by 68.9 percent to 13,900, fueled by China sales up 125 percent to 9,600 units.

From January to April, Fiat-Chrysler's global vehicle sales grew by 5.3 percent to 1.45 million. Last year, global sales increased by 6 percent to 4.2 million. Fiat forecasts that its volume will increase to between 4.3 million and 4.5 million units this year.

In an April 29 presentation to analysts, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company expects about 2.2 million sales in the NAFTA region this year, up from 2.11 million last year. Latin America and EMEA will remain stable at about 1 million units each, while the APAC region is expected to double sales to 200,000, Marchionne said.

Marchionne expects U.S. sales to grow to about 15.5 million this year from 14.8 million last year, while Canada is seen stable at 1.7 million. Latin America is expected to grow to 6.1 million from 5.8 million and Asia-Pacific to 25 million from 23.8 million.

For Europe, Fiat expects a sixth consecutive year of declining sales with volume at about 12 million, down from 12.5 million passenger cars last year. Light commercial vehicles are set to drop about 5 percent to 1.5 million units

Marchionne expects Fiat's home market of Italy to have a total industry volume below 1.3 million sales this year, down from 1.4 million last year and an all-time peak of 2.5 million in 2007.

"In operating terms, Fiat's challenges continue to mount. The European market and particularly Italy show no sign of getting any easier," Max Warburton, a financial analyst at Bernstein Research in Singapore, wrote in a note to investors last week. Warburton is not sure if volumes in Europe have already bottomed or not, but "there's little reason to think they're about to improve," he wrote.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com

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