DETROIT — Chrysler on Thursday said it earned $473 million in the first quarter, exceeding its profit for all of 2011 in just three months as its global sales rose 33 percent.
The profit, the largest in any quarter since the carmaker’s 2009 bankruptcy, was more than quadruple that of the same period a year ago, when it earned $116 million. Revenue increased 25 percent, to $16.4 billion.
“Another positive quarter — built on sales gains that have surpassed the industry average — is affirmation that the Chrysler team is maintaining its focus,” said Chrysler’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, in a statement.
Chrysler’s results caused Fiat’s first-quarter profit to more than triple, to 104 million euros ($137 million) from 29 million euros ($38 million) a year ago. Fiat, which owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler, lost 207 million euros ($274 million) in Europe as sales there dropped amid the region’s economic struggles, but it was profitable in all other regions.
Fiat’s woes in Europe mean it would be losing money without Chrysler, only a few years after Fiat kept Chrysler from going out of business.
After being largely written off by many industry observers, Chrysler has steadily improved its finances by overhauling a large portion of its product lineup and using creative, high-profile advertising to attract new customers.
Its market share in the United States jumped two percentage points in the first quarter, to 11.2 percent. Sales at U.S. dealerships increased 39 percent, with passenger-car deliveries up 89 percent, versus an 11 percent gain for the rest of the industry. In Canada, Chrysler surged ahead of General Motors and the Ford Motor Co. to become that country’s top-selling carmaker for the first time.
The company said it was on track to achieve previously announced full-year targets of about $1.5 billion in net income and $65 billion in revenue. The goals compare to 2011 net income of $183 million and revenue of $55 billion. It said free cash flow in the first quarter was $1.7 billion, which is already more than its target for all of 2012.