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MILAN, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Italian carmaker Fiat and its U.S. unit Chrysler expect to sell just over 4.3 million vehicles next year, in line with revised targets announced last month, chief executive Sergio Marchionne said.
In October, Fiat cut its performance targets for the next two years because of languishing sales in austerity-hit Europe. It now expects to sell 4.6 million to 4.8 million vehicles in 2014, not the 6 million it had forecast in 2010, back when Europe seemed ready to recover from the global financial crisis.
"We should be slightly north of 4.3 million, with a minimum of 2.6 million from Chrysler," Marchionne said in an interview with Automotive News on Thursday.
The sharp downturn in Europe has forced Marchionne to focus on bolstering Fiat's operations in Europe instead of buying more shares in Chrysler Group.
"It is the biggest drain on our resources both in terms of earnings and in terms of commitment going forward," Marchionne said. "So, we need to get this issue under control. It cannot stay the way it is. It is unthinkable."
Fiat has raised its ownership of Chrysler to 58.5 percent, from the 20 percent share it took after the U.S. automaker's 2009 bankruptcy.
Marchionne, who runs both Fiat and Chrysler, plans to merge the two automakers into a single car company by 2014 or 2015.
Asked if the merger was on track for 2014, Marchionne said: "I think it's on track to get it done. It's an inevitable move ... but it is what it is. I think we need to live within the financial constraints that we have today."
Marchionne said he believed that ultimately the Fiat brand would end up being based on the 500 or Panda models.
Asked if the market could expect a larger 500 model to replace its Punto model, Marchionne said "the Punto is in production, but I think ultimately the Fiat brand will end up being 500 or Panda based. Everything else is irrelevant."
Fiat this week said he had appointed Alfredo Altavilla to take charge of the group's loss-making EMEA region, with the task of executing plans to ramp up production of Fiat's new Alfa, Maserati and Jeep models.