TOLEDO -- The Jeep Wrangler won't be made anywhere except its historic home in Toledo, Ohio, even though sales of the off-roader are hitting record levels, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne affirmed Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after announcing a $500 million investment in Toledo to build the next generation of the Jeep Liberty, Marchionne said it would take "money, effort and time" to expand Wrangler production capacity at Chrysler's Toledo Assembly Complex.
"This plant has been at the heart of what we've done. I've said publicly that I would never build the Wrangler outside the U.S. and outside of Toledo. These are things that are unthinkable -- to assemble a Wrangler somewhere else," Marchionne said.
His comments followed remarks in September by Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley that Chrysler was exploring production of Jeep vehicles in China. Manley said the Jeep Compass, Patriot and Wrangler were strong candidates for Chinese production.
Sales up 28 percent
In the first 10 months of 2011, production of the Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited rose 11 percent to 141,816 units, from 127,354 a year earlier. U.S. sales of the two vehicles are up 28 percent through October to 101,820.
Union officials said today that November production scheduled for the Wrangler had eclipsed the monthly sales record of 14,355 set in July.
Chrysler officials, including Manley, have expressed concern that production constraints at the Toledo Supplier Park, which assembles the Wrangler and is part of the Toledo Assembly Complex, could limit Chrysler's plans to export the Jeep brand around the world. The plant, which operates on two shifts with frequent overtime, has an estimated maximum capacity of about 160,000 vehicles annually.
Marchionne said Jeep, and Wrangler, remain pivotal to Chrysler's long-term global strategy, and that of its Fiat S.p.A. parent.
Never exploited abroad
"The horrible thing about Jeep is that it's never had the chance to be exploited internationally. We've started a very active marketing effort in Europe now with Jeep, and we've had phenomenal results. Sales are doubling almost every 12 months," Marchionne said.
"As we open up the distribution network to Jeep, it's becoming probably the star of the European market, and I have similar expectations for Jeep, especially in the eastern part of Europe, and in China and Russia," he said. "It's the best brand that Chrysler owns, by a long stretch, because of its history. It's got a glorious history."