TURIN, Italy (AP) — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said Monday that the automaker will try to reach full-employment in its Italian plants before the 2018 business plan goal and that the global relaunch of Alfa Romeo will play a key role.
Marchionne, who is shuffling his global manufacturing footprint to match shifting consumer demands, also said that the Jeep plant in Belvidere, Illinois, will build the new Jeep Cherokee after production ends for the Jeep Compass and Patriot.
Marchionne disclosed the production shift of the Compass and Patriot successors to Mexico last week during an FCA analyst call, but didn't address the fate of the 4,000-worker Belvidere factory, which also makes the Dodge Dart compact car — a market that FCA wants to exit in North America.
"The new Cherokee in Belvidere will fill out the plant completely. We need to produce over 300,000 Cherokees and that is what the plant will produce," Marchionne said.
FCA has slowed the rollouts of Alfa Romeos largely due to a slowdown in China's economy, but the CEO says he was encouraged by a recent visit to China. Marchionne said he saw "a real, live market for Alfa in China."
"I thought the market was shut, and it hasn't," he said. "I think there is enough room for Alfa to come in and play."
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' business plan calls for refocusing Italian manufacturing on higher-margin premium brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati to get plants operating at full capacity.
He said he hopes to launch the new Giulia sedan in China in early 2017. Marchionne is showing off the Giulia later this week in a meeting with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi.