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Fiat to launch Jeep in India next year

Italian car maker tries to reboot its Indian venture after split with Tata Motors by entering the country's UV segment.

MUMBAI // Fiat and its US unit Chrysler will launch Jeep vehicles in India in the third quarter of 2013, Mike Manley, the brand's president and chief executive, said.

The Italian car maker is trying to reboot its Indian venture with an entry into the country's fast-growing SUV segment.

The off-road pick-ups and luxury SUVs will be the first vehicles from the Chrysler stable launched in India, where Fiat has failed to crack the highly-competitive low-cost segment and recently split with local sales partner Tata Motors.

"Our goal is to reach 5 per cent market share in the foreseeable future," Mr Manley said. "We will bring out new products and try to reach that goal. Asia Pacific is the biggest growth market for us."

Fiat, which took control of Chrysler in 2009, lags behind European and US competitors in high-growth Asian markets, despite first entering India in the 1950s.

The car maker sold just 4,717 cars in India during the six months to September, giving it a market share of 0.4 per cent. It sells its Punto hatchback and Linea sedan in the country.

Jeep vehicles are sold in 120 countries across the world, but not in India, Asia's third-biggest car market.

The car maker will launch two international Jeep models in India next year, and later, two local models. It plans to sell Jeep through 32 dealers in 25 cities across India, said Enrico Atanasio, the managing director of Fiat Group Automobiles India.

Jeep will compete with Tata and market leader Mahindra and Mahindra in India, where demand for SUVs has soared over the past year, helped by generous government subsidies on diesel fuel.

In the first half of the current financial year that began in April, passenger utility vehicle sales rose 55.8 per cent year-on-year, while car sales shrank 0.3 per cent.

India's car sales are expected to grow by 1 per cent to 3 per cent in the financial year that ends in March, according to industry body the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, as high interest rates, sluggish economic growth and rising fuel prices deter buyers.

Fiat ended a six-year distribution and marketing deal with Tata in May after sales underperformed expectations.

* Reuters