In an era of increasing tensions with Chinese manufacturers and moves by companies like Tesla to build automotive plants in China, automotive maker Great Wall Motors has announced it’s intention to buy the Jeep Brand from Fiat Chrysler America (FCA).
Jeep has been a part of the Chrysler Brand since Lee Iacocca purchased American Motors in the early 80’s. At the time Jeep was just a footnote on the balance sheet of AMC which had a line-up that included the Rambler, Hornet, Gremlin, Pacer, and America’s first real crossover, the all-wheel-drive American Eagle.
Iacocca recognized the value of the Jeep brand and named the new division Jeep Eagle – but soon dropped any reference to the Eagle and it’s AMC heritage – instead focusing on building the Jeep into the iconic American brand it is today.
An American Brand that could soon be the property of one of China’s biggest automakers. Great Wall, owned by billionaire Wei Jianjun, has built a brand by focusing on the growing SUV market in China, but struggling to get a foothold outside the Mainland. Companies like Geely Holdings successful acquisition of Volvo has led the way for other Chinese companies to crave that international market.
For it’s part, FCA claims that there have been no talks with the Chinese company.
The Jeep brand has grown considerably stronger since Fiat’s 2009 controversial Obama Administration led acquisition of Chrysler Corporation’s assets right out of Bankruptcy court and the hands of the private equity firm that owned it (and supported Obama’s opponent in the elections).
Most notable of the brands is the ever present Jeep Wrangler – the core of a growing aftermarket industry that not only depends on the popularity of the Wrangler, but most would argue helped make it the highly capable off road rig it is today, inspiring many of Mopar’s own products and accessories.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne just last month talked up the Jeep brand’s global reach emphasizing that the potential has yet to be realized. Great Wall’s acquisition, if it occurs, will have it’s own struggle since Jeep’s 2,400 U.S. dealers represent multiple brands – Chrysler, Dodge & Jeep – but have exclusive rights to the Jeep brand.
And then there is the question of value. What is Jeep really worth? According to Automotive News, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas put a value of $33.5 Billion on the Jeep brand alone.
Not bad for a brand that used to be just a footnote on a balance sheet.