MILAN (Bloomberg) -- Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne can't stop the financial bleeding in Europe, so he's shifting the automaker's growth and profit focus to Chrysler Group in the United States.
Marchionne, who has been spearheading an industrywide effort to cut excess assembly lines in Europe, vowed to close a second Italian factory, after shuttering one last year, unless he finds a way to export cars to the United States.
"We need to coordinate the efforts; otherwise somebody is going to pay a huge price for it," Marchionne said in a conference call with analysts yesterday. "The European market is now heading for a fifth-straight year of decline; we are now seeing levels in the Italian market which has not been since 1979," he added, citing "irrefutable evidence of market decay."
For Marchionne, the potential flow of cars from Europe to North America would follow the money. Capital spending at Chrysler, which Marchionne also runs, will rise to $4 billion this year from $3.1 billion in 2011, while Fiat is reducing European investment by 500 million euros this year.
Chrysler plans to raise its full-year profit forecast after the third quarter and doesn't expect a slowdown in the second half.
"Marchionne's strategy to bet on North America as Europe stalls make sense as things stand now," Emanuele Bosio, CEO of Italian car-parts maker Sogefi, said in a phone interview. "We are bullish on North America, and we don't expect the European market to return anytime soon to pre-crisis level."
Sogefi plans to boost revenue from outside Europe to 50 percent in 2015 from 30 percent last year as it expands in North America, Bosio said.
Marchionne rescued Chrysler from bankruptcy in 2009. The addition of the third-largest U.S. carmaker gave Fiat an outlet lacking at PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Europe's second-largest carmaker.
The French automaker last week was downgraded to two levels below investment grade by all three main credit rating services as it burns through 200 million euros a month in cash. PSA reported a first-half net loss of 819 million euros, compared with a profit of 806 million euros a year earlier.