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All eyes on Guangqi Fiat as speculation regarding future Chinese manufacture of Jeep vehicles intensifies

There is considerable speculation that Guangqi Fiat will begin manufacturing vehicles domestically in China in two sites in Guangzhou, Guangdong and Changsha, Jiangsu. That speculation seems to have gained some verification following the foundation laying ceremony of Guangqi Fiat’s second passenger automobile factory in Guangzhou’s Fanyu district last week, which was attended by representatives from the Guangzhou municipal government, Italian ambassadors and officials from GAC Group, Fiat’s Asia branch and Guangqi Fiat itself. The 4.23 billion RMB ($686.54m) site is designed to manufacture 160,000 vehicles annually and scheduled to officially begin production in the beginning of 2016.

However both Guangqi Fiat and Fiat Chrysler remained tight-lipped about the factory’s future products, not giving any details on which Jeep models it would manufacture. “Detailed product plans have as of yet not been decided,” GAC Group Acting Vice President and Guangqi Fiat CEO Feng Xingya stated. He added that, while “Guangqi Fiat hopes to bring Fiat-Chrysler’s international product platforms to the Chinese market, this process [and] future product plans will take some time [to implement].”

According to reports, the new Guangzhou site will build four new products: two SUVs, an own brand vehicle and a new energy-powered sedan. 9.6 million RMB ($1.56m) of the site’s total investment will be dedicated to environmental spending.

Guangqi Fiat Executive Vice President Wang Qiujing describes the new factory’s role in the joint venture’s overall plans: “Currently the Changsha factory uses Alfa-Romeo’s Giulietta’s CUSW platform, which is able to manufacture compact and midsize cars, while the Guangzhou factory is positioned to manufacture two urban SUVs.”

However there is still quite some time before the Guangzhou site begins production. Whether or not the JV’s Changsha site will undertake partial production of Jeep models is another topic of interest. For starters, the site has yet to fully utilize its maximum annual production capacity of 140,000 vehicles.

When Guangqi Fiat does indeed begin producing Jeep models, it will be able to finally take advantage of two strong brand names. Mr. Wang explains that the recognition of Jeep in the SUV segment works well with Alfa-Romeo’s prowess in sedans, and that by harnessing both Guangqi Fiat will be able to raise its overall competitiveness. This point was echoed by automobile industry analyst Feng Shiming, who believes that the addition of the Jeep brand will aid in Guangqi Fiat’s future development.

An internal source from the JV explained further: “Following years of development, Guangqi Fiat has been able to significantly raise brand awareness; however, the Guangqi Fiat brand is still relatively unknown in third- and fourth-tier cities. It is precisely these regions which will become future areas of competition for manufacturers in the future, therefore, by bringing over the well-renowned Jeep brand, Guangqi Fiat will be able to benefit greatly.”

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