With years of delay in the middle, the first Jeep Cherokee built in China was off the assembly line on Monday, nailing a highly sought after milestone by the sport utility vehicle brand and its parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Guangzhou Automobile Group executives were present on site alongside senior government officials for the event taking place at the company’s Changsha assembly facility, which takes care of production for the local market. “Today marks a milestone in the history of our brand,” commented Mike Manley, the Jeep boss and also the chief operating officer of the Asia-Pacific region. The GAC Fiat Chrysler Automobiles joint venture has decided that full model production would be reached in November, with sales scheduled before the start of 2016. By next year, the Jeep marquee’s China model lineup would have three all new models, including the locally-built Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Renegade. China has been considered a linchpin in Jeep’s global expansion strategy devised through 2018. FCA wants its SUV brand to have 1.9 million vehicles produced by that date inside ten factories across six countries: the U.S., Italy, China, Brazil, India and another country that has not been revealed yet.
With worldwide sales of crossovers and SUVs booming, the global expansion of the Jeep brand is crucial to FCA’s own growth plans, which call for a 60 percent jump in global deliveries to 7 million by 2018. China is also Jeep’s biggest market outside the home territory – and the brand had another production stint in the country that started back in 1983 and had to be ended in the mid-2000s.