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Nagesh Basavanhalli tries to rejuvenate Fiat in India

There is one person still optimistic that Fiat can make a comeback-Nagesh Basavanhalli, President and MD of FIAT Chrysler Automobiles India. It did grow at 87 per cent last year, but its base was small in a 2.5 million passenger car market.

Sunny Sen | May 6, 2014 | Updated 11:53 IST
Nagesh Basavanhalli tries to rejuvenate Fiat in India
Fiat currently has 108 point of sales, across 81 cities in 22 states.Photo: Reuters

Remember the good old days, when the Premier Padmini, better known as the Fiat, was one of the top two considerations while buying a car. (The other was Hindustan Motors 'Ambassador'.)

But not anymore -Fiat is down in the dumps, with only 0.5 per cent market share, compared to 42 per cent held by Maruti Suzuki and 21 per cent held by Korean carmaker Hyundai, in 2013/14.

There is one person still optimistic that Fiat can make a comeback-Nagesh Basavanhalli, President and MD of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India. It did grow at 87 per cent last year, but its base was small in a 2.5 million passenger car market.

"I still see a lot of affinity for the brand," says Basavanhalli.

Last April, when Basavanhalli joined Fiat, he realised that customers wanted to know the company's long term strategy, and wanted more products from the brand. He is fulfilling the second demand first - Fiat is launching nine products, including the Aventura (the crossover) and the Abarth (the new Fiat 500, premium hatch).

Fiat has also discontinued its tie-up with Tata Motors, which sold Fiat cars. Two years back the company took sales and distribution in its own hands. Fiat currently has 108 point of sales, across 81 cities in 22 states.

The other issue was availability - or otherwise - of spare parts. Basavanhalli created Asia Pacific's largest warehouse in Chakan, in Pune district of Maharashtra, where he has made sure that the top 200 spare parts which constitute 80 per cent of the parts business are always available.

There are other areas where it trying to improve its after sales service. After 15 days of buying a car, a senior service manager visits the buyer to check if he is facing any problem. "That is being done for every single new car buyer," Basavanhalli. The programme is called Fiat Amico. Amico means friend in Italian.

The company is also using a lot of social media activity to understand customer grievances, to promote drives and the brand itself. The Facebook fan page already boasts 600,000 fans in a year's time.

However, Basavanhalli says that the company has decided to delay the launch of its Jeep, the iconic vehicle which was expected to give the Range Rover tough competition. "You get only one chance to introduce a brand. We want to make sure it is done at the right time… when the market condition is better, we will bring it out," he says.

It is still early days, but Basavanhalli might be just able to sustain Fiat's presence in India.

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