Chrysler expects steady U.S. sales growth to start in June, the one-year anniversary of the automaker's emergence from bankruptcy, its U.S. sales chief said on Wednesday.
For March, the company expects U.S. sales to fall between 10 percent and 13 percent from a year earlier, when it offered steep discounts prior to its Chapter 11 filing, Fred Diaz told Reuters on the sidelines of the New York International Auto Show.
Chrysler sold 101,001 units in March 2009.
The impact of those discounts offered last year will probably fade away by June, Diaz said, adding that it would be a realistic expectation for sales to turn positive that month.
We've been to that school of hard knocks with rich incentives, and it's a very slippery slope, Diaz said. That's something we will not relive again.
For 2010, U.S. sales are on track to hit 1.1 million vehicles, in line with targets unveiled in November, Diaz said. That would represent a 9.2 percent share of 12 million units that Chrysler expects the overall industry to sell this year in the U.S. market.
In February, Chrysler sold 84,449 vehicles, flat with a year earlier and marking the first time in 25 months that the company did not report a year-to-year monthly sales drop.
Hurt by a lack of new products, Chrysler U.S. sales fell 36 percent in 2009, worse than the 21 percent decline in overall industry sales.
The company, which emerged from a U.S. government-financed bankruptcy under the management control of Fiat SpA, is struggling to rebuild trust among American consumers by revamping its aging, truck-heavy lineup through 2014. It plans a dozen new vehicles built on Fiat platforms.
The first vehicle due from Fiat -- the 500 small car -- is not expected to arrive in U.S. showrooms until the end of 2010. Analysts and industry experts have warned that Chrysler could be short on time to steer its faltering operations toward recovery.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman and Soyoung Kim; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)