Chrysler Corp. reported a $204.6 million loss for 1978, the second biggest in the company's history.

Despite the bleak figures for the year, Chrysler did show a fourth-quarter profit of $43.2 million (61 cents a share) on sales of $4 billion, but both figures were below 1977's fourth-quarter results of $49.7 million (82 cents) in profits and $4.2 billion in sales.

The 1978 loss -- second only to a $259.5 maillion loss in 1975 -- came on sales of *13.6 billion and amounted to $3.54 a share. Chrysler reported a $163.2 million profit ($2.71) in 1977 on sales of $13.1 billion.

The bleak financial report came as Chrysler announced the hiring of another former Ford Motor Co. official to try to lead it to prosperity. The automaker said Gar Laux, a former group vice president at Ford, will assume a "senior management position" in marketing effedtive March 1.

Last year, Chrysler hired former Ford president Lee Iacocca as its president. Iacocca quit Ford after a dispute with Henry Ford II, the company chairman.

Upbeat despite the loss figures, lacocca noted today that "the next five years are the heart of the (automobile) industry for this century." He and Chrysler Chairman John Riccardo said the key years for the industry's future were 1978 and 1979 when the auto designs would be "locked in" for 1981 -- the time for major model changes.

The two Chrysler officials also warned that the dompany's 11 percent share of the nation's auto market was not good enough. Iacocca said the company target sould be a 12 or 13 percent market share. He said Chrysler also should be taking a 7 or 8 percent share of the big and luxury car market rather than the current 4 to 4.5 percent share.

In other areas, the two men noted:

The sales of Chrysler's European operarions to Peugeot-Citroen was probably a half-billion-dollar deal. They would rather have the 15 percent share they received of that leading company in the market than the weak seventh place the company held previously.

The automaker has new products coming -- particularly in the European-designed performance end for cars plus varied new light trucks.

Even though imported cars will not count in the federal corporate fuel economy standards, Chrysler expects to continue to import and sell more Japanese cars and trucks made by Mitsubishi.