For the first time in its 111-year sales history, Brazil has overtaken Italy, Fiat S.p.A.'s home market, to claim the No. 1 spot in 2009. In 2009, Fiat Group Automobiles sold almost 750,000 passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Brazil, up 12.6% from 666,000 units in 2008.
Fiat, which announced its full-year results last Monday, also said that its sales in Italy grew just 0.5% to 722,000 units.
For 2010, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said that Brazil will likely remain the company's top market.
He expects the Brazilian market to rise by 2 to 3% while Italy will drop by 5% if scrapping incentives are continued and by 20% without incentives.
When it comes to volume, Fiat was Brazil's No. 1 automaker with sales of 749,637 new cars and light commercial vehicles, compared with No.2 Volkswagen AG at 695,395 units and No. 3 General Motors Co. at 610,836, according to ANFAVEA, the Brazilian automakers association.
In the last 20 years, Fiat has built up a market-leading presence in Brazil. Fiat is now benefiting from strong consumer demand among Brazil's expanding middle class.
Last year, Fiat and rivals GM and VW also benefited from Brazilian government tax cuts on new-car sales.