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Fiat’s China JV prepares second plant

GAC Fiat Automobile Co., a 50-50 joint venture between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., broke ground last week in the south China city of Guangzhou for its second assembly plant in China.

The new plant is “an important step to achieving local production for the Jeep brand,” Guangzhou Auto said in a statement. The facility also will build Fiat models, according to the state-owned Chinese automaker.

The 4.2 billion yuan ($677 million) plant will start production in 2016 and will build up to 160,000 vehicles annually when it reaches full capacity.

Guangzhou Auto did not specify which Jeep or Fiat models will be produced. But according to Chrysler’s five-year plan disclosed in May, the plant will start producing the Jeep Cherokee, and later will add the Jeep Renegade plus a compact SUV.

GAC Fiat also has a plant in the central China city of Changsha, which now produces the Fiat Viaggio and Ottimo compact sedans. Established in 2010, the plant can build up to 140,000 vehicles a year.

In 2018, the Changsha plant will assemble five models.

FCA, a tiny player in Asia, plans to boost local production and sales significantly in China through 2018.

In 2018, the automaker wants to sell about 850,000 vehicles in China, up from 130,000 units in 2013, said Chrysler Asia chief Mike Manley during a May presentation.

The company markets the Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat brands in China, and will add Alfa Romeo by 2018.

In 2017, Chrysler will begin exporting the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee to China. The Grand Wagoneer, an SUV with three rows of seats, will join them in 2018, according to the plan.

In 2016, the company will export the Town & Country minivan — rebadged as the Grand Voyager — to China. In 2018, Chrysler will add the 300 sedan.