It's quite natural to speculate when a series of event stops happening and we don't see much action going on under a certain marquee. So has been the case with the Fiat brand in India where no launches and discontinuation of several models left us wondering if the FCA group is planning to pull the plug on the Fiat brand in India, and that at a time when the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group has been actively focusing on the Jeep brand. The big question has been that is it only going to be limited to Jeep India?
Partha Datta, President and Managing Director (MD), FCA India has very evidently simplified the rationale behind the approach towards both brands and has affirmed that Fiat is here to stay. Speaking to carandbike in the Freewheeling webisode, he said, "Today, demand in the marketplace in terms of body styles is SUVs. Everybody and anybody wants an SUV and whether is B segment or C-segment, it doesn't matter. And here we are with the preeminent SUV brand in the world. So for the immediate future we're focusing on SUVs. Fiat continues to be an important brand of the FCA portfolio and it is not exiting the market. When the time is right and there is demand and opportunity, we will consider product of Fiat brand as well. For now, the focus is Jeep."
Now we have been observing the trend where market preference is shifting towards SUVs for almost half a decade. We are also well aware of the fact that FY2020 has been a regressive year for the auto industry owing to the prolonged downturn in the economy. Even then, sales of utility vehicles (UVs) have managed to remain flat at 0.48 per cent at 9.46 lakh units while in the same period the sales of passenger cars slumped by 23.48 per cent at 16.97 lakh units. Just to clarify, the base of passenger cars is high due to more entry-level models being in that segment. In fact, in FY2020 the whole passenger vehicles segment has witnessed a sales decline of 17.82 per cent at 27.76 lakh units. So its these stats and data that very well justify FCA's focus on the iconic Jeep brand which is known for making rugged SUVs.
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As far as future product line-up is concerned, we have already reported that a subcompact SUV and a three-row D-Segment SUV in the works along with a couple of other products and obviously these products will help Jeep filling the white spaces of gaps between segments where the sales potential is. That said, existing Fiat customers do not have to worry either as the doors won't be shut in India like Chevrolet did in 2017 and Fiat will continue to provide after-sales as well. "I can tell you for sure that the Fiat brand is not exiting the market and for the owners, your after-sales have been taken care of and you have parts for the next decade," Datta added. So while the group will still be observing market demand for bringing Fiat products to India, service centres will be open for cars that are still on roads.