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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is turning the corner in Europe and may break even in the region at an operating level ahead of schedule as a focus on premium vehicles for export is starting to pay off.
"In 2015, we could break even at the operating level (in Europe)," CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the Detroit auto show in comments later confirmed by a spokesman.
Fiat Chrysler had forecast that its European operations would end losses in 2016. The company posted an operating loss of 520 million euros ($613 million) in Europe in 2013.
To help counter weak demand in its traditional markets, especially Italy, Marchionne decided in 2012 to follow bigger rivals and strengthen its position in the fast-growing and higher-margin market for premium cars.
In another sign of a turning point in its home market, Fiat Chrysler said on Monday it planned to add more than 1,000 new workers at its Melfi plant in southern Italy thanks to "extremely positive" sales of its new Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X models - allowing it to utilize fully the plant's production capacity.
It also ended temporary layoffs at the plant, in which Fiat Chrysler has invested more than 1 billion euros, allowing 5,418 employees to return to work full-time.
 

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The Jeep brand saw a spectacular 41% sales rise in the U.S. last year, officials say. Globally, Jeep saw a 39% increase and hit the million-vehicles sold mark for the first time in its history.
Marchionne says that despite Americans' common perception that they and their products are unpopular around the world, it's just the opposite. He says that the earnest, hopeful, can-do spirit that Jeeps project is one of their key selling points.
 
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