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Fiat starts to put its house in order again

| Updated on: Oct 29, 2015
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Jeep will be critical to India turnaround

 Fiat remains an enigmatic case of a company that had everything going for itself in India and still managed to botch things up.

It is something that Kevin Flynn, President and Managing Director of the Indian operations, is only too aware of and is keen on changing customer perception of the brand. The recent launch of the Abarth Punto is a key part of this turnaround journey.

New strategy It is for the first time outside of Italy that Abarth has co-developed a vehicle and worked with engineers in India. From Flynn’s point of view, the challenge is to reach out to new customers and get back to the good books of those more familiar with the brand.

“There is goodwill in the market and we need to build on that. We are part of the historical landscape of India and yet we have managed to become less relevant in later times,” admitted Flynn during a recent interaction at the company’s corporate headquarters in Mumbai.

FCA India Automobiles, which encompasses Fiat and Chrysler, is now keen on stimulating customers’ interest in its cars all over again.

Moving forward, the task on hand is to launch products that “actually hit the sweet spot” in people’s minds.

“We need to get the message across that what people perceive as poor customer service is not true,” says Flynn.

According to him, this is an interesting period for Fiat and Chrysler to come together as one organisation. The synergies between the North American and European businesses are happening at a time when it is an era of small engines and there is ready expertise on offer.

“We need to get a grip on the challenges ahead and set the roadmap for the future. This will require focused time and it has been incredibly rewarding to me on a personal level with a new country and company,” says Flynn. Quite unlike the recent past, the business plan today covers a broader spectrum of responsibility which includes being part of the Asia-Pacific team.

Fresh structures While India remains a complex and competitive market, the FCA top team knows only too well that profitability is the key driver going forward. And this is equally true for dealers who need to be incentivised to keep their operations going.

In this context, concedes Flynn, the commercial package that was given to FCA dealers (after parting ways with the Tatas nearly three years ago) “was not as robust” as it should have been. In the process, it has “tested the relationship” with the company and its network.

“Dealer profitability and satisfaction is fundamental in a market and that was fairly stretched for us when I arrived. We are now engaging more actively with them to understand the issues,” says Flynn.

Today, FCA has changed the structure of support to dealers where they are assured of a better return on investments. “We need to pull the numbers along a little bit and have reasonable internal objectives in market share and penetration,” he adds.

The next big thing is Jeep which already accounts for a substantial part of FCA’s global sales. In the process, it has ended up being the best piece of news after the Fiat, Chrysler merger. Jeep is going to be a big part of the India turnaround strategy when it is launched next year as it will ride on the huge SUV momentum prevalent now. 

Published on January 23, 2018

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