American SUV maker Jeep, owned by Fiat-Chrysler, will enter India later this year, with vehicles such as the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. These SUVs will serve to mark the brand’s presence here, before mass market vehicles arrive to play the volumes game. Talking mass market, the C-Segment SUV, one that will replace the likes of the Jeep Compass and Patriot models, will be built in India from 2016. However, the C-Segment SUV’s price tag, which could nudge the 20 lakh rupee mark, means that it will still be a niche vehicle as far as raiding the market is concerned.
To tackle emerging markets across the globe, the American SUV brand is said to be betting on a sub-Renegade compact SUV, as the Renegade – in Jeep’s informed opinion – would be too costly for countries where buyer budgets tend to be limited. This pretty much rules out the Renegade’s supposed India entry in 2017, putting paid to what would have been a wonderful prospect – performance wise – for the compact SUV segment here. As things stand currently, Jeep would be looking at Fiat Brazil’s multiple low cost platforms (Economy & Mini) to base its sub-Renegade offering on. Remember, the Jeep Renegade itself uses the US-Small Wide platform, one that it shares with the Fiat 500X crossover.
Talking of which , one among the Fiat Panda (Mini) and the Palio (Economy 326) platforms is likely to be picked by the American SUV maker for its new, budget compact SUV. Interestingly, Fiat India is working on a compact SUV code-named the X3U, which will be launched here in 2016. The X3U is reported to use the Fiat 326 (Economy) platform, whose second and current iteration underpins cars such as the Palio and the Uno, both of them big in Brazil. The X3U code-named compact SUV for India will also use a new 1.5 liter-4 cylinder turbo diesel motor, a downsized variant of the 1.6 liter Multijet unit, cut to size to fit into India’s unique excise duty rules. Time then, to connect the dots.
With Jeep seeking to leverage Fiat India’s Ranjangaon manufacturing facility as a major production and export hub, the sub-Renegade compact SUV could have plenty in common with the Fiat X3U, not so much the Panda and its Mini platform. We’ve seen this happen with the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade, vehicles that share parts and production facilities, which is the way to go really, as far as cost competencies are concerned. As in the cases of the aforementioned vehicles, Jeep and Fiat have been conscientious enough to retain the individual DNAs and characters, with both brands careful not to step on each others’ feet. A similar approach panning out for the sub-Renegade and X3U SUVs will be manna for the Indian compact SUV buyer, and folks in emerging markets elsewhere.
Coming to think of it, the sub-Renegade based on the Fiat 326 (Economy) platform could be the tough-as-nails compact SUV that can get down and dirty when the situation demands, a-la-Renegade. Think, four wheel drive, rugged underpinnings, hefty ground clearance and a rugged turbo diesel motor delivering propulsion. The Fiat X3U, on the other hand, could be positioned to scythe through urban pockets, giving the Ford EcoSport and its ilk much to worry about. Fiat, could well and truly be back at the business end of the car market here, if these vehicles indeed materialize. We can only lick our lips in anticipation, even as more than a dozen new compact SUVs strain at their leashes to enter the great Indian car market.