Jeep ponders output in China and Russia, Marchionne says
Grand Cherokee and Wrangler will remain U.S.-built only
Marchionne: "Chrysler did not have an architecture able to underpin such a small model and a volume able to justify production in North America."
DETROIT -- Chrysler's Jeep brand is working to find the right solution to build vehicles in China and Russia, but has nothing specific to announce at the moment, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters here at the Detroit auto show Monday.
"We are discussing with our China partner which Jeep models we could produce in China and for sure they will not be the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler, which will remain models made in the U.S. only," Marchionne said.
The CEO said that smaller models such as the Liberty replacement and a compact-sized model could be produced in China, Russia and also in other parts of the world.
Reports in the Italian press speculated Fiat was set to sign a new agreement with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. to produce Jeep vehicles for the Chinese market.
Under the terms of the agreement, Jeep models would be produced at GAC's Canton factory, il Corriere della Sera said on Sunday.
Marchionne said Fiat and Jeep are still talking with GAC.
Fiat already has a joint venture with GAC that produces the Fiat Viaggio, basically a Chinese version of the Dodge Dart with a longer trunk lid. The Viaggio is built in a new 140,000-units-per-year plant in Changsha, the capital of south central Hunan province.
Baby Jeep cheaper in Italy
Marchionne also explained that the decision to build in Italy a new SUV that will be Jeep's smallest model is making sense financially for Chrysler.
"Chrysler did not have an architecture able to underpin such a small model and a volume able to justify production in North America, as more than half of this model's sales would have been outside of the U.S.," he said.
Fiat consequently decided to build this new Jeep model, referred to internally as the B-SUV, along with the Fiat 500X small crossover in Melfi, central Italy.
Marchionne said the new small Jeep will be 4200mm long (about 165 inches) and will also be sold in the U.S., part of Fiat's plan to better utilize its excess European capacity for exported vehicles.
Production of the Fiat 500X, which will be sold in the United States, is planned by the middle of 2014, followed by the Jeep variant in the third quarter next year.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at email@example.com.