FRANKFURT -- Jeep CEO Mike Manley hopes to negotiate a deal in the next several weeks that will result in Jeep production in China.
Manley departed for China Wednesday to negotiate a deal with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd., a Chinese company that has a joint venture with Fiat.
"Fiat has a very strong partner there so I will be discussing various options with them," Manley said during an interview at the Frankfurt auto show. "If I can localize Jeep you are going to see many, many multiples of what we sell today."
Manley also is responsible for marketing the Fiat Group's brands in Asia.
The Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Patriot and Compass currently are imported and sold in China. In 2010, Chrysler sold 11,646 Jeeps in China, including 7,736 Compasses.
Manley said the Compass, Patriot and Wrangler would be the obvious choices for Chinese production, as would the SUV under development that is smaller than the Compass and Patriot. That unnamed vehicle is being developed on a front-drive Fiat platform and will go into production in 2013.
"For us to grow in China, you have to produce. The import duties are pretty high when you bring vehicles in," Manley said. "Our vehicles really play in the premium segment in China. I would call them niche and for me the market is just too big an opportunity not to take advantage of it on a local manufacturing basis."
If a deal is negotiated, Manley said the next issue is approval by several government agencies in China.
Said Manley: "If we found the right partner, and we got all of the approvals, you could have local production of Jeep in 18 to 24 months after that process."