Chrysler first-quarter profit tanks

Chrysler Group reported Monday a 65 percent drop in first-quarter profit from a year ago, citing weaker sales to Europe and new product launches.

Chrysler, the number-three US automaker, posted net income of $166 million for the first three months of the year, down from $473 million in the year-earlier period.

Net revenue for the company, controlled by Italy's Fiat, fell 6.0 percent, to $15.4 billion.

Chrysler noted the rough quarter was expected and was mainly due to the end of production of the Jeep Liberty last year in preparation for the launch the 2014 Jeep Cherokee in the second quarter of this year.

Results in the January-March period were also negatively affected by other product launches, as well as "continued economic weakness in Europe and import restrictions in Latin America," the company said in a statement.

Worldwide vehicle shipments fell 5.0 percent to 574,000 units, due mainly to the end of Liberty production, the company said.

But sales worldwide were up 8.0 percent from a year ago, to 563,000 units, led by a 12 percent jump in the United States.

"We remain on track to achieve our business targets, even as the first-quarter results were affected by an aggressive product launch schedule," Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler chairman and chief executive, said in the statement.

Chrysler confirmed its full-year earnings target of $2.2 billion dollars, on revenue of $72-75 billion.

Chrysler, majority owned by Italy's Fiat with the company's auto union controlling a large minority share through its pension fund, has sustained a strong recovery from its-near collapse and rescue by the US government in 2008.