Mumbai: Tata Motors is likely to sell Jeep Wrangler SUVs in India and other Asian markets as it extends an alliance with Chrysler, the third largest automaker in the US, media reports said.
Chrysler is already co-operating with Tata Motors on developing a battery-powered version of Tata's mini-truck Ace for distribution in the western markets.
Chrysler, owned by buy-out firm Cerberus Capital since its sell-off by Daimler, is also reported to be planning to lease its US production capacity and share retail distribution with Fiat SpA.
Fiat and Tata already have a partnership under which Fiat will handle the financing of Tata's Jaguar and Land Rover brands in Europe while Tata will give Fiat the marketing rights of its Nano - the $2,500 small car.
Tata controls about 60 per cent of India's truck and bus market, and Chrysler expects a deal with Tata to open market for its Wrangler jeeps in India, more particularly, the Indian Army.
Chrysler has a joint venture in Cairo for producing an armoured variant of the Wrangler called the J8.
Chrysler saw its Wrangler sales drop four per cent in the US even after redesigning the SUV in 2007 while overall SUV sales plunged 15 per cent as Americans shifted toward smaller, more fuel-efficient passenger cars.
Like its larger Detroit rivals General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co, Chrysler has also been hit by a shift in consumer preference from pickups, SUVs and vans to smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles.
Chrysler lost $1.6 billion in 2007 while the holding company that also includes its financing arm Chrysler Financial, lost $509 million in the first quarter.
Like all other US and Europen auto makers, Chrysler also is looking for markets outside, especially in Asia, Eurasia to drive volumes.
The leasing of Chrysler's US production capacity and sharing of its retail distribution with Fiat will allow the Italian automaker to return the US market for the first time in 25 years.
Fiat left the US market in 1983 and pulled out its high-performance Alfa Romeo brand it later acquired in the 1990s.
Fiat, with its popular brands such as the Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Fiat, has been looking for a partner for its return to the North American market, its CEO Sergio Marchionne was reported as saying.
A three-way tie-up among Tata, Fiat and Chrysler could open new market for small cars and Wrangler, perhaps the best-selling model from Chrysler.
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