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Mahindra, FCA fighting over Jeep CJ clones

by David Zatz on

Willys-Overland, the first company to sell civilian Jeeps, licensed their design to India’s Mahindra & Mahindra roughly half a century ago. Today, Mahindra is still selling descendants of the old military Jeeps and their civilian counterparts, the CJ series, just as FCA is selling the Wrangler.

FCA may believe that the Mahindra Thar, which clearly shares its looks with the Wrangler — though not its size, being much smaller — is on the way.

With Mahindra making its most credible play for United States sales yet, FCA filed a complaint to stop them, based on the similarity between the Mahindra Roxor and the Jeep Wrangler. The Roxor is meant for off-road use only, and cannot be licensed; Mahindra has long sold small vehicles for off-road use to farmers, miners, and loggers.

The Roxor, with an FCA-approved grille, also looks like the old CJ, and is arguably closer than the Wrangler to the original Jeep in both size and design. 

Mahindra said the grievance was “without merit;” backing them was something more recent than the old Willys deal, a 2009 design agreement with Fiat. Mahindra is asking a Michigan court to enforce the 2009 deal, and is seeking an injunction to stop Fiat from moving on with their own complaint.

Mahindra’s rejected the notion that the Roxor was a “knock-off:”

On August 23, 2018, Mahindra filed a complaint in Federal Court in Michigan on the issue of the applicability and enforcement of our 2009 agreement with Fiat. We are asking the court to block Fiat from participating in the ITC claim – an injunction – because of the fact that they agreed in 2009 to never bring such claims if we use a grille that they approved. The ROXOR uses that grille. We are also arguing that Fiat is using the ITC case to harm our ROXOR business by creating negative publicity, damaging our reputation and our stature in the marketplace.

They have a point, of course, since the company has been steadfastly maintaining a licensing agreement with the various owners of Jeep, stretching back several decades. In fact, the [we?] made a 1940s license agreement with Willys who, of course, built the original Jeep. Mahindra is said to have re-signed these agreements every time the Jeep brand has been sold to new interests.

Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA) is donating Roxors to help in the recovery of returning veterans, and is supporting urban farming in Detroit. The Mahindra Group’s automotive division has around $20 billion in sales; the MANA division has over 400 employees and is opening a Michigan R&D center. The Roxor is made in Auburn Hills, the town that hosts FCA’s U.S. engineering center.  Based on a story from off-road.com

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