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DETROIT, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (FCA) performance last year came in at the top end of the company's own forecasts, Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said on Monday, helping push the shares up 3 percent.
The world's seventh-largest carmaker has said it would report 2015 adjusted operating profit of at least 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion) and sees net debt dropping to between 6.6 and 7.1 billion euros.
"The year has gone well, above expectations," Marchionne told reporters on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.
FCA will report full-year results at the end of this month.
Asked by reporters whether he also confirmed a goal to sell about 7 million cars in 2018, Marchionne said the carmaker would meet the financial targets it set as part of its five-year business plan to 2018, but added that it did not matter how many cars the company was selling to get there.
One of the main targets was to eliminate its net industrial debt, which stood at 7.85 billion euros at the end of September, which would give FCA "the security to face whatever challenge, even if I'm not around", added the executive, who has pledged to step down after the plan is completed.
Marchionne, who has called for mergers in the industry to share the costs of developing more intelligent and cleaner cars, said he had not abandoned his push for consolidation, which he said was fundamental to the future of the car industry.
However, after being repeatedly rebuffed by his preferred target General Motors, Marchionne said he would get FCA into better shape first by focusing on a 48 billion euro growth plan centered around turning Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Maserati into global brands.
Analysts have raised concerns about FCA's ability to execute the plan, given its debt pile, product delays and persistent weakness in Latin America, only partially offset by a recovering car market in Europe and firmer margins in its North American business.
The company will present an updated product plan at the end of January to reflect changes in the market, including slowing growth in China. This may include some Alfa Romeo and Maserati model launches being delayed and the sales target for its popular Jeep sport utility vehicles being raised.
Marchionne added that he was talking to Google and other companies in Silicon Valley on a possible collaboration, but there was nothing to announce yet. ($1 = 0.9187 euros) (Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Keith Weir)