The Jeep brand, now owned by Fiat-Chrysler, used to have a more intimate experience with the Chinese than perhaps any other foreign auto names. The BAIC-Jeep company (BAIC: Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp.) opened in 1983 to be the first sino-foreign joint auto venture, and Jeep Cherokee is the first oversea model mass-produced in China after it begn to open up and reform in 1979. But before that, the Chinese-made SUV "BJ212" had been bearing the Jeep name since 1966, tracing its roots to the Soviet Jeep. As party officials’ favorite ride in the 1970s and 1980s (Chairman Mao met red guards on the Tianamen Square in one of those), it has become one of the most potent social symbols of the two decades of social revolution and transformation.
BAIC-Jeep later evolved into the now-defunct Beijing Benz-Daimler Chrysler company. Ever since the Daimler-Chrysler alliance broke down in 2009, Chrysler has no productions in China. Now that Fiat, Chrysler’s new owner, has officially returned to China and began building factories, there will be Chinese-made Jeep SUVs again in as early as 2014.
In a recent interview, John Kett, vice president and CEO of Chrysler’s Asia-Pacific operations, confirmed this, echoing Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s words that Fiat is to have a production capacity of 300,00 units a year in China within five years through its joint venture with GAC (Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.). And Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, will be the location of the production base.
Fiat may be the only major automakers that suffered heavy losses in China in recent years. After losing tens of millions US dollars, it stopped partnership with Nanjing Auto, now part of SAIC. It temed up with GAC in late 2009 to give the Chinese market one more try.
(The Picture: An old poster showing a BJ212, a Chinese-made Jeep having soviet roots)