Fiat has not lost faith in India operations: Kevin Flynn

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the seventh largest automobile maker in the world, has less than one per cent market share in India. Kevin Flynn, who took charge as president and managing director of Fiat Chrysler’s Indian operations five months ago, is busy fixing issues related to brand, products and dealerships. He tells Ajay Modi in an interview there is a lot of commitment from the parent company in the Indian operations. Edited excerpts.
How do you rate the performance of Fiat in India?

It is frustrating that we have not reaped success. We are trying to understand the gaps and how to plug them. We are evaluating whether the gap is our brand, our product, or the way we present ourselves. The company has gone through a number of ups and downs. The challenge is to address these issues. We want families that used to own a Fiat to try what we are selling today.

What has kept you busy in India?

We managed to meet 26 of our dealers in two weeks to understand the blockages. The commercial arrangement between us and the dealers was not supportive enough, and there was a lack of empathy. We are addressing these. We are putting in place ways of funding wholesale stocks, and it is going to make a difference. Many of our dealers are focused on a brighter future.

A number of your dealerships are not profitable. How do you plan to address that?

In India, car companies measure wholesale as sales. It is not. It is only a sale when the customer has taken delivery. When I came to India, our dealers had far too much stock. You cannot just keep filling dealers with cars. We stopped wholesaling vehicles. We are helping dealers to clear stocks and reach a point where the speed of turnover from delivery to a customer is quicker, consumes less money and is more viable. We have been guilty of expanding our network ahead of commercial viability. You end up with a dealership at every corner, without a car in it.

What were the things Fiat could have done in the past?

I am not going to spend too much time on analysing the past. What we need to do is understand where we are in our journey, where we want to be, and what will be the strategy to get there. We need a reasonable monthly volume that will give us visibility on the road and the growth we want. The current products can achieve a level and that will become a base for moving forward. We just committed $280 million in the Ranjangaon plant to roll out the Jeep in 2017. We will export it as well.

Is India the worst performing market for Fiat Chrysler?

It certainly is not enjoying the success that we had strategised to deliver. Clearly, we need to fix that. Sometimes you need to be clear on what is not right and then move forward.

What is the message from your global headquarters?

There is no loss of belief that the Indian operations can be a core part of our global infrastructure. Investments have been high and revenues have not met targets.

We are looking to be a contributor to and a good citizen of Fiat Chrysler. We believe that we are worth more, and it is our job to make sure we now link with our customer base and raise our appeal in the broader market.