US-Italian automaker Fiat Chrysler said today that its net earnings fell by nearly a fifth last year as sales slowed, although profitability rose in the final quarter. 

The firm, which is set to merge with France's Peugeot-Citroen to create the world's third-largest automaker by revenues, saw net earnings fall 19% to €2.7 billion in 2019. 

Sales slid 2% to €108.2 billion, similar to the slowdown in the global auto market. 

Although sales by volume slipped in the key North American market, Fiat Chrysler said it managed to increase margins and earnings before interest payments and taxes there. 

The results in the fourth quarter also gave reason for hope. Revenues edged higher despite its unit sales dipping. 

Moreover, the company's net profit shot 35% higher to nearly €1.6 billion, accounting for nearly half of the 2019 total. 

The firm confirmed its 2020 outlook despite "new headwinds", saying it was monitoring recent developments such as increases in raw materials prices and the global impact of the coronavirus.

It is targeting adjusted diluted earnings per share at €2.80, up from €2.73 in 2019 but below the €3 it earned in 2018.

The firm also expects operating profits to rise to nearly €7 billion from €6.7 billion in 2018.