Fiat Group has posted a net loss of 4,263 million euros ($4.6 billion) for 2002. The wider than expected loss was dragged down by restructuring costs at its troubled carmaking unit, Fiat Auto.

Overall Group sales fell 4% to 55.6 billion euros, the decline being attributable to the performance of Fiat Auto.

Fiat Auto’s unit sales were down 11.1% in 2002 and the division’s revenues decreased by 9.4% to 22.147 million units. The company blamed weak demand in European markets, as well as bad market conditions in Poland and Brazil. Volume was also affected by a reduction in inventories, the ‘strategic choice to decrease sales in less profitable channels’, adverse model cycles and the limited impact in the full year of new models, such as the Stilo.

Fiat Auto lost share in the European car market in 2002 – 8.2% versus 9.5% in 2001 – but said that brisk sales of its light commercial vehicles helped it to increase share in that segment.

Fiat Auto’s loss over the year more than doubled to 1,343 million euros (549 million euro loss in 2001). However, Fiat also said that Fiat Auto’s financial position improved in the fourth quarter of the year, with a 180 million euro loss against 432 in the same period of 2001.

Fiat cited lower costs and industrial synergies with GM as factors in the improvement.