Jeep Compass’ success very critical, Fiat’s overhaul soon, says FCA India MD Kevin Flynn | autos | Hindustan Times
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Jeep Compass’ success very critical, Fiat’s overhaul soon, says FCA India MD Kevin Flynn

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to launch the new SUV Compass in the third quarter of FY’18, ahead of the festive season in India.

autos Updated: May 05, 2017 13:03 IST
Gulshankumar Wankar
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to launch the new SUV Compass in the third quarter of FY’18, ahead of the festive season in India.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to launch the new SUV Compass in the third quarter of FY’18, ahead of the festive season in India.(YouTube screengrab)

Compass: A device used to find directions.

That’s too apt a name for the upcoming model from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group in India, which has struggled to find its way in the country despite decades of wandering.

The Detroit-headquartered FCA has three brands in India – Fiat, Abarth and Jeep. While Fiat has been slumber with Linea and Punto, its big performance brand Abarth too hasn’t raced in the market. All eyes are now on the sport utility vehicle brand Jeep, which entered India last year with two exorbitant imported SUVs — the Wrangler at Rs 72 lakh and Grand Cherokee from Rs 93.64 lakh to 1.12 crore.

And months before launching here the first ‘Made in India’ Jeep Compass, Kevin Flynn, president and managing director of FCA India, is excited, anxious and hopeful of a turnaround.

“I’m incredibly excited by it. It’s a global launch, not just in India. We are one of the four global locations that will manufacture the same car. It’s very important and critical for our success,” Flynn said in conversation with HT on Wednesday. “And jumping on the ‘Make in India’ philosophy, the Compass will play a significant part in the segment as well as the market,” he said.

Jeep Compass unveiled at the Ranjangaon plant. (HT file photo)

The production of Compass will start by June at the Ranjangaon plant near Pune in Maharashtra, which is a 50:50 joint venture with Tata Motors. The company plans to launch the promising SUV in the third quarter of FY’18, ahead of the festive season in India.

The company invested around $280 million to rejig the plant to make 160,000 units annually. Though the plant will be an export base to right-hand-drive markets like Japan, UK, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, the first cars off the line will be for India, Flynn said.

“There are plans,” he said, to make more Jeeps at Ranjangaon, but did not say if the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, at present imported via CBU route, will be localised or not. Their steep pricing announced last July was not welcomed by Jeep fans and analysts alike.

“The more important thing was to make those models available in the market. But the reaction to prices was a lot more louder than what we had anticipated,” Flynn said.

The company later launched a more affordable, petrol Wrangler version at Rs 56 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. “And it’s doing very well now. It’s clear that when you put it acceptable price position, then you reap better rewards.”

Regarding Compass, the boss assured: “The price position is also attainable and will meet with approval.”

Kevin Flynn, president and MD of FCA India with the Grand Cherokee SRT during its launch last year. (Jeep India handout)

What’s attainable? Market experts are pitching the Compass to be under Rs 20 lakh, since it’s made in India, for India. Analysts said Compass is the single most important model for FCA in India.

“A lot depends on the Compass which is the single most-crucial model for Fiat Chrysler in India. The car looks good and even the pricing can be great, not necessarily aggressive. But the Compass would definitely be the make or break model for the FCA in India,” Anil Sharma of IHS Markit had told HT earlier.

The company has presence in segments like hot-hatch, performance cars and now big luxury SUVs, none of which are cash cows in India. The market here, set to become the third largest by 2020, is growing fast on sub-four-metre utility-vehicles and sedans.

But FCA wants to wait, analyse and progress. As Jeep takes front seat of FCA India, what happens to Fiat and Abarth?

“We need to find replacements for those models (Punto and Linea) now. As soon as we get a solution that is going to work and sustain, we’ll do that. We’re very singular in our approach, and this year it’s the Compass,” Flynn said.