Jeep looks to make an SUV in China by end 2014: executive

Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:01am EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - - In order to compete in the fast-growing SUV market in China, Jeep wants to produce a vehicle in the No. 1 global auto market by the end of 2014, Jeep's top executive said on Saturday at the Shanghai auto show.

The "obvious choice" for a Jeep product to be made in China is the Cherokee, which was recently introduced in Jeep's primary U.S. market and will be on sale in the fourth quarter in China, said Mike Manley, CEO of the Jeep brand of the Chrysler Group.

Manley said the Cherokee is the best choice to be made in China because that size SUV market is growing quickly and also that the model is fresh in its life cycle.

Manley said the Cherokee would easily be able to be made at the new plant owned by the 50/50 joint venture between Fiat SpA FIA.MI and Chrysler and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co in Changsha, capital of the Hunan province.

Manley in January at the Detroit auto show revealed that the company would work with GAC to produce a Jeep in China for the local market.

But first, the joint venture must be expanded to include Jeep in addition to Fiat and Chrysler as owners of the non-Chinese half of it.

John Burton, head of GAC-Fiat, said on Saturday he is "fully confident" that Chinese officials will approve the expansion of the joint venture to include Jeep.

Manley said there are no plans to produce a Jeep model exclusively for China market, which in 2009 overtook the United States as the largest auto market in the world.   Continued...

Jeep vehicles are seen on display during a press preview at the 2013 New York International Auto Show in New York, March 28, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar