Jeep became a political over the past two weeks when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared in a series of television adverts that Jeep was moving all of its production to China. The Obama camp were quick to respond, as was Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat-Chrysler CEO who stated time and time again that Jeep was moving to China to satisfy Chinese demand for Jeeps.
Jeep was a Chinese buccaneer, it was the automobile equivalent of Commodore Matthew Perry that opened China to the automobile world. The brand was the first automobile manufacturer to set up shop in China in 1984 and was swiftly followed by Volkswagen with their Shanghai-VW partnership, but the first Santana was considered a high end car where as the Jeep was a much needed vehicle in a vast country littered with dirt roads and rare concrete paved roads. By 2012 it was a different story, the Volkswagen brand has all but smothered the Chinese market and Jeep survives on the fringes with imported vehicles after the first joint venture with Beijing Auto collapsed with the end of the Daimler-Chrysler partnership.
With the new Fiat-Chrysler partnership and also the new Guangzhou-Fiat partnership, Jeep is likely to be seeing Chinese production lines once again very soon. Although an official announcement has not yet been made by either Guangzhou Auto or Fiat, it seems that the production plans are very much on the table. Jeeps current Chinese line up is based on the Compass, Patriot, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler product lines, there is no hope of the either the Grand Cherokee or the Wrangler being produced in China as they are iconic American vehicles that people buy for their ‘American-ness‘, but compact SUV’s are extremely popular with Chinese consumers.
Our sources indicate that Jeep have two new products lined up for China based on new platforms and should see production in 2014. The first model is a C-SUV that should be seeing production lines in 2013 and a second D-SUV in 2015. Other sources tell us that this new model is thought to a reworked Jeep Liberty based on the CUSW platform which is also shared with the current Fiat Viaggio and Dodge Dart.
Although Jeep survives on the fringes of the Chinese auto market it has performed well this year, 2011 sales reached 22,294 models whilst 2012 sales reached 33,463 in the first nine months of the year alone.