This story has been updated following clarification from Chrysler about plans for Jeep.
A new small Jeep will be produced in Italy and then exported to the U.S. and other markets, according to Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, a move the maker hopes will help improve capacity utilization as European car sales collapse.
While Marchionne did not specifically identify the Jeep product, company officials have since advised TheDetroitBureau.com that the new product would be an “additional model to the (brand) and not (a) replacement for the current Jeep Compass or Patriot models, as had been earlier reported.
The new products will be based upon a crossover chassis developed by Fiat and Chrysler using their new Small-Wide “architecture.” That platform will be shared with several Fiat additions, the recently-introduced 500L and the new 500X.
Fiat plans to invest $1.0 billion Euros, or roughly $1.35 billion, to upgrade the Melfi, Italy assembly plant and to tool up the new models it will produce. That will include not only the new Jeep small model but the Fiat 500X, a crossover that shares the underpinnings of the recently launched 500L.
The clarification suggests the the Jeep Compass and Patriot models will continue being assembled at a Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Illinois that also produces such products as the Dodge Dart. A replacement for the Compass — along with the Patriot, the smallest model in today’s Jeep line-up — is expected to be unveiled at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show next month.
Since the new model will be an addition to the Jeep line, not a replacement for a current, American-made product, Chrysler officials are not worried about a backlash that might bring to mind the inaccurate claims made by former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who late in his campaign began claiming Jeep would move all production to China. That claim was repeatedly denied by company officials and some political analysts say it negatively impacted Romney’s chances in the key swing state of Ohio.
(Romney Jeep claims called “Political Lie of the Year.” Click Here for that story.)
If anything, Jeep has continued stepping up production at its other U.S. plants. It will add more than 1,100 workers in Toledo, Ohio next year to produce the replacement for the Jeep Liberty. And another 1,100 hourly employees have been added for a third shift at the Jeep Grand Cherokee plant in Detroit. That facility will soon begin producing a luxury SUV for Fiat’s Maserati brand for export to Europe and other parts of the world.
(For a first look at spy shots of what will become the next Jeep Liberty, Click Here.)
Marchionne is hoping to better rationalize the use of the combined Fiat and Chrysler production network – a strategy accelerated by the collapse of the European car market. With sales continuing to tumble and not expected to revive for several years, the maker’s Italian plants need to expand export operations to keep busy.
Two months ago, Marchionne announced they would add six export models between now and 2014, though other than the Fiat 500X replacement for the Patriot and Compass, the focus will be on higher-priced models, such as the new Alfa 4C sports car, the new Maserati Ghibli and the long-awaited replacement for Maserati’s Quattroporte sedan.
Tags: Jeep Compass, Sergio Marchionne, alfa jeep, auto news, car news, chrysler news, fiat 500x, fiat news, jeep italy, jeep liberty, jeep melfi italy, jeep news, jeep production, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau