Chrysler Corp. today reported all-time record worldwide sales of $15.5 billion and profits of $422.6 million for 1976, establishing one of the largest single-year, record-loss-to-record-profit industrial performances in recent history.

A year earlier, the auto maker lost a record $259.5 million on sales of $11.6 billion.

Total vehicle sales for the No. 3 auto maker were 3.1 million worldwide, compared with 2.5 million a year ago.

In a statement by Chrysler chairman John J. Riccardo and president E. A. Caflero, the massive turnaround was attributed to these items:

Concluding an agreement with the British government that gained substantial working capital.

Selling recreational facilities at Chrysler's Big Sky, Mont., land development.

Selling the incomplete assembly plant at New Stanton, Pa., to Volkswagen.

Selling equity participation in the company's Argentina operations.

Increasing sales to other auto manufacturers in Brazil.

Forming a new company in South Africa.

Riccardo and Caifero said:

"All of these actions strengthened Chrysler's basic financial position. At the same time the company moved ahead with its long-range product program designed to attract an increased and broader range of new owners and to increase Chrysler's ability to grow with the world market."

During 1976 the British government gave Chrysler a grant of $79.2 million for business losses there, according to an agreement made between the government and the company last year. Chrysler had threatened to close down entirely its operations in Britain.

The record profits in 1976 also were boosted by $94.4 million from a net operating loss carried forward from 1975.

The Chrysler executives said the firm displaced Ford as the second largest new-car company in Canada last year and increased its share of the north American market to 15.9 per cent from 14.9 per cent during 1975.

Chrysler's share of new truck sales in North America, also rose to 14.1 per cent from 12.7 per cent, they said.

Chrysler's record sales and earnings had been widely anticipated. They followed similar results by General Motors corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Two weeks ago GM reported all time worldwide sales of $47.2 billion and profits of $2.9 billion for 1976. A week ago Ford reported similar worldwide record sales of $24 billion and profits of $907 million.

Ford's results would have been even more spectacular if the company had not been shut down for a four-week strike in the U.S. last fall that cut vehicle sales by 438,000 or about $2.1 billion, and reduced profits by $348 million, the company said.

Record demands for automobiles, particularly larger automobiles, has kept new car sales during February at an uncommonly strong level. The extraordinarily cold weather in the eastern U.S. during January is thought to have even inflated current sales somewhat because of a depressed demand during the more foul days.

For the domestic auto industry, new car delivery since Jan. 1 has been running eight to ten per cent ahead of 1976 -- which wasn't that bad a year as the current financial reports are showing.