Carmaker sees rough ride for 2 years

Mr Enrico Atanasio readily admits that the next 18-24 months will be “tough” for Fiat in India after which things will take off.

“We will have some problems in the short term when dealerships are being set up. The fate of Fiat post-2014 will be good and positive by which time we will be able to take full advantage of what we will build,” the Senior Vice-President (Commercial), Mr Enrico Atanasio, told Business Line.

Fiat recently parted ways with the Tatas on the joint retail business model and has now decided to go on its own. This is the toughest challenge ahead for Mr Atanasio, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the new base.

“I cannot launch a product without a network but am trying to speed up the entire exercise. The more we accelerate, the quicker will be the recovery,” he says, while cautioning that Fiat must resist the temptation of thinking that “we have done it”. The key is to “do things in an orderly fashion and sell as much as we can in the short-term”.

The good news is that the response from potential dealers has been overwhelming though the existing Tata-Fiat network will be given top priority. “They have been supporting us and are keen on continuing the association,” Mr Atanasio says. For a company whose association with India began in the 1950s, Fiat has just not been able to make a mark here though it has had short-lived successes in the Uno and Palio. However, Mr Atanasio puts all this behind and reiterates that the building blocks are now in place to take the story to the next level. Today, India is part of Fiat’s renewed strategy for the Asia-Pacific which also includes China, Japan, Australia and South Korea.

“We have five R&D centres in Asia-Pacific of which the biggest is in Chennai (Chrysler India Automotive) with over 1,200 engineers. The second is in Ranjangaon near Pune which employs 35 engineers. These people are the most important group in the Fiat world,” Mr Atanasio says.

To that extent, India represents the “biggest thinking pool” for the group worldwide where engineers here develop projects for Fiat in North/Latin America, Europe, West Asia and Africa. Fiat’s brand awareness in India is also the highest in Asia-Pacific and only the third largest in the world after Italy and Brazil.

India will play a “central role alongside China” and even while the company is tight-lipped on its future product range, Mr Atanasio believes the future lies in the B plus, C medium/plus and the SUV segments while factoring in “some specialities like the Fiat 500”.

If the script goes according to plan, there will be an interesting range from the Fiat and Chrysler stables in the coming years.

(This article was published on July 9, 2012)
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