SHANGHAI — Product quality challenges have dragged down Jeep's performance in China, but the brand is not going to leave the market.
Jeep's top executive in China said the brand has fixed problems with its local partnership structure and product quality and is on track to revive local sales.
The Shanghai daily China Business News reported this month that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is likely to exit the Chinese market by withdrawing investment in its joint venture with state-owned Chinese automaker GAC Motor Co., citing unnamed sources and limited local sales of the Jeep brand.
"That's inaccurate speculation," Massimiliano Trantini, FCA's COO for Asia Pacific, told Automotive News last week at FCA's Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai.
Last year, the brand's volume shrank to below 74,000, down from a high of more than 200,000 sales in 2017.
Trantini attributed the sales plunge to problems with product quality.
"In 2018, we faced several quality issues, which affected our reputation," he said. Those problems included excessive engine oil burning and abnormal transmission noises, he added.
With problematic parts replaced and rigorous quality-control standards enacted at plants, product quality has significantly improved, Trantini said, citing Jeep's No. 2 ranking among mass-market brands in the Initial Quality Study for China that J.D. Power released in October.
After a disastrous first quarter, Jeep sales in China have improved month by month, he said.
"Obviously we are not where we should be, but the trend is there and our Q1 2021 numbers will be good.
"Our main focus," he said, "is to make sure the existing products are upgraded from time to time according to the market trend."