Fiat today exercised an option to raise its stake in Chrysler by 3.3 percent.

The move is part of CEO Sergio Marchionne’s step-by-step purchases intended to lead to full control of Chrysler and the creation of a merged company that would be able to compete better with industry leaders Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen.

Fiat has been exercising options since mid-2012 to buy holdings of about 3.3 percent from the VEBA, a medical-benefits trust for the U.S. carmaker’s retirees.

Including today’s purchase, Fiat has exercised three of its six-monthly options, increasing its stake to 68.49 percent.

Fiat has said it wants full control of Chrysler, which would give it access to some of Chrysler’s cash flow for investments in new models.

Chrysler has become Fiat’s most reliable profit generator as the Italian company struggles to end losses in Europe that totaled 704 million euros ($903 million) in 2012 amid a

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