LUCA CIFERRI

Fiat, Marchionne aim for fresh start in China with Viaggio

Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News EuropeLuca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe
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BEIJING -- Fiat is late to China, but it is ready for a new start with a new partner, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said on the sidelines of the Beijing auto show on Monday.

"We re-start from scratch after two jump starts, but now we have the right partner and the right product," Marchionne said.

Fiat today unveiled the Viaggio, a compact sedan based on the Dodge Dart it will build beginning in June at a greenfield plant with partner Ghanzhou Auto Co.

Marchionne admitted that China is a difficult market, but Chrysler is already making money in China with the Jeep brand and, starting in June, will reintroduce the Chrysler brand, beginning with the 300C large sedan.

Fiat is also making money in China with its Iveco heavy truck arm, Marchionne said.

The Fiat Viaggio, a compact sedan based on the Dodge Dart, will be built in China beginning in June at a greenfield plant with partner Ghanzhou Auto Co.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Marchionne said he wants to strengthen the Jeep brand in China and that will require local production.

He declined to say when and where Jeep models will be built in China.

Last year, with sales up 81 percent to over 22,000 units, China was Jeep's largest export market and the third overall behind the United States and Canada.

Marchionne added that Alfa Romeo, after its relaunch in North America planned for late 2013, will also come to China.

"Jeep and Alfa are Fiat-Chrysler's two truly global brands," he said.

Marchionne is not worried of the current slow down of the Chinese market.

"The growth should have been tamed down because it was too much, too quickly and the government made the right intervention," he said.

To underline the importance of Asia, Fiat-Chrysler held its 22-member Group Executive Council monthly meeting here over the weekend.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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