Jeep growth to accelerate under the new Fiat-Chrysler image

CEO Sergio Marchionne says Chrysler’s quest to turn Jeep into a larger global brand will accelerate now that Fiat has completed its acquisition of Chrysler.

Until Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler closed earlier this month, Jeep’s plan to expand in Brazil and China was delayed by a dispute between Fiat and the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust.

“We’ve been holding up the involvement of Chrysler in that venture now for a long period of time,” Marchionne said. “The resolution of the ownership has allowed us to now move at the speed of light to allow Jeep to come in and effectively co-own the investment with Fiat.”

Now, production on a Jeep model for Brazil could begin by 2016 at Fiat’s new plant in Goiana, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, according to Just-Auto, an online industry publication.

Marchionne also said Fiat and Chrysler expect to complete a deal with Guangzhou Auto by March 30 that would enable them to assemble Jeeps in China. Expanding Jeep’s sales into emerging markets is one of Fiat’s three highest priorities, along with reintroducing Alfa Romeo and Maserati in the US.

In China, Chrysler has worked on an agreement with Guangzhou Auto since at least January 2013. Plans to build Jeeps in China in a joint venture with Guangzhou were slowed by disagreement over where the Jeeps would be built, according to media reports.

With new vehicle sales expected to exceed 21 million in China this year, Jeep needs to re-establish itself in the world’s largest car market.

Sales of the new Jeep Cherokee are meeting or exceeding Chrysler’s expectations as dealers sold more than 25,000 in November and December. The Cherokee launch was delayed by about two months because of transmission issues. Now, Chrysler is shipping some Cherokees from Toledo to China. The vehicle should go on sale in Europe by June.

The Cherokee also is part of an expansion that will include the revival of the Grand Wagoneer as a large SUV, a subcompact Jeep SUV to be made in Italy starting this year and one new model to replace the Patriot and Compass compact SUVs.