GENEVA -- Fiat Chrysler executives say they expect to complete an agreement this month for Jeep production in China.
CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at the auto show here that approval had been delayed because of Chinese concerns about the split ownership of Jeep prior to the Jan. 1 deal in which Fiat took full ownership of Jeep.
"On Jan. 1, 2014, when we announced the agreement with the [UAW retirement healthcare trust] for the acquisition of the minority stake in Chrysler, those issues vanished," Marchionne said. "We have been hard at work in the last 60 days putting what I consider to be the final touches on what I hope is the final agreement with our partners in China to try to get this process under way."
Fiat Chrysler will partner with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. to build a $771 million factory near the Chinese automaker's home base in the Panyu district of Guangzhou, Bloomberg reported in December. Capacity would be 60,000 units per year.
Mike Manley, head of the Jeep brand, said in an interview here that the Cherokee and the smaller Renegade shown at the auto show would be prime candidates for Chinese production.
Building vehicles in China would allow Jeep to avoid import tariffs.
Manley said negotiations are on track, but added: "Having been involved with China for a long time, I have to say it with a little caution -- not indicating that I've got any concerns, but sometimes the process takes a little longer than you think, sometimes it's smoother."