NEW DELHI: US automaker Jeep plans to drive in premium products like Grand Cherokee and Meridian into the Indian market this year, while staying away from entry and mid-size SUV segments for the time being, as per a top company official.
The brand, which is part of the Stellantis group, is also looking to bring back the Compass Trailhawk in the country, thus strengthening the Compass range.By the end of 2022, the company plans a portfolio of four nameplates, all of which will be locally produced or assembled.
"We have a lot more potential in India.We are building some momentum.I think the Meridian is going to help us expand in the market and the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler are going to make the brand more attractive because these are the icons," Jeep CEO Christian Meunier told reporters in an online event.The company aims to grow its business in India by staying true to its SUV DNA, he added.
"We are not investing money in India for not getting the results, we are not here to lose, we are here to win but in the right way," Meunier stated.
The company plans to bring in the Compass Trailhawk and seven-seater Meridian first, followed by Grand Cherokee later this year.The company plans to roll out the models from its Ranjangaon-based manufacturing facility, which it shares with Tata Motors.
Meunier noted that the company would remain true to its DNA of selling authentic SUVs and would look at generating the volumes in the country "the right way" and not by reducing prices to make its products less capable.
"At the end of day, we are not looking for volume for the sake of volume.We are not going to drop price and just make our product less authentic.We are going to stick to who we are and bring authenticity, technology and premiumness," he stated.
The company has so far cumulatively sold 60,000 units of Compass in the country since launching it in 2017.On the company's products being costlier than the competition, Meunier said the company charges for the "authenticity and what we bring which is very different from the Chinese or other brands".
He noted that the company aims to grow its sales volume in the country but it is not going to come at the price by lowering the capability of the products.
When asked about the company's plans regarding entry-level SUVs, Meunier said: "We are not going to play in what I would say the red ocean below 4 meter, that is not our intention.Jeep is a true lifestyle brand, a true 4X4 brand.We are going to keep our DNA intact and we are not going to go and play with hatchbacks."
He further said: "Even if they are raised, they are not true SUVs, we are going to keep our DNA intact, we are not going to go there.BRenegade why not? The question then is the business case, the potential and the price point because Indians customers rather buy a little bit of a larger car for similar amounts of money."
Meunier said that he would love to have a sub-4-meter product for India that is a true Jeep, which is cost-competitive and which can make money.
"I think that is my dream and we have been studying it, we are still studying it, doesn't mean it is never going to happen but we need to do it the right way. We are not going to take a hatchback and make it look like an SUV. We are not going to do that," he stated. Meunier noted that more geographies would be added for exports from the Indian operations going ahead.
"Today we export units from India to right-hand markets in South East Asia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and some other global distributors.We are looking at some more, so strategically India is becoming an export hub and we are looking at different opportunities going forward," he stated.
Stellantis India CEO & Managing Director Roland Bouchara noted that India is a major part of the company's global strategy and it intends to achieve a high level of localisation for its products to make them more accessible to customers while maintaining an uncompromising vision on core Jeep DNA.
"Our product offensive for 2022 and beyond will continue to illustrate our commitment to India as we work towards strengthening our market presence and offer unmatched experiences to our customers," he stated.Nipun J Mahajan, Head of Jeep Brand - India , noted that 2022 will be an action-packed year for the Jeep brand.
"We are laser focused on delighting our customers, not only through a unique Jeep experience, but also by continuing to make Jeep a more accessible premium SUV brand to Indians than ever before.We believe this local product strategy lives up to that," he said.
Jeep Meridian, "an all-new 3-row SUV has been developed specifically for the Indian market and would compete with the likes of Mahindra XUV700", Tata Safari among others.Production of the Meridian, with over 80 per cent local content, will commence in May at the Ranjangaon facility in Pune.
The Grand Cherokee would come with an all-new architecture, all-new exterior design and all-new interior.India is the only market in the world outside North America where the all-new Grand Cherokee would be locally assembled.
The company noted that the new Jeep Compass Trailhawk would start arriving in dealerships by the first week of March.Stellantis was formed by the merger of two global auto majors FCA and Groupe PSA.
Driven by the facelift version of SUV Compass in February 2021 and the locally-assembled Wrangler, Jeep India sold 12,136 units in 2021 as compared to 5,282 units in 2020.The brand had announced an investment of USD 250 million in India for production of four new Jeep SUVs in order to expand its local product lineup.