Chennai: Enrico Atanasio, managing director of Fiat Group Automobiles India Pvt. Ltd, has a huge task at hand. A negligible market share, difficult market conditions, and the split with Tata Motors Ltd in early 2012 for the distribution of Fiat’s Linea and Punto cars have hobbled the company. Fiat is now restructuring its operations in India. It plans to introduce nine products in the country by 2016, including a small Jeep from its alliance partner US automaker Chrysler Group LLC, as well as establish 100 independent sales networks by the end of this year.
Atanasio, who was in Chennai recently to open a dealership, said he hopes these initiatives will help increase Fiat’s market share in India to 5% by 2016, from 0.5% now. Edited excerpts:
Last year has been tough for you, what is your outlook for this year?
We have initiated the process of moving to an exclusive network in 2012. We have signed 67 letters of intent for exclusive dealerships. During the transition phase, which we began in April of last year and will complete by March of 2013, there have been a number of disconnections in the dealer network. Therefore, the presence of Fiat in India has been affected. So I consider 2012 to be a year of transition, and it does not reflect the real demand, but the lack of presence in some areas.
Therefore, for 2013, our agenda is to re-establish a similar level of 22,000 units we saw in 2009, which should help us achieve our objective of 1% market share, helped by the presence of exclusive dealerships.
Of the nine new models for India by 2016, how many will be made locally?
Most of them will be locally manufactured. We will be having cars in the segments of B-plus, C , C-plus (a re-designed Punto,a redesigned Linea, and a new model that has not been announced, respectively) in addition to B- and C-segment SUVs from the Jeep stable (like the Duster), and racing car brand Abarth, which will all be locally manufactured. The Jeep brand will be introduced through Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, which will be imported.
You have successful small car models abroad like the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda. Are you looking at bringing them here?
We are considering them as possibilities, but they are not in the plan currently.
The models that you hope to bring are semi-premium, but they are not as volume generating as small cars.
If you look at the evolution of the B-plus and C segment in the country, they represent a big chunk of the market, where we can have a meaningful presence. They are developing faster than the small car segment because of the pattern of income of families in India. People are moving from B to B-plus and upwards. So the B-plus and C are expected to increase much more than other segments.
Until we grow up in volumes significantly, we will not be looking at small cars. Though it is in the philosophy of the brand, it is currently out of scope.
What role will the Chennai research and development facility play in developing models?
It is the largest in Asia-Pacific and one of the largest in the world. It has a massive role; they currently support the design and engineering of the components of a car for any project. They are supporting all the regions we are present in—North America, Latin America, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region and Asia-Pacific countries. They will also have a big role in developing all the seven products we plan to launch. (Two of the nine models, two will be imported.)
How do you plan to improve after-sales service?
The difference in service will come from a dedicated set of people from the group. They will be re-trained completely and supported by a parts warehouse that has been completely re-worked.