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Q1 figures show Fiat slipping in the red, losing US$444 mil.

NEW YORK--Italian auto giant Fiat reported Tuesday that it sank into the red in the first quarter, losing 319 million euros (US$444 million) mainly on costs associated with its takeover of Chrysler.

Vehicle shipments were up 9.1 percent from the year-earlier quarter to 1.1 million units, and net revenues gained 12.3 percent to 22.1 billion euros.

Gains came in sales in North America and the Asia-Pacific region, and revenues from luxury brands nearly doubled, including Maserati, where revenues were four times higher in the quarter.

But sales growth was flat in Latin America, and the company took a significant loss on Venezuela's sinking currency.

In addition, a sizable payment to cover a note held by the Chrysler union pension fund healthcare trust, required in Fiat's takeover of Chrysler, pulled the overall results to a loss.

The loss compared to a net profit of 31 million euros in the first quarter of 2013. The loss per share was 0.275 euro, compared to a loss of 0.068 euro a year ago.

The report came as Fiat was moving to formally finalize its full takeover with its U.S. subsidiary, taking the name Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

In Detroit Tuesday Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne laid out an ambitious five year development plan aimed at boosting its weight in the global market, including a push to revive the Alfa Romeo line and a big expansion of Jeep sales.

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