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China ponders bid for Jeep

Chinese SUV maker Great Wall Motors is considering making a bid to buy Fiat Chrysler's Jeep unit, spokespeople for the company said Monday, in a possible ambitious new step onto the global stage for China's fast-growing auto brands.

Great Wall has yet to formally declare its interest in Jeep, but a possible acquisition would be in line with chairman Wang Jianjun's goal, announced in February, of becoming the top specialty SUV producer by 2020.

Great Wall "has this intention," said the public relations director for its Haval SUV brand, Zhao Lijia, when asked about a report by Automotive News that the Chinese automaker wants to buy Jeep. An employee of the press office for the company headquarters, who would give only his surname, Zhang, said, "Yes, we are interested in Jeep."

Zhao and Zhang said they had no other details when asked about a possible price. Zhao said it may take some time to assemble a formal bid.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said the company is for sale and cannot compete globally without a tie-up to a bigger partner due to the high costs of developing and marketing vehicles.

In a statement Monday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said it had not been approached by Great Wall.

Great Wall Motors Ltd., headquartered in Baoding, southwest of Beijing, is one of a series of independent Chinese automakers that have grown up alongside state-owned giants such as Shanghai Automotive Industries.

If it goes ahead with a Jeep bid, Great Wall could become the second Chinese automaker, after Geely Holding Group, to expand onto the global stage by acquiring an established foreign brand.

Geely bought Sweden's Volvo Cars from Ford Motor Co. in 2010 and has launched a third brand, Lynk & Co., as a partnership between Volvo and Geely's Chinese brand.



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