Chrysler’s Jeep Chief Expects China Output Accord Soon

Chrysler Group LLC expects to complete a preliminary agreement this quarter to make Jeep brand sport-utility vehicles in China for sale in that market, Mike Manley, Jeep’s chief, said yesterday in an interview.

The agreement would require Chinese national and regional government review, and then Jeep would target to begin sales within two years of approval, he said. Fiat’s joint-venture partner in China is Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.

“It’s a lot closer, by the way, than the end of the first quarter,” Manley, president of Jeep brand and head of international operations for Chrysler Group, said at the Detroit auto show. The approval process “is not super complicated but there are things outside of your control. We don’t anticipate any problems getting government approval.”

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 both automakers. Marchionne, 60, plans to expand Jeep’s global presence by adding production of its SUVs in China, Russia and Italy.

Jeep is Chrysler’s top-selling worldwide brand. The company 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.

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 brand sales.

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