Plans to build Jeeps in China might be announced
Jan 14, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Fiat, Chrysler and Guangzhou Automobile Group are getting close to reaching an agreement to produce Jeeps in China for the Chinese market, an Italian newspaper reported Sunday.
Il Corriere della Sera said Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne could announce the agreement at the 2013 North American International Auto Show today.
Gulberto Raneri, Chrysler's vice president of communications, declined to comment on the report.
Chrysler is planning to reveal an updated Jeep Grand Cherokee at the Detroit auto show, and Fiat has been in discussions with Guangzhou to produce Jeeps at a plant in China.
In an interview with the Free Press on Tuesday, Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley declined to provide any updates on discussions with Guangzhou but hinted that he would have news today.
Guangzhou's plant in China has initial annual capacity of 140,000 cars and is capable of eventually assembling 500,000 vehicles per year. Production of the Fiat Viaggio compact car began in June.
In 2009, Marchionne selected Jeep and Fiat's Alfa Romeo as the two brands with the best opportunity for global growth.
Jeep sold 701,626 SUVs globally in 2012 -- more than in any year in its history -- and exceeded the record of 675,494 set in 1999.
In November, Manley said he expected to complete the discussions with Guangzhou during the first half of this year.
"We should get a deal with our partner by the end of the first quarter or second quarter," Manley said in November. "We want to build them as soon as possible -- it is one of our biggest priorities."
During the U.S. presidential election, Chrysler came under fire from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who accused Chrysler of planning to move Jeep production to China.
Chrysler strongly denied those allegations and has said that it is not planning to move or reduce any of its U.S. production capacity.
In fact, Chrysler just added a third crew of 1,100 workers at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit in October to boost production of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.
This fall, Chrysler is adding 1,105 workers at its plant in Toledo to build the replacement for the Jeep Liberty.
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