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Marchionne has praise for Jeep

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Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks at the 2012 North American International Auto Show media preview in Detroit on Monday.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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DETROIT -- Of all the brands under the Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC umbrella, the CEO of the two companies said only Jeep is established as a truly global brand.

Sergio Marchionne told a group of journalists Monday at the media previews of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that Alfa Romeo and Jeep both have the potential to be global brands, but only Jeep is there now.

And Jeep has done that by keeping the brand true to what it is.

“Look at the way in which we’re managing Jeep, and the fact that we’ve preserved all the trail-rated capabilities of Jeep in every car we make, that’s a hell of a statement. When you device the architecture for jeep you’ve got to make allowance for that to happen,” he said.

That is potentially good news for Jeep enthusiasts ahead of the upcoming replacement to the Toledo-built Liberty model. He offered few details on that upcoming SUV, though he did say he strongly prefers a name change and seemed to be leaning toward returning to Cherokee.

Mr. Marchionne also said it was a mistake to forecast 50,000 North American sales of the Fiat 500, but said the slow sales were but a blip on the radar for the overall 2011 global sales.

The auto show opens to the public on Saturday.

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