In 2015, FCA sold 1.2 million Jeeps worldwide, 70 percent in the U.S. The company's latest business plan calls for increasing Jeep sales to 2 million worldwide by 2018. That includes doubling sales in Europe, more than quadrupling volume in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, and increasing the total slightly in North America.
"Even if there were a contraction of the U.S. market, there is in our view unexplored potential in terms of [overseas] markets, especially where we have not established local production," Marchionne said.
That's because FCA expects first-time Jeep buyers around the world to aspire to the larger, pricier Jeeps that Americans have been snapping up.
"We'll be able to compensate for [a decline in North America] by continuing to fuel the international expansion of Jeep at the upper end of the spectrum," Marchionne said.
FCA has been growing Jeep dealer networks in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and has added production of some Jeep models in Italy, China, Brazil, Mexico and India. But it has limited Jeep output outside the U.S. to smaller vehicles such as the subcompact Renegade, while keeping high-profit Jeeps such as the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee in the U.S.
But that strategy is beginning to change. For example, in China, Jeep will build not only the Renegade, but the compact Compass and Patriot replacement and the midsize Cherokee. Those vehicles are produced for the local market and are proving successful. Marchionne said FCA is on pace to sell about 100,000 Cherokees in China in 2016. In the U.S., Jeep's largest global market, FCA sold 220,260 Cherokees in 2015.