Fiat S.p.A.'s and Chrysler Group LLC's CEO Sergio Marchionne said Chrysler's new-generation Dodge Caliber will be sold as a Fiat in China when local production with partner Guangzhou Automobile Co. begins in 2012 at a new plant in Hunan province.
The Caliber is the first Fiat model to be launched as part of its latest joint venture in China. Marchionne told reporters on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show that in 2012, the company will start production in China of a "Fiat-ized version of the Dodge C-sedan model."
Unlike many of its rivals such as General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG, which have established lucrative and highly productive operations in China, Fiat has been struggling.
Fiat, after failed joint ventures with Chery Automobile and Nanjing auto, now plans to end its troubles in the market, which is crucial to the Italian carmaker's ambitious growth plan.
In the Fiat-Chrysler five-year plan that Marchionne released in April 2010, Fiat wants its Guangzhou joint venture to produce about 300,000 Fiat sedans and Jeep models a year by 2014, a dramatic rise from its nearly negligible production now.
Marchionne said the China-made Dodge will have Fiat-inspired front and rear ends and also that it will modify the interior to ensure that it remains faithful to Fiat.
He added that the architecture of the vehicles will be identical, enabling them to stand as the first truly common project for Chrysler and Fiat since the Italian brand took charge of the U.S. automaker in 2010. [via autonews - sub. required]