Chrysler CEO to employees: Jeep will remain in U.S.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler and Fiat SpA.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler and Fiat SpA.

Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne circulated an e-mail to Chrysler Group LLC employees today strongly restating the automaker's promise that it will not move existing U.S. production of Jeeps to China.

In the e-mail, Mr. Marchionne said he felt obligated to again address the company's production plans over continuing "public debate."

The note did not directly reference politics or the presidential election, but Chrysler's plans for Jeep have become a major political talking point over the last week, especially in Ohio. Speaking in Defiance last week, Republican candidate Mitt Romney seized on a misrepresentation of a Bloomberg story, suggesting that Chrysler was considering moving existing Jeep production to China. 

Fiat SpA, Chrysler's parent company, is considering building some Jeeps in China, though the production would be new, not shifted from elsewhere. 

Mr. Romney tweaked his line of attack, but is still using the story in currently airing television ads that attack President Obama over the auto bailout, saying he "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China."

Mr. Marchionne said in his e-mail today that any Jeep production in China would only serve to bolster the brand, and with it, U.S. jobs.

"Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand," Mr. Marchionne said. "It is inaccurate to suggest anything different."