Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said Tuesday he will ramp up production of the Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Jeep brands in Europe by 2016 to put idled Italian plants back to work.
A new industrial plan for Fiat, which controls U.S.-based Chrysler, foresees the launch of 17 new car models from Italy from 2013 to 2016.
Marchionne told auto industry analysts that the focus is on luxury brands Maserati and Alfa Romeo, because they have high enough margins to generate profits as exports. The plan includes a smaller Jeep aimed primarily at Europe.
The plan aims to utilize capacity in five Italian factories and not reduce it — as unions have feared.
The CEO also lowered his previous goal for Fiat and Chrysler to produce 6 million cars combined by 2014 to 4.6 million to 4.8 million a year. Fiat expects to produce 4.2 million cars this year.
Fiat officials also discussed finances Tuesday. The company more than doubled its third-quarter profits thanks to strong North American sales by its Chrysler unit and demand in Latin America and Asia more than compensated for a weak European market.
On the basis of the results, Fiat confirmed its 2012 guidance at the lower end of forecasts.
Fiat said third-quarter net profit for the period ended Sept. 30 was $371 million, up from $145 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenues were up 16 percent to $26.4 billion.
Net profit — not counting assets not wholly owned by Fiat — was $50 million, up from a loss of $60 million last year.
Fiat forecast 2012 revenues of about $108 billion.
It was also disclosed that Marchionne approached PSA Peugeot Citroen and General Motors Co. earlier this month about creating a European combination to leapfrog Volkswagen AG as the region’s largest automaker.
Marchionne proposed that Peugeot commit to a combination among Fiat, the French carmaker and GM’s German Opel unit in exchange for stock in the new entity.
The CEO offered to take Opel as part of the deal if he got $5 billion to $7 billion to restructure the unit, according to people familiar with the talks.
The Fiat CEO is looking for a European partner to break the Italian carmaker out of its isolation in the region after GM and Peugeot announced an alliance earlier this year. Complicating any deal with Peugeot is the automaker’s acceptance last week of $9.1 billion in bond guarantees from the French government, which will require the company to put labor and government representatives on its board.
A combination would have given the new entity more heft to compete with Volkswagen.
Together, Fiat, Peugeot and Opel account for 25 percent of the region’s auto sales, topping VW’s 24.8 percent share. The three have struggled to reverse shrinking European sales.
Vehicle deliveries in the region in 2012 may plunge by the most in 19 years, according to the manufacturers’ trade group.