Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Chrysler Group LLC’s Jeep, the automaker’s top-selling worldwide brand, is updating three models this year to build on 2012’s global sales record.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee, Patriot and Compass sport-utility vehicles will add newly available transmissions that help boost fuel economy for all three models to as much as 30 miles (48 kilometers) per gallon in highway driving, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said on its website.
Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who also leads Chrysler’s majority owner Fiat SpA, is positioning Jeep as one of the main global brands for the two automakers. Marchionne, 60, plans to expand Jeep’s global presence by adding production of its SUVs in China, Russia and Italy.
“2013 is really the next big step for us,” Mike Manley, president of Jeep brand and head of international operations for Chrysler Group, said last month during a briefing with reporters at the company’s design center. “With the demand that we’ve got and the changes we’re making, we expect further growth.”
Jeep’s worldwide sales last year climbed 19 percent to 701,626 sport-utility vehicles, Chrysler said last week. The brand topped its previous record of 675,494 set in 1999. Jeep U.S. deliveries totaled 474,131 in 2012, accounting for 68 percent of total Jeep sales.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee will be equipped with an eight-speed transmission that pairs with three engines, and a six-speed gearbox will be available for the first time in most Patriot and Compass models.
Manley, who is also chief operating officer for Fiat and Chrysler in Asia, said last week that he expects to announce a deal by the end of the first quarter to introduce local production of Jeep in China, which would supply the world’s largest auto market. Fiat’s joint-venture partner in China is Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.
Chrysler also plans to introduce a replacement to its Liberty midsize SUV midway through this year.
Fiat said in December that it will invest more than 1 billion euros ($1.31 billion) to build Jeep- and Fiat-badged compact SUVs at an Italian factory as part of an initiative to boost capacity usage and end losses in Europe. The Turin, Italy-based carmaker also is finalizing a deal in Russia to introduce local Jeep output for that market.
To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Detroit at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at email@example.com