Jeep is considering shipping its manufacturing to China in a cost-saving measure on the heels of weak European demand.
Weakness in the European auto market lead to slow sales for Chrysler but strong demand in China buoyed the brand. In fact, business in China is good enough that Chrysler might transplant its manufacturing operations. Should brand execs pull the trigger, it would mark the first time Chrysler built Jeeps in China since before 2009 when Fiat took a stake in the company.
That contradicts what Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said almost a year ago amid concerns that Wrangler production might move from its current plant in Toledo, Ohio.
“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 in November, 2011.
But what was unthinkable a year ago might not seem so foreign. Manufacturing Jeep products in China could help the company save money while feeding a growing market with reduced expenses.
Mike Manley, Fiat Chrysler’s COO in Asia, seems bullish of the possibility. “The volume opportunity for us is very significant,” he, said to Bloomberg. “We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity.”
Jeep’s sales in China more than doubled this year to 33,463 units through September, which could encourage the move further.
Despite that, moving all of the brand’s production to China wouldn’t sit well with American consumers.