* China Jeep output expandable to 200,000 units-Fiat CEO
* Fiat-Chrysler seeking to catch up with rivals in China
* CEO expects court to rule on price of VEBA stake in Q1
By Stephen Jewkes and Stefano Rebaudo
MILAN, Jan 17 Fiat and its U.S. unit
Chrysler expect to roll out at least 100,000 Jeeps in China when
production starts in 2014 as they seek to catch up with rivals
in the world's biggest car market.
Output could double, the Italian carmaker's Chief Executive
Sergio Marchionne, without giving a precise timeframe.
Chrysler, in which Fiat has a 58.5 percent stake, said on
Tuesday it had agreed to make Jeeps in China with Guangzhou
Fiat is trying to offset a slump in European sales by
targeting fast growing markets in Asia and Latin America. The
Italian firm and Chrysler lag far behind other foreign carmakers
in China, where consumers bought 19.3 million cars last year.
"We expect production of around 100,000 Jeeps per year which
is expandable to 200,000," Marchionne, who is also CEO of
Chrysler, said on the sidelines of a conference, adding
production could start in 18 months.
General Motors and Volkswagen both sold
more than 2.8 million cars in China last year, and together
accounted for over 29 percent of total vehicle sales in China,
according to IHS Global Insight.
Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat, by contrast, sold just over 60,000
cars in China in 2012.
Since Fiat helped rescue Chrysler from bankruptcy in 2009,
the U.S. No.3 automaker has turned into the main profit driver
for the combined group thanks to strong U.S. demand.
Marchionne said he expected a court decision on the pricing
of an option it has exercised to buy a 3.3 percent stake held by
a union healthcare trust in the U.S. carmaker in the first
Under Chrysler's bailout agreement Fiat is able to exercise
call options to purchase portions of the 41.5 percent stake held
by the VEBA healthcare trust.
However, the two have been locked in a courtroom battle
after VEBA balked at the $139.7 million price tag Fiat offered
to buy a 3.3 percent tranche of Chrysler shares last July,
saying it was too low.
In January Fiat filed to buy another 3.3 percent tranche of
Chrysler from the VEBA.
Asked about the outlook for the global car market this year,
Marchionne said he did not expect any meaningful recovery in
Europe, where demand for new cars fell to a 17-year low in 2012.
"In North America, in Latin America and in China sales will
rise," he added.
At 1307 GMT Fiat shares were up 4 percent at 4.4 euros. The
shares had risen before Marchionne's comments.