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‘It is time to break the myths of the past’

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 23, 2018

Raring to go: Kevin Flynn, President and MD, FCA India Automobiles Pvt Ltd, believes it is important to understand to how Fiat can make the right car that is going to hit the spot. - PTI


Fiat's new chief Kevin Flynn says the brand is set to revise the India strategy

 Kevin Flynn, President and Managing Director of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India, is known to be a turnaround artist. In his previous stints with Jaguar Land Rover and Lexus in South Africa, he delivered successful expansion strategies for the brands. This skill will be needed for his current stint at FCA India Automobiles as Flynn admits in an exclusive interaction.

One of the issues Fiat has faced in the past is that it is a car that people like to own but still have concerns on after sales, fuel efficiency and spare parts availability. How will this perception change?

It has got to change. Look, a lot of it is myth and myth comes about over many years of potentially non-delivery and then when there is delivery, it is not necessarily seen. The research that we have done since I have been here shows that people fall into two categories. There are passionate people who love their cars and are diehards. And then there are those that say they fancy the Evo but, but, but…

This "but" is not a reality anymore. We have a state-of-the-art parts operation which is running at 96 per cent first pick rate. So this whole thinking that we cannot get parts does not exist. We look at our go-to-measure which we use internally, the Net Promoter's score, and it is climbing. That shows it is totally down to individuals to say whether we are delivering the right services and so forth.

Do you think somewhere there is possibly a gap in the messaging?

Yeah, I do not think there has been any enough messaging. We are working on a new brand campaign. I think it is quite feasible that 90 per cent of people buying cars in our segment today are not trying a Fiat. Now that is madness because it means that they are not informed. I am all for people making decisions and I love a competitive market place. But, make the decision based on what you experience. Do not base it on hearsay and on some notional historical problem.

We've done a lot of research about what people are thinking. We have created, at the moment, a new brand campaign which we will go live very shortly. My challenge to the agency, and to my marketing team is -- how can we resonate again with the Indian buyer. We got the product and we got the backup. It is time to break the myths of the past.

Going forward, how do you see Fiat addressing the volume segment? Do you see the need for a car that is below the Punto or developing one that might be Asia-centric? 

These are all the debates and studies we are doing at the moment. It is important to maximise our current portfolio like doing a Punto Abarth and we are doing other things as well. So there is a lot that we can do with our current products to give them some zest and appeal.

We just announced a $280 million investment in the Ranjangaon plant for the Jeep brand. It so exciting that we are going to be building a Jeep for international consumption out of India. That is a change in strategy which is necessary. We got to now make our decisions based on not just the influences of Asia and India but on what role are we playing. We are building European cars in Asia when everybody else is building Asian cars in India and we need to work out what is the best. What we cannot do is obviously betray the DNA of what we are. 

Fiat, as an Italian car company, has all these other brands which are a part and parcel of the family and now that it has been joined with Chrysler, we have all these North American brands as well. How do we now make that work here? What are the right products we need to build for the future? We are just working with those scenarios right now because we need to move fast.

How will the Abarth brand fit into Fiat's portfolio in India? 

I have been in the country for just the last five months. I am completely new to India and to Fiat Chrysler.

When I arrived, Abarth was already part of the plan but in all fairness this strategy and how we are going to go about it was really not that clear. So, the first thing I wanted to do was to find out about the breadth of our products anyway.

So what we did was we got together a collection of all manufacturers’ cars in this segment and drove all competitors car against ours. We sat in the back, we opened the boot, we drove, we checked the dynamics and we did everything to try and find out what is it that the competition is actually offering.

What I do believe is that the vehicles that we have are worth far more volume that we currently achieve.

So, there are these other elements that we need to fix to sort of grow our presence in India.It is great to bring the 595 Abarth which is a connoisseur's, semi-collector's and petrol head's car. It is a bundle of laughs, paddle shift dynamics and beautiful to drive.

You can really throw it around, particularly on a race circuit. It does not have to be big volume. It is one of those things people are going to say, "Hey, look that's an Abarth". 

Published on August 20, 2015

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