Introducing the Jeep brand this year was a part of Fiat’s strategy for India. But unfavourable market conditions as well as the slump have led to the plans being put on hold. Now, the latest reports suggest that the American SUV brand will be launched in India in 2015, with the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee.
The plans for the Jeep brand were revealed at Fiat’s investors meeting by Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat Chrysler, Asia Pacific region who is also the president and chief executive officer of Jeep. A presentation gave a glimpse of Fiat’s plans for India for the next five years which also showed that the launch of Jeep’s newest product, the Renegade, has also been pushed back to 2016.
The Wrangler will be imported directly as a completely-built-unit (CBU) and will be more of an image builder for the company. The Grand Cherokee though, is being pitched as a volume product and will be locally assembled at Fiat’s Ranjangaon facility to keep the price low and competitive. Internationally, both the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee are due for an upgrade or replacement, though they will be sold here till 2017.
The Renegade is a new product which shares its Small Wide platform architecture with the Fiat 500X. Unveiled at the 2014 New York Motor Show, the Renegade is the baby-SUV in the line-up and marks the company’s foray into the entry-level segment. Though the Renegade doesn’t have the rugged look which we associate with a Jeep, it has enough appeal to give the other compact SUVs like Audi Q1 and BMW X1 a run for their money.
Having burnt its hands before, Fiat has been taking a very careful approach for India. Its plans to rejig its Indian portfolio are well on track and the company will be introducing over 11 new models over the next five years. Jeep will play an important role in transforming the Italian car maker’s image in India. Once the Jeep brand is launched next year, the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee will take on premium SUVs from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Land Rover and Volvo.