Better-than-expected third-quarter profits at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rose 17 percent to $2.1 billion and debt was reduced despite lower sales and reduced revenues.

North American sales, deliveries and profits drove the bulk of the quarterly results, which were adjusted and before interest and tax. Net profit rose to $1.1 billion, and adjusted operating profit margin was also up, to eight percent from 7.6 percent a year ago, the company said Tuesday.

2017 Jeep Compass
Compass helped drive profits

Profitability also increased in Europe thanks to sales of new small SUVs such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Jeep Compass. FCA said lower sales in North America were due to reduced fleet sales and the end of some discontinued models, according to Reuters.

FCA's overall debt was also down slightly, although net industrial debt rose to 4.4 billion euros from 4.2 billion euros three months ago. The company said the rise was due mainly to unfavorable exchange rates between the markets it operates in - particularly the 12 percent gain in the value of the euro against the dollar. But FCA remains on track toward its goal of reducing its industrial debt to less than 2.5 billion euros by the end of this year , according to Bloomberg news.

Analysts credited several parts of CEO Sergio Marchionne's strategy for the unexpected increase in profits, from cutting its money-losing small sedans to building more SUVs and RAM trucks.

FCA shares rose another four percent in Milan after the results were released, part of a continuing surge which has seen the stock rise 67 percent in 2017.