US: Chrysler could build vehicles in China with Fiat - exec
Chrysler Group reportedly is "aggressively" exploring the possibility of building more vehicles in China, where the company is on track to sell 40,000 cars and trucks this year, an executive has said.
Chrysler, managed by Fiat SpA, could build cars and trucks in China through a joint venture between Fiat and Guangzhou Automobile Group, Reuters reported. By taking advantage of the joint venture, Chrysler can expand more quickly in China. Last year, it sold 31,000 vehicles in China where just over 18m vehicles were sold.
"To find a partner, negotiate, get government approval, build a plant - that's a long time," Mike Manley, who heads Chrysler's Jeep brand and international operations, was quoted as saying. "Fiat are already through that."
Fiat signed a joint venture in 2009 with Hong Kong-listed GAC, China's sixth largets domestic automaker, to make cars in China. Chrysler currently builds older versions of its minivan there.
Fiat took over management control of Chrysler just over two years ago when the US automaker emerged from bankruptcy. In those years, the two companies have deepened their operational ties by sharing technology and dealer networks.
"If there's an opportunity for us in the same way as we've done with Fiat in terms of technology or using their distribution, our speed to market is going to be so much quicker," Manley said, referring to China.
He added that for Chrysler to make its mark in the highly competitive smaller SUV segments, it would have to begin building those vehicles in China.
"Localisation is the key to volume - it's as simple as that," Manley told Reuters during a Chrysler media event to showcase the company's vehicles.
Jeep is the centerpiece of Chrysler's efforts to expand its presence outside North America where the automaker has not had much impact.
Jeep will soon launch Compass and Grand Cherokee models in China which will help drive sales, Manley said. Chrysler is also exploring the possibility of exporting its 300 and 200 sedans from the United States to China.
Jeep also aims to add 50 new retailers in China in the next two years from its current total of 70 dealers, who own 127 dealerships in China, Manley said.
The company plans an autumn event in China to recruit new dealers, Manley said. New dealers will primarily sell Jeep and Chrysler vehicles.
Manley and other company executives said boosting fuel economy throughout Chrysler's lineup is a top priority. Its lineup for the 2010 model year ranked last in terms of fuel economy compared with 13 other major automakers, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The company is exploring a variety of ways to boost fuel economy, including a new eight-speed transmission that could be put in the Grand Cherokee, Manley told Reuters.