Home Interviews An opportunity to launch an iconic brand like Jeep comes only once.

An opportunity to launch an iconic brand like Jeep comes only once.

An opportunity to launch an iconic brand like Jeep comes only once.

FIAT Group Automobiles India Private Limited (FGAIPL) is a fully owned subsidiary of FIAT Group Automobiles S.p.A, Italy. The company manufactures automobiles and engines. Excerpts of an interview to Bhushan Mhapralkar.

What does the new Linea have to offer?

The new Linea offers a perfect blend of sophisticated style, refined performance, class leading comfort and exceptional ride. The car marks the start of a new chapter of FIAT India’s journey in the country. It was first shown at the Auto Expo 2014, and is the first of the four models we will launch in 2014.

What were the criteria you considered for the new Linea?

We focused on taking a product already known to the market, and make it better. We worked on the areas that were expected to fare better; areas where customers expected an improvement.

Which would be the other three cars you would launch this year, and when?

The three products that we will launch in 2014 are the Abarth brand, the Avventura that we displayed at the Auto Expo 2014, and the new Grande Punto.

What will the Abarth brand have to offer?

Abarth will have the Abarth 500 to offer. Producing 160bhp, the Abarth 500 will be a CBU import. The plan is however to local the brand. We will be localising products for the local platforms.

What about the introduction of Jeep brand in India?

We have deferred the launch of Jeep in India. We want to introduce the iconic brand at the right time. When the market conditions are right. We feel that the market conditions are not favourable; consumer sentiments are low. The elections are coming. We have postponed the Jeep, but internally we are doing all that, which would make us ready to introduce the Jeep brand. The market is the only uncertainty that is holding us from launching the Jeep brand. An opportunity to launch an iconic brand like Jeep comes only once.

Has India taken a backseat given the changes that are taking place on the global level? At the FCA level?

India has not taken a back seat with the development of FCA (FIAT Chrysler Automobiles). We now have access to more platforms – platforms at Detroit; in other parts of the world. It now offers us more opportunities. India is part of the APAC region. We have a CEO for every region. APAC region has Mike Manley as the CEO. Also, considering the global developments, the Chrysler R&D centre at Chennai was working on global platforms. It is now working on Indian products too.

Does deferring the launch of Jeep brand in India also postpone other product plans?

Long range product plans are on. We are waiting for the Jeep brand to come in. Once it is in, we will be talking about others. We will start with a CBU and localise the Jeep brand. At FIAT, we are seeing the momentum building. We are seeing the sales climb. We have set up dealership across 81 cities. The Linea Classic drew a lot of customers into the showroom. A third party survey has termed the spare costs of our vehicles competitive. Clearly, the FIAT and Abarth plans are on track. We are hoping that the second half of 2014 will be better.

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