In a bid to sustain the interest in the brand, the Italian-American auto major, Fiat Chrysler Automobile has approved a top of the line SUV - under its Jeep brand for the Indian market for 2020-2021.
The new seven-seater SUV will be placed above the Compass SUV and take on the likes of Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour, Mahindra Alturas and Honda CRV, when launched.
To be locally manufactured at the Ranjangaon plant on the outskirts of Pune, the seven-seater SUV based on Compass is likely to hit the market in the second half of 2020 or first half of 2021, according to people in the know.
"The project has been approved and it will be an offspring of the all new Compass planned for 2020. With the launches of vehicles like Trailhawk, Compass and now the Grand Compass or Compass long, the company wants to reinforce Jeep's premium positioning in the market, before more accessible compact Jeep hits the market in the subsequent years," said one of the several people in the know of the company's plan.
Jeep had got off to a good start with the Compass SUV in the Indian market post its launch in mid-2017, however the brand started coming off its peak with the overall slowdown in the market and intensifying competition in the premium SUV space in 2018-2019. Even the global volumes for Jeep are far from the estimated volumes the company had planned for.
FCA India Automobile volumes fell 17% in FY-19 to about 16000 units down from about 19358 units it sold in FY-18. The volumes have remained under pressure in FY-20 due to sluggishness in the market place, but it is relying on model intervention like the Trailhawk to limited edition variants to revive the excitement.
To be sure, Renegade B segment SUV was to follow the Compass SUV in India, but the plan was dropped, as the lifecycle change globally was not getting aligned to the Indian market roll out.
Instead the company has decided to offer a mid-cycle upgrade in a much quicker time for its mainstay Compass and given the rising popularity for three row big SUVs, decided to add “the Compass Long or Grand Compass” to the Indian market, said a vendor to the company.
Another person aware of the development say, the focus is on building the premium-ness around brand Jeep and rely on high margin products over volumes. To be sure, top of the line, Trailhawk was introduced last month to prove its fabled off-roading ability.
“The product excitement will continue in 2020 with an all new Compass and longer Compass. The company will use this time to get the right inputs and attributes for smaller Jeep for global markets, for which India will be a key pillar of growth in the future,” added another person.