Amid much fanfare, the first Jeep Cherokee rolled off the assembly line of a new joint-venture plant built by Fiat Chrysler NV and its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group in Changsha, China.
The ceremony also marks the return of the Jeep brand, which helped ignite a revolution in what was then China’s rudimentary automobile industry back in the 1980s with the founding of Beijing Jeep, the first joint venture between an American company and a Chinese partner.
In 2007, what was Beijing Jeep was absorbed by a new joint venture established by Daimler AG after had sold off the Chrysler Group to a group of investment bankers. Meanwhile, China automotive industry has grown into the largest world with the capacity to build roughly 30 million vehicles annually.
“Today marks a milestone in the history of our brand,” said Mike Manley, head of Jeep Brand and Ram Brand, FCA – Global and COO of the APAC region, during the ceremony marking the production of the first Chinese-made Cherokee.
“The Jeep brand was the first western automaker to produce vehicles in China more than 30 years ago. Today, with the support of our GAC partners, our brand is back to its rightful place in this market,” he said.
Manley noted the Jeep Cherokee is Fiat Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle worldwide and now is being produced in China for China, to the world quality standards that Chinese consumers demand. “Local production allows us to be closer to our customers and to improve our competitive position in the market place. We thank GAC for their true partnership, as we look forward to starting production of other Jeep models here in China,” Manley said.
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Zeng Qinghong, general manager of the GAC Group, touted the impact the new Cherokee will have.
“The roll out of the Chinese-produced Jeep Cherokee is a major step in the deepened cooperation between the GAC Group and the FCA Group,” he said. “Along with the localization of the Jeep brand and the introduction of Chrysler models in the future, our brand combination and product portfolio will further raise our business, and lead to a balanced and diversified development with Western partners of the GAC.”
For GAC FCA, Jeep has already achieved a rapid market share increase, meaning that the localization of Jeep Cherokee has shifted GAC FAC’s simple trade model toward production, manufacturing, sales and after-sales on the entire value chain, Zeng added.
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The joint venture will ultimately will grow to encompass research and development, manufacturing and sales to a complete with comprehensive automobile supply chain model, he added.
The locally produced Jeep Cherokee is expected to be in full production in November and expects to begin deliveries before the end of the year. The Jeep Cherokee 2.4-liter version will be made available first, followed by the 2.0-liter model, offering customers more choices and a better value.
Positioned as the authentic SUV for city life, the Changsha-produced Cherokee not only retains the features and advantages of today’s import models, but also delivers the on-road driving dynamics, features, fuel economy and 4×4 capability that mid-size SUV customers desire, Manley said.
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The GAC FCA Changsha plant, the birthplace of the locally produced Jeep Cherokee, is the first in China to adopt the exacting World Class Manufacturing (WCM) standards. WCM is a methodology that focuses on reducing waste, increasing productivity and improving quality and safety.