Jeep to enter Indian Baby SUV market

Iconic American SUV brand Jeep is planning a sub Rs 10-lakh global off-roader from India. The baby SUV will be a sub 4-meter version, attracting a lower excise tax in the country and hence will be priced very aggressively. It will be in direct competition to products such as Ford Eco Sport and Renault Duster, while looking at a partnership with Tata Motors for engines, transmissions and possibly new products.

Mike Manley, Head of the Jeep brand which is part of the Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) stable, said that India is one of the “most critical” markets for the company as it looks at a greater, and stronger push into emerging countries that also include Brazil and China.

The mini SUV, which is still in the drawing stage, will be the smallest in the company’s line-up and India could be a global manufacturing hub for right-hand drive markets. Jeep has been making a strong comeback in the global automobile market and sold 1.2 million off-roaders last year. Now India is big on its radar. 2017 Jeep Compass which is being manufactured at the Ranjangaon plant facility, Pune, Maharashtra

Manley said that a partnership with Tata Motors could be explored, but did not answer specific queries on whether he was expecting a tie-up with the Indian company’s British SUV brand Land Rover.

He said he is open to “discussions” on exploring “opportunities” with Tata Motors beyond the Ranjangaon joint venture (signed by its parent Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles) that produces vehicles for both the companies. “Our relationship with Tata Motors is good… From my point of view, I would be very open to discussions with Tata about opportunities where collectively we could win, and the market could win. I am very open to that,” Manley told TOI when asked about possible joint product-development and vehicle platform strategies.

“Engines for sure, transmission for sure, various components for platforms for sure… They (Tata) have a significant industrial footprint. If there are other opportunities, I will certainly look at that.”

He said that the two companies “always talk to each other very regularly” and these discussions are “on a range of issues.”

Jeep will be launching a new SUV, the new-generation Compass, over the coming months and this will be the first vehicle that it produces from its India factory at Ranjangaon. While the Compass is likely to be positioned in the Rs 15-20 lakh category, Manley said that the company will continue to look at building on the portfolio and this may include launching a locally-built Renegade off-roader below the Compass.

This is just another indication that India is becoming a global manufacturing hub for the automobile sector.