We are ready for a major onslaught in India with new products

Written by R Ravichandran | Updated: Mar 20 2014, 09:57am hrs
Italian auto major Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India says that its decision to launch nine new products in the next two years is intact, with the company believing that demand will pick up in second half of this year post elections. Nagesh Basavanhalli, president and managing director, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India Operations, in an exclusive interview with R Ravichandran, says the current slowdown in the market will not affect its product rollout. Edited excerpts:

Fiat was supposed to launch Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee from the Chrysler platform in the second half of 2013 in India but that did not take place. What were the reasons for the postponement

We always spoke of nine new or significantly refreshed models to be launched by 2016 in the Indian market from the Fiat Chrysler stable. The Jeep models we have indicated will be launched no sooner the economic situation improves. Presently, the auto industry is experiencing sluggish sales, the worst in 11 years. Once market sentiments improves we will launch the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee via the CBU route. Jeeps launch is just deferred.

What are the products likely to be launched this year and the next

We are still on our target to bring in nine products as we said earlier. We launched the first one last year, Linea Classic. The second one was New Linea that was launched earlier this month. Other products that will be introduced before December 2014 includes the Avventura, New Punto and Abarth 500.

Are you working on other than Jeep models to target Indian SUV, MPV, UV market, which is in a sharp growth path over the last three years or so

Avventura to be launched in 2014 is a CUV (contemporary urban vehicle). This vehicle is specially built for India and will be launched first in India. This vehicle is built keeping the young urban Indian in mind. It will take motoring altogether to another level. Based on the success of this product, the company will look at tapping this particular segment with newer products.

Your expansion plans on dealership network/service points and production capacity

We already have 108 dealerships across the country and have decided to take it to 150 by 2014 end. Currently we have capacity and annually we can build 200,000 cars and 300,000 engines and transmissions.

The likely targeted sales numbers for calendar year 2014

Its difficult to predict at this point of time. We hope the market picks up post-elections. Moreover, we have four great products in 2014 the new Linea, new Punto, Fiat Avventura and Abath 500. All these stylish Italian cars are coupled with award winning engines. Every vehicle is available in petrol and diesel. Also our dealership expansion programme targetting the remotest cities of India are bound to see better numbers.

How have been the response post excise duty cut announcements by P Chidambaram recently as far as FIAT India is concerned

Since we launched our new company, Fiat Group Automobiles India in April 2013 and commenced selling/distribution through our exclusive showrooms, our sales figures have trended in the right direction. We have passed on the excise benefit to the consumer.