Fiat Chrysler lodged a formal U.S. trade complaint against Mahindra & Mahindra in the US seeking to ban the sale of the Indian automaker’s Roxor side-by-side off road vehicle. FCA claims the Roxor looks too much like its own Jeep.
FCA filed the complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission on August 1, citing that the Mahindra Roxor infringes the signature design of the Jeep, namely the “boxy body shape with flat-appearing vertical sides and rear body ending at about the same height as the hood.”
Mahindra & Mahindra acquired the licence to build Willys Jeeps in India in 1947. The company continued producing jeeps under licence until 1991, when it came up with its own iteration of the iconic offroader. Fast forward to the present day, the Mahindra Thar has taken up the mantle of the Willys in India. It looks a lot like the Jeep Wrangler, but is crucially smaller in size as well as engine capacity, and there is enough of a difference between them to avoid infringement.
In 2017, Mahindra inaugurated a new headquarters in Michigan for its North American operations. The company plans to invest a total of $600 million in its Michigan facility and has already tripled its workforce. By 2020, Mahindra aims to employ 670 workers at the plant. It is also cleverly leveraging its massive manufacturing stronghold in India to produce the Roxor, which it then imports to the U.S. in knocked-down kits. This allows the company to sell the Roxor in the U.S. at extremely competitive prices.
This is where it gets uncomfortable for FCA. The ailing conglomerate is afloat due to the strength of the Jeep brand, which posted a healthy 16% rise in its July sales over last year. This played a major part in FCA’s 5.9% rise in sales year-on-year. Jeep’s parent company further wrote in its complaint, “They are a nearly identical copy of the iconic Jeep design. In fact, the accused product was ‘modeled after the original Willys Jeep.’”
Fiat Chrysler also claims that the Roxor threatens them with severe injury as the side-by-side is underselling Jeeps. It specifically highlighted the Indian automaker’s “substantial foreign manufacturing capacity combined with its demonstrated intention to penetrate the United States market and harm FCA’s goodwill and business.”
It may be worthwhile to note that while the Mahindra Roxor looks a lot like the original Willys Jeep, it does not field directly against the Jeep brand in the U.S. The Roxor side-by-side is not road-legal, and can only be driven over private roads or open terrain. While Jeeps can go anywhere, and the Roxor’s big cousin, the Wrangler can keep up with the little Mahindra on any kind of road, the fact is that these two cars are simply not rivals.