Mainland China is currently the largest single auto market in the world -- and still growing. Its unique brand of state-sponsored capitalism makes it prohibitively expensive to import foreign-made vehicles into the country, with government policies favoring domestic partnerships to build foreign-branded vehicles. Hoping to capitalize on China's insatiable demand for crossovers and SUVs, Fiat is reportedly close to finalizing a production site with partner Guangzhou Automotive to build the 2014 Cherokee locally, Bloomberg reports.
Earlier reports suggested that the Cherokee would be built at Fiat's existing plant in Changsha, in the Hunan province north of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. But recently, Fiat announced the spare capacity at the Changsha plant would be used to build the Ottimo hatchback version of the Fiat Viaggio sedan, itself a near twin to the Dodge Dart.
Once production of the Cherokee is up and running in China, it's expected to double Jeep's sales in the country. Jeep is one of the most-recognized SUV brands in China, with a history of domestic production that goes back to the 1980s, when Jeep Cherokees were built in Beijing. Production of Beijing Jeep models ended in 2006. Jeep is one of the Chrysler Group's most-recognized brands globally and is a key component of Fiat's global sales growth strategy.