Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is none too pleased with the Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd as they're planning to sell an off-road vehicle that looks very much like the original Willys Jeep.
Bloomberg obtained a complaint filed by FCA to the U.S. International Trade Commission on August 1st. The document claims that Mahindra's Roxor infringes key characteristics of Jeep's signature design - 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. In fact, the accused product was ‘modeled after the original Willys Jeep."
The Roxor is a small, two-seat off-road vehicle. There is a lot of resemblance to original Jeep design and there is a reason for that. Beginning in 1947, Mahindra got a license to build the Willys CJ3 for the Asian market. They would do so until 2010. At this point, Mahindra introduced an updated model known as the Thar that meets India's road going passenger vehicle standards and looks like a 1990's Wrangler.
Now the Roxor isn't being sold as road-legal vehicle. Instead, Mahindra is selling this as a side-by-side off-road utility. That means its not road legal. Which brings us to the next key part of FCA's complaint. The company is arguing that Roxor imports "threaten it with substantial injury as they are underselling Jeeps." This is due to Mahindra manufacturing the parts and creating a knock-down kit, which is then shipped to a plant in the Detroit area for final assembly. We're not sure about this partly due to the arena the Roxor competes in, but also the price. The model begins at just under $15,500. Comparable models from Polaris and Honda begin at under $10,000.
While Mahindra has had some success in the U.S. with tractors, they haven't had the same when it comes to automobiles. Previously, the company was planning to offer a diesel pickup through a distributor. But plans were scrapped and Mahindra would find itself in a lengthy court battle. The Roxor is the next attempt at possible entry for Mahindra to enter the automotive market. They have spent almost a quarter-billion dollars for a new assembly plant where they currently employ around 300 people. Last November, the company announced a $600 investment and plans to employ as many as 670 workers by 2020.