Fiat Burning Rubber

If Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne keeps hitting his targets, the Italian automaker is likely to go down in automotive history as the industry’s most dramatic turnaround. On Jan. 25 Marchionne announced a 21.3% rise in automotive division revenues to $30.8 billion. Fiat Auto earned a operating profit of $378 million — compared with a loss of $365 million last year. It was Fiat Auto’s first profitable year since 2000, and triggered Fiat Group’s first dividend since 2002 — a payout of $359 million. Equally impressive, Fiat is clawing back market share in Europe, where in 2004 it seemed in a death spiral. Fiat ended the year with a market share of 7.6%, up from 6.5% a year earlier — in a stagnant market. It took share from the once fearsome French automakers, Renault and Peugeot.

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