Italian automaker Fiat plans to use its India facility as a global hub for right-hand drive (RHD) markets in the coming years.

“If you look at our RHD markets around the world, we are doing very well in Australia, where we have doubled our share over the last 14-18 months. We are also reasonably strong in South Africa,” Mike Manley, Chief Operating Officer for Asia (Fiat-Chrysler), told Business Line.

This is where the company’s plant in Ranjangaon, near Pune, will come in handy to ship out cars and components to these countries in the near future. The UK, another important RHD market for Fiat, is going through a tough phase but is expected to recover gradually.

“We have a world-class manufacturing facility here which is truly phenomenal. It has great expansion potential and we intend working very closely with the Tatas to maximise that,” Manley said. Fiat has been around for decades but has achieved precious little in terms of market share. The Ranjangaon facility’s potential has been better optimised to make diesel engines for Maruti and Premier.

compacts, SUVs

While this business will continue to be important in the coming years, Fiat will now focus aggressively on a product range that comprises compact cars and SUVs. With Chrysler now part of its portfolio, it will leverage the Jeep brand’s potential to attract younger buyers.

“Today, it is about Fiat and Chrysler jointly developing the Asian market. From our perspective, it helps to have a balanced portfolio across the world because each region could be in a different growth space,” Manley said. This is particularly true at this point given the crisis in Europe, which has caused the shift in focus to China and India.

In an earlier interview with this newspaper, Enrico Atanasio, Managing Director of Fiat’s Indian operations, had reiterated that the engineers at the Chrysler R&D centre in Chennai constituted the “biggest thinking group” worldwide.

R&D centres

“We have five R&D centres in the Asia-Pacific, of which the biggest is in Chennai 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,” he had said. Engineers here develop projects for Fiat in North/Latin America, Europe, West Asia and Africa.

murali.gopalan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 9, 2012)
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