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Chrysler Oz chief heads to China

Off to China: Chrysler Australia MD Gerry Jenkins is leaving after seven years to head the company's Chinese operation.

Gerry Jenkins promoted to key role as Chrysler China president and CEO

5 Jul 2010

CHRYSLER Australia has announced that its managing director Gerry Jenkins has been promoted to chief executive and president of Chrysler China, based in Shanghai.

The 52-year-old Canadian, who has been at the helm of Chrysler’s Australian operations since March 2003, will officially start his new job on August 1.

He will replace Wayne Chumley, who is retiring, and will report to Chrysler’s Asia operations vice-president John Kett – the Australian-born executive who is responsible for China and the entire Asia Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand.

Chrysler Australia’s senior manager of marketing and corporate communications, Dean Bonthorne, said details regarding a replacement for Mr Jenkins will be revealed closer to the date of his departure, but added that it was unrelated to the company’s move to Iveco Trucks Australia headquarters in Dandenong, east of Melbourne, around the same time.

Mr Jenkins said he looked forward to the new opportunity in China, which is among the fastest-growing markets for Chrysler globally and the best performing outside North America.

He also reflected positively on his time in Australia.

“Living and working in Australia has been a rewarding experience that I will cherish forever,” said Mr Jenkins, who was badly injured in a motorcycle accident in country Victoria in March 2004.

He had his right leg amputated as a result, but told GoAuto in an exclusive interview upon his return to work some months later that the crash would not limit his career.

 center imageLeft: Chrysler Australia MD Gerry Jenkins.

“My plan was to be here for three years. Who knows, I might make this a longer step in my career, maybe even end my career here now. I don’t know, the jury is still out on that, I haven’t really decided,” he told GoAuto in September 2004.

“Will this limit my career though? I don’t really think so. Ambition is a mental thing, really, it’s not really a physical thing. Sure, physical limitations contain you in one way or another, but it really depends on your fortitude and your drive.”

Now, after seven years in the job, Mr Jenkins will take on a significant new challenge in working with Fiat to increase the Chrysler Group’s presence in the world’s biggest motor vehicle market.

“The opportunity to live and work in China couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said. “We have some exciting products on the way and the emphasis placed on the Chinese market has never been greater.”

Mr Jenkins also said he would be keeping tabs on Chrysler’s performance in Australia.

According to VFACTS figures released this week, Jeep sales are up 50.8 per cent for the first half of 2010, but Dodge and Chrysler are down 51.8 and 46.9 per cent respectively over the same period.

Last year, the three brands managed 8445 sales combined, with Dodge the only one in positive territory (up 4.7 per cent) compared with 2008. Jeep was down 19.9 per cent and Chrysler 26.4 per cent.

“Back in 2003, Australia did not figure on Chrysler International’s top 15 markets sales report. We’re now in third place, inches from second and I’ll certainly be watching their progress from a distance,” Mr Jenkins said.

“After experiencing the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee (due for release early next year), I know Chrysler Australia will continue to grow in importance for both Chrysler and the Australian market.”

Mr Jenkins’ career with Chrysler began in 1979 in Canada and over the years he has held a variety of senior executive positions including marketing and communications director for Europe and, later, all markets outside North America.

In Australia, he replaced Judy Wheeler, who returned to Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, to become director of national dealer network development for the US. Ms Wheeler has since held a number of other senior management positions with the company.

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