Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC announced plans on Saturday to build three new Jeep models in China for that market, the biggest for the vehicles outside the US, as they attempt to boost sales in a country where they lag behind their competitors.
The automakers said they would expand their joint venture with China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group Co (廣州汽車集團), and increase the portfolio of Jeeps, which are currently imported into China.
Production is expected to start late next year in Guangzhou, the companies said in a statement, adding that they are considering a Jeep model “uniquely designed for China.”
Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri declined to provide details on that model. He said in an e-mail that more information would be announced at an “appropriate time.”
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who plans to complete the legal merger of the two companies by the end of the year, said in the statement that the deal represents the next phase in the “expansion on a global scale of the Jeep brand.”
The joint venture involving Chrysler, Fiat and Guangzhou Automotive makes the Fiat Viaggio in China, but no Jeeps are currently produced there.
China represents the largest Jeep market outside the US with nearly 60,000 vehicles sold last year. Ranieri said the Jeeps that would be made in China would be sold only in that country.
Fiat and Chrysler were expected to try to increase sales in that high-growth market. Executives with Chrysler’s Jeep brand said as far back as the start of last year that they were in talks to build some vehicles in China for that market. They said the Jeep Wrangler would always be built in the US, but there were opportunities among other models.