DETROIT - Chrysler Group's net income more than quadrupled to $1.62 billion in the fourth quarter, boosted by strong U.S. sales and a $962 million one-time tax gain.
Without the tax benefit, the Auburn
Hills, Mich., company still earned $659 million, a 74 percent increase over a
Chrysler's strong quarterly and
full-year performance helped to prop up Fiat, its Italian owner, which has
struggled as auto sales sputter in Europe. Fiat earned 252 million euros ($345
million) excluding one-time items. Without earnings from Chrysler, Fiat would
have lost 235 million euros ($321 million). That's nearly double the loss from
a year ago.
Fiat owned 58.5 percent of Chrysler
last year. It has since bought the rest from a trust fund that pays health care
bills for union retirees.
Chrysler's 10th-straight profitable
quarter came because of strong U.S. sales of Ram pickups and Jeep Grand
Cherokees. Chrysler's U.S. sales, where it does 75 percent of its business,
rose 9 percent last year to just over 1.8 million cars and trucks. Its average
price per vehicle also rose by 2 percent in the fourth quarter to $32,309,
according to Kelley Blue Book. The company sold 2.4 million vehicles worldwide
for the year, also up 9 percent from a year ago.
For the full year, Chrysler earned
$1.8 billion excluding tax benefits, its best performance since leaving
bankruptcy in 2009.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both
companies, told Chrysler employees in an email that they would get performance
awards based on last year's earnings, but no numbers were released.
"Your courage and passion have
restored Chrysler to being a competitive force in the auto industry and have
created a strong partner with Fiat in building an exciting new global
venture," he wrote.
Fiat posted a profit of 943 million
euro ($1.29 billion) for the year without one-time items, but it would have
lost 911 million euros ($1.25 billion) without profits from Chrysler.
The Italian automaker's board of
directors decided to scrap the company's dividend to maintain its liquidity
after buying the trust's stake in Chrysler for $1.75 billion (about 1.35
billion euros) in cash and another $1.9 billion in extraordinary dividends. The
deal closed on Jan. 21.