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Published: Friday, 10/26/2012

Company says it will not move production out of North America

BLADE STAFF

Chrysler is strongly denying a report the company was considering moving all of its Jeep production to China.

The company has not been shy about wanting to build Jeeps in China, but Chrysler says it won’t quit building them in the United States.

“Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” Gualberto Ranieri, the company’s senior vice president for corporate communications, wrote Thursday in a blog posted on Chrysler’s Web site.

“It is simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market.”

Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Fiat SpA, the majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC, was in talks with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., about making Jeeps in China. Jeeps were built in China from 1983-2009.

Bloomberg quoted Mike Manley, who is president and CEO of the Jeep brand as well as the chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia.

“The volume opportunity for us [in China] is very significant,” Mr. Manley was quoted as saying.

“We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity” as well as “should we be localizing the entire Jeep portfolio or some of the Jeep portfolio.”

Mr. Ranieri said in his blog that some people misinterpreted the Bloomberg story.

“Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America ... . It is a leap that would be difficult even for circus acrobats.”

The Washington Examiner, a conservative newspaper distributed in the D.C. area, was among the media that picked up on the Bloomberg report.

“In another potential blow for the President’s Ohio re-election campaign, Jeep, the rugged brand President Obama once said symbolized American freedom, is considering giving up on the United States and shifting production to China,” the Examiner wrote.

“Such a move would crash the economy in towns like Toledo, Ohio, where Jeeps are made and supplied, and rob the community of the economic security they thought Obama’s auto bailout assured them.”

Chrysler last year announced a $500 million investment to expand and modernize part of the Toledo Assembly Complex.

The planned expansion will add about 1,100 jobs, putting total plant employment at about 3,000.

The Toledo plant builds the Jeep Wrangler and, starting next year, will build an as-yet-unnamed vehicle that will replace the Liberty in Jeep’s lineup.

International sales for Chrysler climbed 22 percent to 153,154 this year through September, according to the company.

The Jeep brand accounted for more than three-quarters of those deliveries.

Jeep sold 22,294 vehicles in China last year, an 81 percent increase over 2010.



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