The Fiat-Chrysler alliance, on Thursday, had announced aggressive plans for the Indian market, with a suite of nine vehicles to be launched over the next four years. But the company’s little-known engineering and technology centre, Chrysler India Automotive, has been doing significant work for the group over the last five years by focusing on innovation.

Set up in 2007, the Chennai-based centre is the global services arm for Fiat-Chrysler, its engineering hub for the Asia-Pacific region, and is the largest outside Turin and Detroit (Fiat-Chrysler headquarters). Initially it catered to needs of the North American market and the Chrysler Global platform.

“We started out with computer aided engineering, electrical, vehicle interior, chassis and exteriors,” Nagesh Basavanhalli, Managing Director, Chrysler India Automotive Pvt. Ltd, told The Hindu.

“Our idea is to add value and the measure of our success is the value addition we provide,” he said.

As one of the Group’s four global centres, the Chennai centre also focuses on innovation. “Among several projects, we designed seats for Chrysler’s C segment Dodge and designed the interiors for the Viaggio in China. We are now also doing ‘reverse’ innovation, providing innovative solutions from existing products,” said Mr. Basavanhalli. “We developed a ‘fuel-filler door’ through this and now hold a patent for it. We own several other patents and several are pending approval.”

Brazil, APAC

While the customers for the engineering hubs are essentially Fiat-Chrysler units in Detroit, Brazil, Shanghai and Turin, the Chennai centre is now focused on Brazil and the Asia Pacific.

The centre’s other activities involve sourcing components through vendors out of Southeast Asia and supplying to North America.