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Fiat defers Jeep launch as slowdown rages

Wednesday, 5 March 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Automaker Fiat has deferred plans of launching its iconic Jeep brand in India on account of the unrelenting slowdown and uncertainty in the market.

The company had announced in 2012 that it would launch Wrangler and Grand Cherokee from the Jeep's stable in 2013.

Nagesh Basavanhalli, president and managing director, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India Operations, said, "Clearly we wanted to bring the Jeep brand at the right time and when we took a step back and said, look at the market condition. It is the first time in 11 years that the automotive market has declined and the consumer sentiments are low. Foreign exchange is also fluctuating"

"There are so many uncertainties in this market and you get only one chance to introduce a brand like that. We have deferred the introduction of Jeep and not cancelled it. We will come back and talk about it in the next few months," he said.

The company said a decision on this will be taken after elections.

Fiat was banking on its plans of introducing Jeep brand into the market, considering the growing demand for sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

It was planning to cover the entire range of SUVs under the Jeep brand. The idea was to import Wrangler and Grand Cherokee and then look at localising the production.

Separate exclusive dealerships for Jeep were also in the pipeline.

Basavanhalli said the company would stick to the original plan once it decides to bring in Jeep models. "We are watching and monitoring the market month on month," he said.

Meanwhile, Fiat launched the new Linea on Tuesday with price starting at Rs 699,000 (ex showroom Delhi). The company will also launch four more products this year as it looks to expand its market share.

Fiat will launch Abarth 500 and Avventura (compact SUV) before December. The company has 108 dealers and is looking at taking that number to 150 by the end of this calendar year.

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