DETROIT—Chrysler’s Jeep brand is in talks to build some of its vehicles in China for that market as the automaker looks to build on growing interest in its SUVs among Chinese drivers, the company’s chief executive said Monday.
Jeep already sells several models in China, including the Grand Cherokee, Wrangler and Compass. Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley said any production in China would be “relatively incremental.”
“The home of Jeep is in the U.S. It’s always going to be in the U.S. for us,” Manley told reporters after the unveiling of the 2014 Grand Cherokee at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “So we’re very careful about what models we think we’re going to build elsewhere.”
Chrysler LLC is owned by Italian carmaker Fiat SpA.
Jeep has been talking with a Fiat partner in China about production. The Wrangler will always be built in the U.S., but there are opportunities among other models, Manley said.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, GOP candidate Mitt Romney came under criticism for an ad that said Chrysler would build Jeeps in China. That brought the 2009 government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler to the forefront in the days ahead of the election.
The claims were criticized for being highly misleading, since automakers were adding production facilities in China to meet rising demand there. Because of trade rules, it’s easier for companies to build cars for the Chinese market in China.
Most of Jeep’s sales are in North America, with the brand reporting global sales of more than 701,000 vehicles for 2012, up 19 per cent from the previous year. It was an all-time high for the brand, topping sales from 1999 of more than 675,000.