Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker controlled by Italy’s Fiat SpA (F), said there’s potential for increased sales of its Jeep sport-utility vehicles in Europe, where the brand is a bright spot in a declining market.
Chrysler earlier this month provided dealers with a preview of its model lineup for the next two years, which included two new small Jeeps, one of which is the replacement for the outgoing Liberty, a model that sells as the Cherokee in Europe.
- Special Report:Paris Motor Show 2012
“The only one of our model lines that’s not up is Liberty, and that’s because it’s running out,” Chris Ellis, head of the Jeep brand for Europe, said in an interview, referring to regional sales this year. “Many markets are going to stop selling that vehicle and are waiting for the new car.”
Jeep deliveries in Western Europe surged 28 percent to 19,032 in the eight months ended Aug. 31 as the brand benefits from Turin-based Fiat’s distribution network. Industry-wide sales in the region fell 6.6 percent to 8.59 million cars, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said Sept. 18.
“Market conditions of course are tough,” Ellis said at the Paris Motor Show. “We should be near a bottom.”
The executive declined to say when a Cherokee replacement will go on sale in Europe. Chrysler, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, idled the Ohio assembly plant that builds the Liberty in August to prepare for the new SUV, which will begin shipping in the second quarter.
Chrysler’s five-year plan, laid out in November 2009, calls for a small Jeep SUV in the so-called B segment in 2013, as well as for the combining of the Compass and Patriot SUVs in the C segment that year. Those models, plus the Liberty’s replacement, will all be based on a Fiat platform, according to the plan.
Jeep’s new products “take us into the smaller section of the market, which is a place where Jeep should be,” Ellis said. “I’m very excited about that potential in Europe.”
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