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Fiat and Chrysler to build 3 Jeep models in China

ROME (AP) -- Fiat and Chrysler announced plans Saturday to build three new Jeep models in China for that market, the biggest for the vehicles outside the United States, as they attempt to boost sales in a country where they lag behind their competitors.

The automakers said they will expand their joint venture with China's Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Ltd., and increase the portfolio of Jeeps, which are currently imported to China.

Production is expected to start in late 2015 in Guangzhou, the companies said in a statement, adding that they are considering a Jeep model “uniquely designed for China.”

The companies offered no additional details, and representatives of all three members of the joint venture did not immediately return requests from The Associated Press for comment.

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in the statement that the deal represents the next phase in the “expansion on a global scale of the Jeep brand.”

China represents the largest Jeep market outside the U.S. with nearly 60,000 vehicles sold last year. Fiat and Chrysler were expected to try to increase sales in the high-growth Chinese market.

Marchionne said last month he hopes to complete the legal merger of Fiat and Chrysler by the end of this year to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the world's seventh-largest automaker. The executive plans to outline a new multi-year business plan in Detroit in May.

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