ROME (AP) -- Fiat and Chrysler announced plans Saturday to build three new Jeep models in China for that market, the biggest for the vehicles outside the United States, as they attempt to boost sales in a country where they lag behind their competitors.
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who plans to complete the legal merger of Fiat and Chrysler by the end of the year, said in the statement that the deal represents the next phase in the "expansion on a global scale of the Jeep brand."
Fiat and Chrysler were expected to try to increase sales in that high-growth market. Executives with Chrysler's Jeep brand said as far back as the start of 2013 that they were in talks to build some vehicles in China for that market. They said the Jeep Wrangler would always be built in the United States, but there were opportunities among other models.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney came under criticism for an ad that said Chrysler would build Jeeps in China — insinuating that U.S. jobs might suffer. That brought the 2009 government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler to the forefront in the days ahead of the election.
The claims were criticized for being misleading, since automakers were adding production facilities in China to meet rising demand there. Because of trade rules, it's easier for companies to build cars for the Chinese market in China.