Fiat: Blowing Smoke or Ready to Race?

Skeptics have missed the turn, insists new chief Herbert Demel, who says new models will put the troubled auto maker in the fast lane

Former Audi Chief Executive Herbert Demel took one of the least envied jobs in the European auto industry last fall. That's when he signed on as CEO at ailing Fiat Auto, which has lost $3.6 billion over the past three years, including $1.2 billion in 2003 on sales of $24.8 billion. The 50-year-old Austrian manager not only has to restore Fiat's profitability, he must reverse a perilous slide in sales: Unit sales fell 8.8% in 2003, and revenues declined 9.6%.

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