(Adds Jeep China production timing, Wrangler plans “broadly” unchanged, luxury SUV plans)
By Bernie Woodall
CHELSEA, Mich., June 26 (Reuters) - A redesign of Jeep’s popular Grand Cherokee Sports Utility Vehicle will be delayed to late 2018 or 2019, from an initial target of 2017, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Jeep brand Chief Executive Officer Mike Manley said on Friday.
Manley said global Jeep sales are up 20 percent so far this year, which puts the SUV brand on a pace to reach 1.2 million vehicle sales for 2015. In 2014, Jeep reached 1.02 million in sales, a rise of nearly 40 percent from the previous year.
Reuters three weeks ago reported likely delays of some of the Fiat Chrysler product lineup, citing sources.
Manley said Jeep is “on pace” to reach a goal of 1.9 million in worldwide vehicle sales by 2018. That target was given as part of the company’s five-year plan for FCA presented by company Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, Manley and other executives in May 2014.
Manley said local production in major markets is essential to reaching the 2018 sales target.
Production of the small Jeep Renegade began two months ago in Brazil and production of the Cherokee in China will start in the middle of this year’s fourth quarter, to be followed by Renegade production in the first half of 2016, he said.
Manley spoke with reporters on the sidelines of an FCA product event at its driving range in Chelsea, Michigan.
The Grand Cherokee will undergo a “mild refresh” before its redesign in 2018 or 2019, Manley said. Meanwhile, the Wrangler is ‘broadly on track’ with its redesign plans announced in May 2014, he said.
Part of Marchionne’s plan to raise FCA North American profit margin beyond its current 4 percent is to launch a luxury SUV to compete with vehicles like the Land Rover Range Rover of Tata Motors.
Manley said the large SUV Jeep Grand Wagoneer to begin production in 2018 is the “best opportunity” to make a luxury SUV that can command higher prices than any of the Jeeps now being made. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Andrew Hay)