Italy's top automotive group Fiat may soon enter the light commercial vehicles (LCV) market. The automaker is doing a market study to launch the Fiat Professional brand of utility/passenger vans and small pick-up trucks.
Enrico Atanasio, managing director of Fiat Group Automobiles India, said: “The incumbents are very strong in the segment, but it represents a huge potential market for us. We are looking at how to bring products at the right competitive price. It may require significant investments in local production and suppliers, but if we can show volumes, the money is available.”
The list of carmakers wanting a piece of the LCV market includes General Motors, Maruti Suzuki and Renault-Nissan. Although dominated by Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, several auto companies have been eyeing the LCV market which reported a 16% rise in volumes between April and December to 3.78 lakh units.
In LCVs, Tata Motors leads the market with 57% share (December 2012) with products like the Ace (0.5-1 tonne) and Xenon XT. This is followed by Mahindra (Maxximo, Genio, Bolero Pik-up), Ashok Leyland (Dost), Force Motors (Trump) and Piaggio (Ape). Tata Motors’ LCV sales were up 15% to 2.17 lakh units in April-December FY13.
Fiat is also studying the market for its Iveco brand of trucks and buses. Fiat already sells cars and tractors (Case New Holland) in India and is preparing to launch its SUV brand Jeep in October this year. Jeep, part of the US auto giant Chrysler in which Fiat acquired a controlling stake in 2009, will launch two products initially — the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler. Jeep will have its own dealers, starting with 10 in the first year.
Rapid expansion plans with multiple new brands comes after Fiat and Tata Motors decided to end their marketing and distribution partnership in May last year. Fiat has since been appointing solo dealerships across the country. However, the partners chose to continue the second aspect of the joint venture.
Under the JV they shared the Ranjangaon (near Pune) manufacturing facility — Tata Motors, which also uses Fiat’s diesel engines, makes the Indigo Manza and Indica Vista at the plant, while Fiat makes the Punto and Linea.
“The transition should end by March when we will have 70 dealers and 100 by the end of the year. 2012 volumes should be around 11,000 and with the new dealerships, we hope to double this number in 2012,” Atanasio said. Among passenger vehicle companies,