Little did sweater-clad Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne know when he bought a controlling stake in troubled number three U.S. car maker Chrysler that he was hedging an unknown bet that Fiat would fall into disrepair under the weight of a terrible European car market. Now, Marchionne appears to be a genius. Chrysler does not act like a third-tier car company. It has outpaced rivals General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) in terms of growth rates in the U.S. market most months.
Chrysler pulled out another improved month again in October.
Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 126,185 units, a 10% increase compared with sales in October 2011 (114,512 units), and the group’s best October sales since 2007.
The Chrysler, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in October compared with the same month a year ago. The Fiat brand’s 89% increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand for the month. October marked Chrysler Group’s 31st-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. The Fiat bragging meant little. Sales of the brand were a pathetic 3,720.
One unit of Chrysler did extraordinarily well. Dodge sales rose 20% during the month to 40,611. This masked to some extent Jeep sales that fell 5% to 34,023, and Chrysler brand sales, which were up only 5% to 22,222.
Now, all Marchionne can hope is the American car and light truck sales remain strong.
Douglas A. McIntyre