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We are committed to bringing Jeep to India: Nagesh Basavanhalli

Q&A with President & MD, Fiat Chrysler India

Swaraj Baggonkar  |  Mumbai 

Fiat's long awaited sales turnaround in India is finally taking shape. In the nine months ended December, Fiat marked a growth of 43% in sales, helped by an improved sales network. Nagesh Basavanhalli, president and managing director, Fiat Chrysler India, in an interview with Swaraj Baggonkar, talks about the company's revival plans.

How many products can we expect from Fiat this year?

In all, four products will come out this year. These will be Avventura, Abarth 500, new Punto and new Linea.

Will the Avventura and the Abart 500 be made in India?

Avventura will be made in India and the Abarth 500 will be initially imported into India as a completely built unit (CBU) before we start to make it here.

What positioning will you have for the Avventura because it looks like a cross between a hatchback and a SUV?

We are calling it a contemporary utility vehicle (CUV). Our engineers and designers did a lot of research to look at what Indian customers need. The young aspiring Indians are very busy, they need an easy to manoeuver car which they can take out of weekends. The Avventura is an all new car developed on an existing platform. It is a global premier.

Where was it developed?

It is a joint development - the platform itself is developed in Turin. We have our own Fiat engineering centre in Chennai and Pune. It is based on the Punto platform. We had talked about nine products for India in 2012, this is one of them.

What engine options will it be available in?

It is a little premature to talk about it. It will be available in both petrol and diesel options and there will be several variants between them. The vehicle will be launched before December. We are trying to get some final customer feedback, figure out the pricing. It is a sub-4 meter car and it will be value for money aimed at mass volumes.

It's not a SUV and it's not a hatchback, how will you position it?

It is a new segment. I have seen that globally, people moved from minivans, to SUVs, to crossovers. The Indian market is at the cusp, where it is all about the customer. Avventura brings in utility, space and it is fun to drive.

What growth has Fiat seen after breaking up with Tata Motors?

There was a transition period. For April to December, SIAM said that our sales were up 44% at 7,790 units. We are the fastest growing brand in India so hopefully with the new products we will see this continuing.

When are you launching the Jeep?

We looked at what is the right price and the right time for a iconic brand such as the Jeep to be launched in India and said maybe we should defer it. Because we want to make sure we bring it at the right time. We have not cancelled its launch in India, we are committed to bring it to India.

What is your dealer strength?

We have tie ups with 104 dealers right now. 20 more dealer partners have signed on. The goal is to have 150 dealers by the end of this year.

First Published: Mon, February 10 2014. 14:08 IST