Chrysler plans to roll out Jeep on Indian roads

The iconic Jeep brand is set to re-enter India in a premium avatar. Owners of the brand, Italian automotive group Fiat SpA and its US unit Chrysler Group LLC on Thursday said that two of current Jeep models, the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, will be launched in the third quarter of 2013 — nearly 60 years after the Mahindra group launched the Willys Jeep in India.

The launches will mark an attempt by the Italian group to revive its fortunes in India after it failed to crack the highly competitive low-cost segment. Earlier this year, Fiat also ended its Indian sales partnership with Tata Motors.

"The Fiat group hopes to acquire 5 per cent of the market in India in the coming years," Mike Manley, president and CEO for the Jeep brand, Chrysler Group LLC said in Mumbai. "We will bring out new products and try to reach that goal. Asia Pacific is the biggest growth market for us."

The Jeep's first tryst with India was in the 1950s when M&M assembled completely knocked down units under license from Willys Overland.

However, since then the brand has undergone several ownership changes and was finally acquired by Chrysler in 1987. Over the years, the brand has grown from being a rugged utility vehicle to being a more premium sports utility vehicle. The Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee will be sold as completely built units. The company is also planning to launch two more models localised for India.

"Under the Jeep brand, the company will also launch a B and C segment SUV in 2015 and 2016 respectively," said Manley. "These are completely new models and Fiat's technical centre in India is playing and important role in it."

Fiat also plans to spruce up its own badge portfolio. The company will soon launch the refreshed version of the Linea and the Punto. Fiat is also developing a compact SUV to be ready by 2014.

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