NEW YORK -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles filed a U.S. trade complaint seeking to prevent Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra from importing an off-road vehicle that looks like its iconic Jeep.
The Fiat Chrysler group filed the complaint on Aug. 1 at the U.S. International Trade Commission, claiming that the Mahindra Roxor infringes key characteristics of Jeep’s signature trade dress -- namely the "boxy body shape with flat-appearing vertical sides and rear body ending at about the same height as the hood."
"They are a nearly identical copy of the iconic Jeep design," Fiat Chrysler said in its complaint, which included photos comparing the Roxor to the Jeep. "In fact, the accused product was ‘modeled after the original Willys Jeep.’"
In 2017, Mumbai-based Mahindra, which claims to be India’s largest SUV manufacturer, opened a headquarters in southeast Michigan for its newly developed North American branch.
FCA has also said that Roxor imports threaten it with substantial injury as they are underselling Jeeps. Mahindra capitalizes on the cost advantages of manufacturing their products in India and then importing knocked-down kits to the U.S., where they’re assembled in the Detroit area.
Fiat Chrysler has become increasingly reliant on its Jeep product line. On Wednesday, the company reported its highest ever July sales for Jeep brand vehicles, up 16 percent, to power the company’s overall 5.9 percent jump from a year ago.
Mahindra announced plans in November to invest $600 million in its Roxor manufacturing facility. The Michigan unit tripled its workforce and by 2020, the group plans to employ as many as 670 workers there.
Fiat Chrysler’s complaint pointed to Mahindra's "substantial foreign manufacturing capacity combined with its demonstrated intention to penetrate the United States market and harm FCA's goodwill and business."
Mahindra has a relationship with the Jeep brand that long predates the existence of Fiat Chrysler. As early as the 1940s, the Indian company had a license from Willys to assemble Jeep SUVs for the Indian market based on the iconic CJ design, and has since secured licenses from successive owners of the Jeep brand for its own version of the vehicle, now called the Thar.
FCA last year began building Jeep brand SUVs in India.
The case is entitled "In the Matter of Certain Motorized Vehicles and Components Thereof, Complaint No. 3330, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington)."
Automotive News staff contributed to this report.