Fiat chooses new India head, mulls new brands in market

Tue May 22, 2012 10:44am EDT

* Enrico Atanasio to be new managing director of India unit

* Car maker targets 100-110 showrooms in 70 cities by end-2014

* Mulls Chrysler, Jeep, other Fiat brand launches in India

By Henry Foy

MUMBAI, May 22 (Reuters) - Car maker Fiat SpA, which recently split with its distribution partner in India, is open to bringing all of its vehicle brands to the country, said a senior executive who will soon take charge of the Italian company's India operations.

Fiat India aims to open more than 100 showrooms by the end of 2014, and is mulling bringing its Chrysler, Jeep, Fiat Commercial and other brands to the country as it looks to ramp up its current lacklustre market share.

"We are investigating all the brands... we have a huge number of brands and models that we can look at, including those from the Chrysler stable," Enrico Atanasio, head of commercial operations at Fiat India Automobiles, told Reuters.

Atanasio, who told Reuters he will take control of Fiat's Indian unit as its managing director within the next few weeks, added that the company was open to importing, assembling or locally manufacturing any new brands brought to the country.

"Today we're in an unsatisfactory place in terms of market share," he said, adding that Fiat wants to expand beyond its current offerings in the compact and mid-range sedan segments.

"Once we fulfil the network, we'll be looking at other segments above and below that," he said.

Earlier this month, the Italian car maker announced the end of a six-year distribution and marketing agreement with India's Tata Motors, and opened its first two dedicated Fiat showrooms over the past fortnight.

Fiat is targeting around 110 showrooms across India's 70 biggest cities within the next 18 months, Atanasio said. Fiat cars were previously only sold alongside Tata cars in joint showrooms.

"There are a number of dealers that are scouting for a site or finalising activities in preparation for a showroom. All of them are Fiat-Tata, and therefore will migrate from a shared showroom to a dedicated Fiat one," said Atanasio, adding that no joint-branded showrooms will exist within 18 months.

"A dedicated network will do better. Obviously, when there is an alternative on offer then sales suffer," he said.

Fiat's solo push comes after years of disappointing sales in a country where foreign producers such as Ford, Honda and Nissan have recently acted to take more control of their own operations.

The company, which sells 20,000 cars per year in India, will continue to manufacture cars and engines locally in collaboration with Tata. Fiat currently sells the Linea, Palio and Punto models in India. (Editing by Malini Menon)