Fiat Chrysler enjoyed a strong start to the year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took a big chunk off its debt in the first quarter of 2018 – more than was expected in fact.

According to a report by Reuters, the company, which owns Fiat, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram trucks had its debt fall to just over £1.1 billion even though forecasts predicted worse.

The debt reduction for the world's seventh-largest carmaker was achieved by operating profit rising by five percent to £1.4 billion – although that was slightly below industry predictions of £1.5 billion. It is expected to be in positive cash flow by the end of the year.

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While shares fell immediately after the news broke, they quickly recovered to be up 1.6 percent at £16.95 a share by the end of the day.

Since Sergio Marchionne took over at the helm of the company, it has enjoyed improved fortunes.

He led Fiat's merger with Chrysler in 2014, rescuing the American company from bankruptcy, and returned it to profitability in less than two years – a move which saw the company also pay back all of its loans from the US and Canadian governments.

Under Marchionne's leadership, CNH Industrial and Ferrari were also spun off from the extended Fiat Chrysler group, becoming separate business entities in 2011 and 2016 respectively, with Magnetti Marelli also set for a similar change. Alfa Romeo also returned to the American market for the first time since 1995. Since its return to the US almost a decade ago, Alfa Romeo has enjoyed a steady increase in sales, leading to record numbers sold last year.

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