Fiat-Chrysler starts a new India innings

The Fiat Group has lined up vehicle launches and refreshes in India and will leverage its Chrysler R&D facility as it aims at one percent market share by the end of 2013-14.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 17 Apr 2013 Views icon2672 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Fiat-Chrysler starts a new India innings
The Fiat Group has lined up vehicle launches and refreshes in India and will leverage its Chrysler R&D facility as it aims at one percent market share by the end of 2013-14. SumantraBarooah finds out what the market, and competitors, can look out for.



In the corner of the hall in a Mumbai five-star hotel where the Fiat Group held its press conference on April 10, there was a Chrysler (now part of Fiat Group) official from Detroit watching the proceedings. The conference was to announce Fiat’s official start to its independent operations after its parting of ways with Tata Motors. The 40-year-Chrysler veteran will relocate to India to assist in the setting up of an efficient distribution, IT system and dealership network for the new Fiat operations in India. Clearly, Fiat wants to have its most experienced people spearhead its new India drive.

Key announcements have already been made. They include that of G Sanjay and SaurabhSrivastava. While Sanjay has moved from Hover Automotive India to head of marketing at Fiat, Srivastava, who was earlier with Hyundai, takes charge of sales. NageshBasavanhalli, MD of Chrysler Automotive India, was recently promoted as the president and MD, Fiat Chrysler India operations.

Growing the network In the first phase of the new drive, 51 dealerships have started operations and 16 more are at a preparatory phase. The plan is to cross the 100-dealership mark by the end of 2013. The new set of exclusive Fiat dealers has been appointed by the new national sales company, which is an independent entity within the Fiat Chrysler India operations. “The objective in establishing a national sales company in FGAIPL (Fiat Group Automobiles India) is to consolidate our position as a key automobile player in India. We have key personnel in the main leadership roles in order to accelerate our growth plans,” says Enrico Atanasio, director, Fiat Group Automobiles India.

Fiat is working on a strategy to win customer confidence with support systems. These consist of a comprehensive three-year manufacturers’ warranty, and an option for customers to extend it to five years. It has also set up a call centre. The earlier customer care service was shared with Tata Motors. On the aftermarket front, Fiat has set up a 60,000 square feet warehouse that can stock up to 6,000 different parts at any given point in time and which is equipped with the IT systems that can track all transactions. This aims to help it deliver the necessary spare parts to customers in the metros within 24 hours and non-metro customers within 72 hours. MercurioPallia, Fiat’s logistics partner, has built a 12-acre stockyard near the Ranjangaon, Pune, plant that can park 2,000 vehicles.

With only two models in India – Linea and Punto – Fiat has a presence only in about 22 percent of the Indian car market. It hopes to change its fortunes with the launch of four products by end-2014. These include refreshes and new versions of the Punto and Linea. But the most important launch will be a compact UV – targeted at the Ford EcoSport – scheduled to debut early next year.

Engineers at Fiat-Chrysler’s Chennai technical centre are playing a key role in developing it. “We are working on several Indian products as well as global products. The goal is to do more stuff in India. One of my mandates is: how do we get closer to the customer? How do we understand the customer needs and desires?” Basavanhalli told Autocar Professional. The Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee – the first set of models under the Jeep brand –will enter India by July-September 2013.

The Fiat-Chrysler Group is all set to lay the foundation for its India innings in 2013-14. In its previous gameplans, Fiat has been on its own. Now as part of the Fiat-Chrysler, the ‘alliance’ hopes to have a sustainable growth in this market. By the end of 2013-14, the Group hopes to touch the one percent market share mark and follow up that with consistent growth in the years to come. In a slowing market, that will not be an easy task. ?

INTERVIEW WITH NAGESH BASAVANHALLI, PRESIDENT & MD, FIAT CHRYSLER INDIA


What key areas will you focus on in your new role?
We have to build the brand awareness, the new Fiat. Over the last several years, Fiat has been re-energised. It is brand, distribution and product and the customer.

What role will the technical centre that you once headed play in re-energising Fiat’s operations in India?
We are one big family (including Chrysler) and there are two parts to the job. One job is to help global operations because that helps improve the competence of our engineers. We are known as better technical centres in India because of their competency. We have working on projects globally and coming back. Leveraging that for the Indian conditions is our aim. A cross- pollination of people between Fiat and Chrysler, sharing of knowledge and best practices is what will be brought to the table. Indian engineers clearly understand local conditions so they are equipped to design and developing cars for Indian conditions.

What about the new SUV project? Is it being driven by the India technical centre?
I cannot speak about specific projects. In general, yes we are working on several Indian products as well as global products. Our objective is to do more and more stuff in India. One of my mandates is: how do we get closer to the customer, understand his or her desires and engineer accordingly?

In which skills does the India tech centre excels over Fiat's other R&D centres?
Frugal innovation is one area. We’ve brought in, come up with, a patented solution, and reengineered it, sourced it from India and reduced costs while not hurting functionality. That is the single biggest advantage. We are proud of our innovative ideas, the number of patent applications, new research papers that we’re filing and that is our competencies are growing.
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