The first locally made Jeep Renegade SUV began rolling down the assembly line in Guangzhou, China, this week, marking a critical step in parent Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s bid to get a foothold in the world’s largest automotive market.
A weak presence in China is one of the reasons why FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said the automaker needs to find a partner. The irony is that Jeep – then owned by American Motors – was the first foreign automaker to set up a Chinese manufacturing venture. But it lost that operation following the break-up of the ill-fated DaimlerChrysler AG nearly a decade ago.
FCA spent a number of years trying to negotiate Jeep’s return to production in China, just launching its first new plant there last October. The Changsha facility currently produces the bigger Jeep Cherokee model.