Italy's Fiat to re-enter India's jeep market with Cherokee, Wrangler
The roll out will be part of the Italian auto major's plans to introduce nine products, including new ones and variants, by 2016, Fiat-Chrysler Asia Pacific COO and President and Chief Executive for jeep brand at the Chrysler group Mike Manley said.
Fiat, which currently sells only two car models, Punto and Lenea, has under 0.5 percent market share in the domestic auto market, though it has been one of the oldest foreign brands in India having entered here as early as in the 1950s, first in association with the Mahindras and then with Premier Automobiles.
"Our vision for this market will revolve around a three-pronged strategy. First, introduction of new vehicles that will include the Jeep brand. Second, the expansion of our independent dealers and finally strong marketing initiatives," he said.
Fiat will launch two international Jeep models here next year, and later, two local models. It plans to sell the Jeep through 32 dealers in 25 cities, said Fiat Group Automobiles India managing director Enrico Atanasio.
Fiat and its American unit Chrysler, in which it took a controlling stake in 2009, will launch the Jeep models towards the end of 2013.
This May, Fiat called off its six-year distribution and marketing tie-up with the Tatas after sales underperformed expectations.
Apart from the Fiat and Jeep, Fiat also has plans to launch racing car brand Abarth here in 2013. Jeep vehicles will be distributed at launch in the metros through 25 exclusive outlets utilising the infrastructure created by the Fiat exclusive dealers. The Jeep Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee will be imported as completely-built units and marketed by Fiat, Manley said.
The company plans to set up 120 dealerships by next year, he said adding the existing dealerships arrangements with the Tatas will be over by next March.
As part of the plan to expand its portfolio here, apart from refreshing the Linea and Punto models and bringing in new generation of Linea, the company is also developing a compact sports utility vehicle by 2014, Aanasio said.
From the Fiat portfolio, the company will roll out four vehicles including a sub-four meter compact SUV, which will make its entry into the volume segment, he added.
With the foray into the jeep brand here, new Fiat products and expanding dealer network, the company will be in a strong position to capitalise on this growth, Aanasio said.
The off-road pick-ups and luxury SUVs will be the first vehicles from the Chrysler stable launched here, where Fiat has failed to crack the highly-competitive low-cost segment.
"Our goal is to reach 5 per cent market share in the foreseeable future from a paltry 0.7 per cent in 2011," Manley said, adding the Asia-Pacific region is the biggest growth market for us.
Fiat sold just 4,717 cars in the country during the six months to September, giving it a market share of 0.4 per cent. The company sells the Punto hatchback and Linea sedan in the country now.
Currently the Jeep models are sold in 120 countries, but not here, Asia's third-biggest car market.
In the first half of the current fiscal, utility vehicle sales rose 55.8 per cent year-on-year, while car sales shrank 0.3 per cent and the overall car sales are likely to grow just 1-3 per cent, according to the industry body Siam.
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