UPDATE 1-Fiat Chrysler Latam CEO sees 1.5% auto sales growth in the region

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler expects Latin America auto sales to grow 1.5% this year, to 4.2 million units, as Brazil’s economic recovery offsets economic crises in other markets such as Argentina.

Fiat Chrysler’s CEO for the region, Antonio Filosa, told journalists the automaker will increase its powertrain production and begin sales of a 100% electric vehicle in Brazil. Filosa predicted a 6% rise in Brazilian auto sales this year, with Fiat sales increasing by 7% to 9%.

Auto sales in Argentina may drop as much as 15%, below 400,000 units, as the country faces a difficult debt restructuring and economic crisis. Even so, Filosa said the automaker plans to keep its production in the country considering its long-term prospects.

Fiat is currently the third largest automaker in Brazil, behind General Motors Co (GM.N) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), after losing its top spot as sales of SUVs grew in the country. Fiat expects to launch new SUVs in 2021 and 2022.

The company will increase powertrain production from 1.1 million to 1.3 million units a year, Filosa said.

Reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr.; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler

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