AUBURN HILLS, MI – The Jeep brand will lead the growth charge for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Brazil and the rest of the Latin American region, executives say today at a backgrounder here on the automaker’s 5-year strategy.

Backed by a new 250,000-unit assembly plant and the first locally made Jeep, the all-new Renegade model, the off-road marque is on the path toward a more than 600% increase in sales, to 200,000 vehicles in Latin America in 2018 from just 27,000 in 2013, officials say.

The Jeep drive will play a big role in taking FCA sales in the region to 1.3 million units annually in five years, up from 900,000 today. Included in that is a healthy gain in Fiat deliveries, as well, with volume seen increasing to 1.1 million in 2018 from 887,000 last year.

Jeep’s bigger commitment to Brazil includes an expansion of its dealer network to 110 points in 2015 and 250 in 2018, with throughput targeted at 800 units per dealer annually, says Cledorvino Belini, who oversees the Latin American region.

Critical is the new €1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) assembly plant in Pernambuco, Brazil, which is slated to begin building the Jeep Renegade in first-quarter 2015. With capacity of 250,000 vehicles per year, a second undisclosed Jeep model will be added to the mix later in 2015 and a third will join the flexible line in 2016. All three Jeeps will be based on FCA’s Small-Wide architecture.

Pernambuco, said to be FCA’s most modern assembly plant in the world, will employ 1,000 workers at launch, but another 2,000 jobs will be added by 2016. Local content will be 80%, including about 40% from the adjacent supplier park that houses 16 parts makers, 17 product lines and 4,000 workers. A second supplier park is in the works.

SUVs are expected to continue to grow in popularity in Brazil, Belini says. Some 278,000 were sold in the country in 2013, and FCA sees that rising to 300,000 this year and 620,000 in 2018.

“This is the new star we have in our country,” Belini says of the Renegade. “It is the Jeep people want. It has a very promising future in our country.”

dzoia@wardsauto.com