TURIN, Italy -- Fiat expects its share of a flat domestic market to be little changed at 28 percent to 29 percent in May and has its focus on the launch of new models later this year, a Fiat Auto executive said on Tuesday.
Total Italian car sales are expected to decline to 180,000 in May from 182,800 in April, said Gianni Coda, the head of Fiat Auto's Fiat-Lancia business unit. Fiat picked up 28.8 percent of Italian sales in April.
"We expect to see growth in orders with the launch of the new Punto, which will happen on June 7," Coda said at the unveiling of a new version of Fiat's popular Punto city car.
Fiat is struggling to reverse a slump in sales by investing 2.5 billion euros ($2.9 billion) a year into new cars, with its full model lineup due to be renewed by 2005.
The face-lifted Punto cost the company 220 million euros, 40 million euros pumped into r&d and the rest into production facilities.
Fiat plans to produce about 400,000-420,000 Puntos per year, with prices starting just short of 10,000 euros.
The Turin-based company, famed for its tiny Cinquecento, plans to launch three new cars this year -- the Mini-like Lancia Y in June, the small Fiat Gingo in September and the small-MPV Idea, built on the Punto platform, in October.
In March, Coda said he expected to sell about 125,000 of the three new models this year, with sales rising to 400,000 in 2004.
"We have suffered for the past year, but we are convinced we can get ahead again," Coda said.
Fiat Auto, 20 percent owned by General Motors, made a record operating loss of 1.3 billion euros last year and posted a first-quarter loss of 334 million euros.