Fiat took 28.6% of the Italian car market in March from 27% a year ago as it pumps out new models to pull itself out of crisis, chief executive Giuseppe Morchio reportedly said on Friday.

According to Reuters, Morchio said Fiat and its Alfa Romeo and Lancia marques accounted for 29.4% of the Italian market in the first quarter of 2004, up from 28.2% in the first three months of last year.

"I believe it's a step forward, a signal that our clients appreciate the new models," he told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference, adding: "The latest model, the Fiat Idea, was launched in mid-January and became number one in its sector in March."

The news agency noted that Fiat executives have regularly said they want to sell cars for as much profit per unit as possible rather than fixating on market share figures or getting distracted by other businesses.