Fiat SpA (F), majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC, plans to return Jeep output to Chinaand may eventually make all of its models in that country, according to the head of both automakers’ operations in the region.
Fiat is in “very detailed conversations” with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (2238), about making Jeeps in the world’s largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia. Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps there since before Fiat took control in 2009.
“The volume opportunity for us is very significant,” Manley, who is also president of the Jeep brand, said in an interview at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, Michigan, headquarters. “We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity” as well as “should we be localizing the entire Jeep portfolio or some of the Jeep portfolio.”
Chrysler, which entered an alliance with Turin, Italy-based Fiat as part of its U.S. government-backed bankruptcy, is relying on growth in China to counter weakness in Europe’s auto market. The automaker is targeting 500,000 annual sales outside North America by 2014, more than triple its overseas deliveries in 2009.
International sales for Chrysler climbed 22 percent to 153,154 this year through September, according to the company. The Jeep brand accounted for more than three of every four of those deliveries, with sales surging 54 percent to 117,189.
“We’ve grown much stronger in Asia to make up or compensate for some of the difficulties in Europe,” Manley said. Europe will be in “very difficult, tough times” through at least 2013, he said.