FCA India, which had a runaway success with its sole locally made SUV Jeep Compass launched in July 2017 but has tapered off the momentum since then, is "very serious with its operations here" and will produce two-three models from the Ranjangaon facility near Pune, Maharashtra, from next year. The American company will also shortly bring its iconic brand Wrangler Rubicon to the domestic market as early as this quarter, a top company official has said. Playing on the pricing side and technology, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had launched its fully-locally made Jeep Compass in July 2017 with a starting price of Rs 14.95 lakh, and the vehicle became so popular that within 10 months, the company recovered its investment of $250 million from Jeep sales, a first for any foreign auto brand here and especially for an American brand as both their other US brands GM and Ford have failed miserably twice here.
Today, over 50,000 Jeep Compasses are plying on roads, while the company has also shipped as many as 17,000 units to around 15 key right-hand drive markets, including Britain, Japan and Australia. "We are very serious with our operations here. We consider the current fall in the volume as a blip and we are very sure it will pass. The headquarters are very happy with us. We have had a huge success and are sure to repeat it again here," Datta told PTI in an interview. On the need for more models, which is critical for the volume game, Datta said, "We fully understand to be more successful we need more models which, so far, we could not have. So, beginning next year, we will have more than two more Jeep models being rolled out from the Ranjangaon facility."
FCA saw its volume plunge by around 30 per cent from its 2018 peak, as consumers have been in a wait-and-watch mode for almost two years now due to the rash of regulatory changes on one hand, and banks and NBFCs have been keeping away from the market for too long now. The USD 3-million industry, primarily entry models-driven, as a whole has seen the volume plunge almost 9 per cent so far this year. Despite the drop, they are still selling 900-1,000 units a month, he added, and the same goes for exports.
Whether the company will look at rolling in any luxury hatchbacks and sedans here, Datta answered in the negative saying they "want to be an SUV-only brand in the foreseeable future", as he believes that the future of premium SUVs is bright here. "We are committed to staying in India for long and we are looking at every spoke in the wheel to ensure we are successful again and the headquarters is willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more to build our business here," said Datta, who took over the India operations last September, and an FCA veteran having spent over two decades at its global operations.
Apart from launching more models, FCA is also widening its reach, which is 17 full-fledged sales centres and 80 mini centres now, he said adding that another area they are working on building the brand is focusing on merchandise and accessories. On bringing in Wrangler Rubicon, which will be priced upwards of Rs 72 lakh, he said, "The demand for the iconic Rubicon is so high that we are already sold out for months."
From its CBU (completely built units) stable, the Jeep Wrangler has been the best-seller among all accounting for 67 per cent of the volume, since its entry into the domestic market in August 2016. On the transition to BS-VI, Datta said that as of the first week of February, the entire range of the Jeep Compass has been moved to the new emission norms and that they have no inventory issue with the BS-IV models at all. The BS-VI Compass comes at a higher price tag of 5-7 per cent or Rs 25,000-1,10,000 depending on the model, he said.
In June 2019, FCA rolled out the first BS-VI powertrain for both its petrol and diesel variants. Currently, the demand is more for diesel AMT (automatic manual transmission) models. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group has been around the globe for the past seven decades, designing, engineering, manufacturing and selling brands like the Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Ram, and SRT and the luxury Maserati. In the components sector, it operates through Teksid and Comau, and in after-sales services, under the Mopar brand name.