Fiat more than doubled its third-quarter profit to EUR286m (US$370m) from EUR112bn in the same period last year. 

Analysts had expected a net profit of EUR250m, news agency AFP reported.

In a statement Fiat forecast a net profit of EUR1.2bn ($1.55bn) in 2012 on a turnover of EUR83bn ($107bn) or “the bottom end of the range” suggested until now.

Turnover was EUR20.4bn, a 16% annual rise, with major regional variations. Sales were down in Europe, the Middle East and Africa but rose in other regions.

At the end of July, Fiat had said net profit in the second quarter had plunged to EUR358m ($440m) despite a rise in operating profits at its US arm Chrysler , AFP noted.

At that time the group said its performance in the first half of the year meant it could confirm its annual forecast for a net profit of EUR1.2-1.5bn and sales of over EUR77bn.

Fiat has repeatedly warned it may be forced to shut down one its five massive Italian plants, which are all producing well below capacity because of a slump in European car sales that has hit Italy particularly hard.

In September the company said it was dropping a strategic plan it had announced in 2010 to invest EUR20bn and produce 1.4m cars in Italy by 2014.

Fiat said it could no longer meet the targets because the economic crisis had brought car sales in Italy back down to their level of 40 years ago.