(Corrects figures given by Jeep executive on Asia sales in 8th paragraph)
By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Jeep, the SUV brand that is key to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global expansion plans, narrowly met its goal of selling one million vehicles in 2014, the Jeep brand chief said on Tuesday.
Jeep’s worldwide sales were 1,017,019 last year, up 39 percent from 2013 and a record for the brand.
Sales rose 41 percent in Jeep’s biggest market, the United States, to 692,348.
Mike Manley, chief executive of the Jeep brand, in a phone interview with Reuters did not venture a specific sales forecast for 2015 sales. He said, Jeep plans to “continue the growth.”
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, said last May that global production of Jeep will rise to 1.9 million vehicles by 2018. Of that, one million is to be produced in North America, 500,000 in Asia, 200,000 in South America and 200,000 in Europe.
Marchionne and Manley made selling one million Jeep vehicles in 2014 a stretch target last January.
Manley said 2015 Jeep sales will helped by the start of production of the Cherokee in China in the third quarter of the year and in Brazil in the second quarter.
Jeep sales in China, the world’s biggest automobile market, rose 49 percent in 2014 from a relatively low base, to 88,000. Manley said 132,000 Jeeps were sold in Asia.
South American sales represented only about 2 percent of the global sales total last year. The region’s biggest markets, Brazil and Argentina, continue to suffer from economic woes, but South American Jeep sales should rise in 2015 thanks to local production, Manley said.
Jeep sales gained 40 percent in Europe, where the small SUV Renegade began sales in November in 28 countries. Manley said the start of sales was “very encouraging” for the vehicle he said is a better fit for European consumers than the larger Grand Cherokee and Cherokee.
Renegade sales launch in the U.S. market in the first quarter.
Aaron Bragman, analyst with Cars.com, said the Renegade will sell well in the United States, particularly to young drivers.
“You will see one of these in every high school parking lot in the country,” said Bragman of the Renegade.
Top-selling models globally for the brand were the Grand Cherokee at 279,567, followed by Cherokee at 236,289, Wrangler at 234,579, Compass at 134,629 and Patriot at 122,387.
Manley said FCA’s plans are to “start the replacement of” Compass and Patriot in 2016. (Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)