FCA last year announced a $280 million investment in a joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company, India’s Tata Motors, to build an assembly plant in Ranjangaon, India. That plant is expected to begin producing smaller Jeeps, such as the Compass and Renegade, next year. Jeep head Mike Manley said in July that a small A-segment Jeep under consideration could also find its way to India.
India, along with China, is a key component of FCA’s plan to globalize Jeep and reach 2 million sales worldwide by the end of its five-year business plan in 2018. By that point, Manley said in a 2014 presentation, production of Jeeps in China and India combined would reach 500,000 vehicles annually.
The Indian pricing and Jeep’s plans for a retail network in 10 of the country’s major urban areas suggest that the brand will initially seek to appeal primarily to urban luxury customers rather than making a play for volume.
The four-door Wrangler Unlimited in India will begin at the equivalent of nearly $107,000, while a diesel-powered Grand Cherokee Limited starts at the equivalent of $140,000. The top-end Grand Cherokee SRT model tops out at the equivalent of more than $167,000.
By comparison, a Grand Cherokee Limited in the U.S. starts at $43,060 and a Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $66,690. Prices include shipping.
“The heart of that market is still very, very low-priced, dominated by local manufacturers,” Manley told Automotive News. “Even when global manufacturers break into that marketplace, it is with their lowest-cost platforms. All the signs are that, at some stage, India is going to develop and develop strongly, which is why we need to be there ... but our volume, certainly for the short future, is going to be constricted.”
India presents a marketing challenge for the brand: Although Jeep has never had an official presence in India, Jeeps built under license by Mahindra have been ubiquitous on local roads for decades.