Chrysler, Hyundai, VW pull into auto sales fast lane

Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:26am EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - Automakers Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), Chrysler and Hyundai (005380.KS: Quote) pulled away from rivals on Thursday, unveiling strong sales and profits driven by growth in the Americas and Asia.

Carmakers that rely heavily on European sales, by contrast, are struggling with cut-throat price competition in a dwindling market as government budget cuts, weak wages growth and rising unemployment depress consumers' spending power.

Robust sales in North America helped U.S. maker Chrysler Group LLC, managed by majority owner Fiat Spa FIA.MI, to post its best quarterly profit since its 2009 bankruptcy.

Chrysler's auto sales rose 33 percent in the quarter, led by its home U.S. market, where it gained market share on a first-quarter sales jump of 36 percent. Quarterly profit jumped to $473 million from $116 million a year ago.

"Another positive quarter - built on sales gains that have surpassed the industry average - is affirmation that the Chrysler team is maintaining its focus," said Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of both Chrysler and Italy's Fiat.

Fiat's European business is expected to post a loss, as the region's debt crisis takes its toll. It releases consolidated Fiat-Chrysler results later in the day.

Korean automaker Hyundai Motor's (005380.KS: Quote) quarterly net profit rose almost a third, driven by growth in the United States and China.

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Even in sickly Europe, Hyundai bucked the trend, as modestly priced compact cars including its revamped i30 model and long warranties fared better with cost-conscious drivers.   Continued...