The Manchurian Candidate: Jeep capitalizes on Fiat’s Chinese Operations, Wants to Build SUVs locally

Now that Sergio Marchionne has consolidated Fiat-Chrysler management into a smaller, leaner unified team, its members are working full force to maximize the group’s capabilities.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley travelled to China last Wednesday to negotiate the local production of Jeep models with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd., which already has a joint venture with Fiat.

“Fiat has a very strong partner there, so we will be discussing various options,” said Manley who is also Fiat Group’s head of marketing in Asia. “If I can localize Jeep you are going to see many multiples of what we sell today.”

Right now Jeep’s Chinese range is comprised of the Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Patriot and Compass. Last year, Jeep sold 11,646 units in the country, all imported.

“For us to grow in China, you have to produce. The import duties are pretty high when you bring vehicles in,” commented Manley. He added that the Compass, Patriot and Wrangler would be the first Jeep to produce locally, if he does finalize the deal with Guangzhou Automobile.

“Our vehicles really play in the premium segment in China. The market is just too big an opportunity not to take advantage of it on a local manufacturing basis.”

Manley estimates that if the deal goes through and gets approval by the authorities Jeep could begin local production in 18-24 months. Moreover, Manley said the company plans to add a fourth model in 2013 that will be based on a front-wheel drive Fiat platform and slot in below the Compass and Patriot in Jeep’s line-up.

Story source: Automotive News

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