Fiat Chrysler Automobiles promised investors Wednesday that its profit margins will improve this year in North America and said it already started to make progress during the first quarter of the year.

FCA earned a profit of $101.2 million (92 million euro) during the first quarter compared with a loss of $173 million (190 million euro) during the same period last year in part because the company sold more vehicles and made more money per vehicle in North America.

The company’s global operating profits increased 22% to $880 million (800 million euro) during the first quarter compared with $720 million (655 million euro) for the same period a year ago.

The automaker reported earnings per share of 52 cents compared with a loss of $1.55 per share for the same period a year ago. Those results easily beat analysts’ expectations of 7 cents per share. The company’s stock fell 90 cents, or 5.5%, for the day and closed at $15.37 per share.

FCA also earned money in Europe for the second straight quarter even as General Motors and Ford lost money for the quarter in Europe.

FCA US, the company previously known as Chrysler, is now 100% owned by FCA and will report earnings separately sometime early next month.

In North America, FCA has been behind Ford and General Motors for several years when it comes to the amount of money it makes on the cars and trucks it sells and is vowing to change that.

In 2014, Chrysler, which is now a subsidiary of FCA, earned a profit margin of 4.2% while Ford’s profit margin in North America was about 12% and GM’s profit margin was 8%.

During the first quarter, FCA said its profit margin increased in North America to 3.7% compared with 3.8% a year ago.

In total, FCA earned $663 million (603 million euro) before taxes in North America compared with a loss of $128.7 million (117 million euro) for the same period last year.

To be sure, Chrysler was in more distress than either GM or Ford when it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.

For that reason, the automaker has had to invest more money into upgrading its plants and developing new cars and trucks, and that has dragged the company’s profit margin down.

CFO Richard Palmer said the company is reducing its dealer discounts, working to better manage its production and inventory and will benefit later this year as its minivan plant in Windsor resumes production.

All of those factors should help the automaker increase its profit margins.

“We feel confident that a 7% profit-margin rate in the fourth quarter is absolutely doable,” Palmer said.

Palmer also said the company’s plans to complete an initial public offering of 10% of Ferrari is scheduled to occur during the third quarter of this year. However, the corporate spin-off of Ferrari into a standalone company has been postponed until January.

The spin-off of Ferrari will help the automaker raise capital that the automaker will use to fund a global expansion plan designed to reach 7 million cars and trucks annually by 2018.

This year, the automaker expects to sell a total of 4.8 million to 5 million cars and trucks and said it expects to generate a total profit in the range of $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion.

FCA reported its second straight quarterly profit in Europe after several years of losses that occurred during the continent’s deep recession.

The company reported an operating profit of $27 million (25 million euro) compared with a loss of $79 million (72 million euro) for the same period a year ago.

The automaker’s profits there stand in contrast to Ford and General Motors, which both reported losses in the region during the first quarter.

However, the automaker’s operating losses in South America fell to $78 million (71 million euro), which is 45% more than the $53.9 million (49 million euro) the automaker lost in the region for the same period a year ago.

A faltering economy in Brazil could pose big problems for FCA this year because Fiat has the largest market share of any automaker there. Also, the automaker celebrated the grand opening of a new Jeep plant in Pernambuco, Brazil, on Tuesday.

That plant is producing Jeep Renegade subcompact cars for the Brazilian and South American market and is capable of producing up to 250,000 vehicles per year. The automaker spent $1.3 billion on the plant and is hoping to rapidly increase Jeep’s market share in South America.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.