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Dec 06, 2012, 06.57 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Fiat to rev up India ops with 9 launches including Jeep

Italian carmaker Fiat, which is struggling with sluggish demand for its Punto and Linea cars in India, plans to shake up the operations here, with 9 new launches planned over next four years.

Nachiket Kelkar
Moneycontrol.com

Italian carmaker Fiat, which is struggling with sluggish demand for its Punto and Linea cars in India, plans to shake up the operations here, with 9 new launches planned over next four years.

This will include the launch of the iconic Jeep brand by Chrysler in the country next year. Fiat had acquired a stake in Chrysler in 2009, when the later was struggling amid the economic downturn.

Jeep's Wrangler and Grand Cherokee SUVs will be imported here towards the end of 2013.

That will be followed up by the B segment SUV in 2015 and C SUV a year later. The B and C SUVs will be localised here.

Fiat itself will launch 4 products, including new Punto hatchback and Linea sedan in 2014 and a compact utility vehicle the same year.

The Abarth sports car brand will also come to India. Fiat says there will be lot more news on that brand next year.

"Our vision for India will revolve around a three-pronged strategy. First, introduction of new vehicles that will soon include the legendary Jeep brand. Second the expansion of our independent dealer network and finally, strong marketing initiatives that will continue to imptove our awareness and brand perception in the market," said Mike Manley, COO for Asia and CEO Jeep Brand.

Fiat manufactures cars at Ranjangaon in a venture with Tata Motors . Company officials denied reports that Tata Motors was planning to shift production of Tata branded cars out of Ranjangaon, to pave the way for assembling Jeeps.

The plant has enough room for expansion so there won't be any issues manufacturing the new products there, said Gurpratap Boparai, CEO Fiat India Automobiles.

Fiat ended its distribution deal with Tatas earlier this year and is now focusing on opening independent dealerships to drive its sales.

It plans to have 120 independent dealers by 2013.

After sales service is another issue often cited by people for Fiat's sluggish sales.

The company says it will completely overhaul all touch points, including a complete new structure of its after sales service, another effort towards boosting its image in the country, which is among the fastest growing auto market in the world. Fiat India only had 0.7 percent market share in 2011 and is aiming to increase it to 5 percent on the back of the new launches and revamped sales and service network.

"We are optimistic about our prospect for growth in the Indian car market, which grew 12 percent in 2011 and is rapidly becoming one of the major markets in the world. With the launch of the Jeep brand, new Fiat products, an expanding dealer network and upcoming marketing initiatives, we will be in a strong position to capitalize on this growth," said Enrico Atanasio, MD of Fiat Group Automobiles India.

Fiat hopes that with the new launches, it will cover over 40 percent of the Indian passenger vehicle market from around 22 percent now.

Apart from new vehicles, the company will launch its Fiat Financial Services in April 2013, which will offer new and pre-owned loans to customers.

Also Read: Maruti to increase car prices by up to Rs 20,000 from Jan

nachiket.kelkar@network18online.com

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