Fiat sees Europe car sales down for fifth year

Wed Apr 4, 2012 2:54pm EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) - European new car sales will decline for the fifth year in a row in 2012 to 13 million vehicles, Fiat FIA.MI Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said on Wednesday, as the group moved a step closer towards a full-blown merger with U.S. automaker Chrysler.

"For 2012 the market expectations in Europe are not encouraging," Marchionne, who also runs Chrysler, told a shareholder meeting in Turin at which a share conversion that paves the way for Fiat's merger with the U.S. carmaker was approved.

His forecast compares with 13.1 million cars sold in Europe last year, and almost 16 million cars sold in 2007, before the start of the financial crisis, according to figures from lobby group ACEA.

The European car market is struggling in the face of dampened consumer spending power and fears over high oil prices, while automakers face cut-throat price competition that piles further pressure on their margins.

Marchionne had already given a gloomy outlook for Fiat's Italian home market, where 2012 sales are expected to fall to 1.5 million units after a "horrible" month of March - the worst since 1980.

He confirmed the combined group's profit targets for 2012, which are expressed in a range to take into account the weakness in Europe - which he said would only begin to recover at the end of the year.

The group expects net profit of between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion euros for 2012, with revenues exceeding 77 billion euros, thanks to the ongoing strength of its U.S. and Latin American operations.

Car sales were seen at between 4.1 million and 4.4 million units in 2012, compared to 4 million sold in 2011.   Continued...

A woman pushes her Fiat 500 car as her dog sits inside in a neighbourhood in Rome March 23, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi