Will your next Jeep be a Chinese product? Jeep has an all-American image -- although it is now produced by FCA, a lash-up of all-Italian Fiat and the former Chrysler Corp. -- but it may soon be a Chinese property.
Like many marriages, FCA looks OK on the outside, but what goes on behind closed doors is another matter. The company has been trying to sell itself or merge with a major partner for the last few years, and now Automotive News reports it may have found a potential buyer in China.
Chinese automakers are under pressure from their government to acquire foreign brands, and FCA may be the likeliest candidate. Representatives of an unnamed Chinese car manufacturer made an offer earlier this month, but it was rejected for being too low, sources told the auto industry publication.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has been polishing FCA to make it attractive to serious tire-kickers by streamlining operations, tightening up the product line-up, jettisoning small cars, and beefing up the light truck segment. The executive had reportedly tried to engineer mergers with General Motors, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Renault, and other automakers but was rebuffed.
Any sale would include the Jeep, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat brands but would exclude Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati, which would be spun off and sold separately.
Why would China want to own Jeep? It's all part of a government directive called China Outbound, which puts pressure on Chinese businesses to by up international assets to expand China's economic standing in the world.
Bloomberg reported last week that Chinese companies plan to spend $1.5 trillion acquiring overseas companies over the next decade. Volvo is currently the gemstone of China's auto showcase, with Geely acquiring the brand back in 2010.
How a Chinese takeover of Jeep would be received by the Trump White House is a question awaiting an answer.
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