Chrysler Posts $473 Million Profit First Quarter

Automaker pushes sales up 33 percent from a year ago.

AUBURN HILLS — Chrysler Group LLC on Thursday reported preliminary net income of $473 million for the first quarter of 2012, up more than 300 percent from $116 million a year ago, driven primarily by its 40 percent increase in U.S. retail sales.

“Another positive quarter – built on sales gains that have surpassed the industry average – is affirmation that the Chrysler team is maintaining its focus,” said Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC. “We continue to deliver on the targets in our five-year plan and are now focused on successfully launching the Dodge Dart, a car that is a true melding of Chrysler’s and Fiat’s engineering and styling strengths.”

Revenue for the quarter was $16.4 billion, up 25 percent from $13.1 billion in the first quarter of 2011, driven by a 25 percent period-over-period increase in shipments and positive pricing.

The company reported a Modified Operating Profit of $740 million, or 4.5 percent of revenue, in the first quarter, up 55 percent from the $477 million reported in the prior year. The increase was attributable to strong volume and pricing, partially offset by unfavorable mix, higher industrial costs, including new vehicle content enhancements and engineering, research and development for new models, and continued marketing efforts.

Interest expense for the quarter totaled $277 million, including $31 million of non-cash interest accretion, versus $348 million in the first quarter of 2011, including non-cash interest accretion of $58 million. The reduction of $71 million primarily reflects interest savings achieved as a result of the Company’s debt refinancing transaction completed in May 2011.

Cash as of March 31, 2012, increased to $11.3 billion from $9.6 billion as of Dec. 31, 2011, and $9.9 billion as of March 31, 2011. Total available liquidity as of March 31, 2012, totaled $12.6 billion, including $1.3 billion available under a revolving credit facility. Free Cash Flow totaled a positive $1.7 billion for the first quarter of 2012, primarily reflecting the improved operating performance and favorable working capital.

Gross Industrial Debt  at March 31, 2012, totaled $12.6 billion, substantially in-line with the $12.5 billion at Dec. 31, 2011, and lower than the $13.3 billion at March 31, 2011. The increase in cash reduced Net Industrial Debt to $1.3 billion at the end of the quarter, a decrease of $1.6 billion and $2.0 billion from Dec. 31, 2011, and March 31, 2011, respectively.

Worldwide vehicle shipments for the quarter were 607,000, including 33,000 of contract manufactured vehicles, an increase of 25 percent from the first quarter of 2011 when 485,000 vehicles were shipped.

Worldwide vehicle sales were 523,000 for the first quarter, up 33 percent from 394,000 vehicles sold in the first quarter of 2011, driven primarily by a 40 percent increase in the company’s U.S. retail sales. Chrysler Group’s March 2012 U.S. sales reflected the 10th consecutive month of sales gains of at least 20 percent.

U.S. dealers’ days supply of inventory at the end of March 2012, was 59 days, lower than the 64 days at the end of December 2011, and 67 days at the end of March 2011.

International vehicle sales (outside North America) for the quarter increased 80 percent from the first quarter 2011, to 67,000, including 18,000 vehicles manufactured by Chrysler Group and sold by Fiat.