Fiat Chrysler expects improvements after weak first quarter

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 file photo, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles FCA logo is shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Friday, May 3, 2019 reported a 47% drop in profits for the first quarter of 2019 due largely production shifts, but expressed confidence that new models will help the U.S.-Italian company meet full-year profit targets. The company reported net profits of 508 million euros ($566.5 million), down from 951 million euros in the same quarter a year earlier, while net revenue sank 5 percent to 24.5 billion euros.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

MILAN — Carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Friday reported a 47% 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 U.S.-Italian company meet full-year profit targets.

Net profits fell to 508 million euros ($567 million) from 951 million euros in the same quarter a year earlier, while net revenue sank 5 percent to 24.5 billion euros.

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, and Asia, which lost 9 million euros.

"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.

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

Shares in the company rose 5 percent to 14.26 euros as the earnings figures beat many analysts' forecasts.

The carmaker said it shipped 1.037 million vehicles in the first quarter, down 14 percent 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.

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

Luxury marquee Maserati saw sales drop by 41%, with profits diving 75% to 11 million euros. 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 center 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.

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