Fiat Chrysler maps out expanded N.A. production, sales

DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to build hundreds of thousands more vehicles in North America each year through 2018, and intends to import and export more as the automaker globalizes its product portfolio.

The company expects to build almost 2.6 million vehicles across North America in 2018, up from 2.1 million vehicles built on the continent in 2013. Imports from other regions are expected to grow almost tenfold to 360,000 vehicles in 2018 from 32,000 units last year, while export growth from North America is expected to grow by about half.

Fiat Chrysler gave its North American production and sales projections through 2018 today while outlining its five-year global business plan for analysts and journalists in suburban Detroit.

It was unclear whether the company might need to add production capacity to meet its North American output goals. Fiat Chrysler’s plants already operate well above 100 percent efficiency, as measured by the industry standard Harbour method.

The automaker forecasts a flattening annual sales rate to about 17 million units in the United States, but still predicts continued growth in its market share across its four major brands through 2018. It predicts its North American sales will climb to 3.1 million units five years from now, including 150,000 annual sales from the Alfa Romeo brand, from 2.1 million units in 2013.

While all of the company’s four core North American brands experienced double digit sales increases since 2009, future growth is expected to be dominated by the strengthening of the Chrysler brand lineup, which the company predicts will more than double sales from current levels.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company plans to continue the growth in North America that it has experienced since its 2009 bankruptcy.

“We’ve been able to bring a lot of people back into the car business, and the future looks promising,” Marchionne said.

The automaker will continue to push its fleet mix lower. Fleet sales accounted for as much as 36 percent of the company’s sales shortly after its bankruptcy and stood at 22 percent last year. The company said it would push fleet down to about 20 percent of total U.S. sales, concentrating more on more profitable commercial and government sales instead of daily rental sales.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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