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FCA aims to build more in China

by Chris Vander Doelen on

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may be allowed to build more vehicles for the lucrative China market and the Trumpchi brand could be coming to the U.S. as part of talks between FCA and its Chinese partners.

According to the Chinese company, FCA is in negotiations with Trumpchi builders Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. to expand their 50-50 partnership in China. The goal is expanding production for FCA and creating an entry into the U.S. for Guangzhou.

The Trumpchi GM8, unveiled at the 2017 Guangzhou Auto Show on Monday. The company also builds sedans and SUVs for the Chinese market under its own brand.

“The U.S. market is very important to Guangzhou Automobile,” company president Feng Xingya told Bloomberg news on Tuesday. “Making our company a global player is a very important breakthrough for us in our five-year plan.” Feng called the U.S. market “symbolically significant” to his company.

Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on the story. But then, negotiations can be pretty one-sided when dealing with the Chinese, who severely limit who can sell which vehicles inside their borders, and in what is now the world’s most important automotive market. Last month we told you how FCA had ran afoul of the authorities over import quotas for Maserati and Alfa Romeo products.

FCA currently builds the Cherokee, Compass and Renegade at its Changsha plant in China, while importing the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. At one point it built the Chrysler 300 there, too, and it assembled the Wrangler there from 1983 until the mid 2000s. But while General Motors, Volkswagen and other leading carmakers vastly expanded their Chinese production in recent years, the former incarnations of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep did not. The current partnership with Guangzhou was only created in 2010, putting FCA well behind the competition in China in terms of production capacity.

Foreign carmakers are told by the Chinese government who they will partner with, and a 50-50 arrangement is the only option allowed by Beijing.  Most of the Chinese companies have multiple foreign partners; Guangzhou Automotive is also partnered with Toyota and Honda.

It will be interesting to see what the company does with its brand name, which could prove to be polarizing in the U.S.

 

Chris Vander Doelen was Opinion Editor and columnist of The Windsor Star until December, 2016; He was the Star's automotive reporter and columnist for seven years, and had also covered the political and gambling beats. With his wife, Veronique Mandal, he wrote the book Chasing Lightning (1999). Chris won a National Newspaper Award in 1997 and more than a dozen provincial news awards. There is a Chrysler 300 in his driveway.


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