17 Apr 2017
| Author: P.Tharyan, Editor, Motown India
Since you will be manufacturing the Jeep Compass in India, besides
countries like Mexico, Brazil and China, does it mean you will be expecting
large volumes for this product?
Kevin Flynn (KF): The exciting thing
about this product is the fact that we are part of a global programme. The interesting thing is that this is not a
car that was developed for India and that we are looking at opportunities to
export it elsewhere. This is a global car built to global standards. There is
consistency across the different manufacturing plants around the world. Our
responsibility to the world would be the right hand drive markets. So we shall
be manufacturing this car for consumption in India but also very developed
right hand markets. This is great news for India because it means Indian
consumers are not getting a car that is engineered for India, they are getting
a global car which is part of the global programme. The car is phenomenal. It exceeds our expectations and it will
really appeal to the Indian consumer and the real credibility is that we shall
be exporting it to very developed markets across the globe.
Can you tell us bit about the Ranjangaon plant where the Jeep Compass
is being manufactured since it is 50.50 jointly owned by Fiat and Tata Motors?
Gurpratap Boparai (GB): It is absolutely one of the finest automobile
plants that is there in India and also globally. I say this with a lot of
confidence because we have had a lot of visitors from abroad who have seen some
of the best facilities globally and they rate this as one of the best. Having said
that we have done a lot of investment in this facility for this product and we
set up a new body shop, we have upgraded our assembly line, we have upgraded
our paint shop and we are ready now to make world class products. That’s not to
say that our current products are not world class. The investment have been
made by the joint venture partners.
When it comes to the Jeep Compass, would it have its own dedicated
assembly line or would it be made along with the other products being made
which includes that of Fiat and Tata?
GB: We have a common assembly line
that will continue to manufacture multiple products. Having a dedicated
assembly is not an efficient way of doing things. The plant has a capacity to
make 160,000 units per annum. We are currently at 40pc utilisation levels.
The Jeep Compass will be
powered by a 1.4 litre petrol engine and a 2 litre diesel engine. Are these
engines going to be made here at this plant?
GB: The diesel engine will be made
here at the plant.
KF: We have obviously got
powertrains that are important for Indian application that are going to fit
very well with what the consumers are looking for in the Indian market. But
obviously we will be exporting and we need to accommodate those external
markets as well. The nice thing about this product is that we have got a nice
portfolio of componentry within the plant which is also going to allow us to
move the whole project forward and dig into a broader option list.
This car is a real key piece
in Jeep’s global growth. We are going live; Brazil has gone live, we have the
other markets going live, so it’s a global onslaught in some respect. Still early days but I have got to say the
integrity of the car, the depth of the car, the way the whole thing has been
put together is that it is a capable car. I think the appeal is going to be
huge. We are going to see significant growth of the Jeep Compass in all the
India continues to be a
price sensitive market and prices can only be contained if there is a huge
level of localisation. Has that happened?
KF: We have worked hard on that and
undoubtedly that has helped us. We maximised whatever opportunities were
available within the Indian capabilities. I think this project for us is a huge
accolade for Indian manufacturing. It is also a huge accolade for us as part of
FCA organisation. We have been entrusted
with right hand drive production of the cars. Locally we understand the pricing
sensitivity; I believe we have got it right. I think the package we have put
together and where we will be positioning the car, I think it will meet with
real appeal to the Indian consumer.
With the Jeep Compass, does it mean that Jeep as a brand will see the
making of a lot more affordable vehicle? I am assuming here that the Compass
will also be priced very affordable?
KF: We made it clear when we came in
with the CBU, we understood that with the duty imposed on them of around 180pc,
we knew these cars would be brand leaders. That’s not where the bulk is going
to be. It was always about bringing a local product. The beauty is that it is
not a car we developed for the Indian market, it’s a global car and that is
where the credibility of Jeep is coming through. It is a 75-year-old iconic
brand that we have now brought to India and part of that process is a locally
manufactured car to global standards. I believe that we can have the price
right; I think we can make Jeep attainable by this market and we are going to
find ourselves a position with great appeal and great positioning.
Both Fiat and Jeep are two strong brands. Fiat has been struggling in
India for quite some time though it’s a brand everybody recalls very fast, and
now with Jeep coming in does it mean the focus shifts there or does it mean you
will be taking the family together?
KF: There are two elements to it.
The chapter today and in a new book is the Jeep. But that does not take
anything away from us what we are with Fiat. Undoubtedly the positive element
in what we are doing preparing ourselves in getting ready with Jeep will have a
very positive effect on Fiat. Jeep will put a very positive spin on what we are
and how we are seen in this country.