Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has just filed a US trade complaint in an effort to bar Indian automaker Mahindra from importing an off-road vehicle that looks eerily similar to its iconic Jeep model. According to a Bloomberg report, FCA claims that the Mahindra Roxor infringes key characteristics of Jeep’s signature trade dress, namely the “boxy body shape with flat-appearing vertical sides and rear body ending at about the same height as the hood.”

The complaint, which included photos comparing the Roxor to the Jeep, added: “They are a nearly identical copy of the iconic Jeep design. In fact, the accused product was ‘modeled after the original Willys Jeep.’” Mahindra claims to be India’s largest SUV manufacturer, and in 2017 opened a headquarters in Southeast Michigan to cater to the North American market.

Conversely, Mahindra said FCA’s complaint is without merit. Mahindra’s North American spokesperson, Rich Ansell said “our actions, products, and product distribution (including Roxor) both honour the legacy of the relationship and the terms of our agreements with FCA. Mahindra has been co-existing with FCA (and the Jeep brand) for over 25 years in India and in many other countries.”

Mahindra and FCA share a long licensing relationship that goes back to the 1940s “with the original agreement with Willys and continues to this day,” an excerpt in the complaint stated. This includes a 2009 agreement with Chrysler Group LLC, a Fiat Chrysler predecessor.

It does look like the Jeep, doesn’t it?

That’s not all, though. Fiat Chrysler also said that Roxor imports threaten it with substantial injury, due to the fact that the Roxor is priced cheaper. Its complaint said “Mahindra’s substantial foreign manufacturing capacity combined with its demonstrated intention to penetrate the United States market and harm FCA’s goodwill and business.” Mahindra capitalises on the cost advantages of manufacturing their products in India and then importing knocked-down kits to the US.

The cars are then assembled in Detroit. Bloomberg states that Fiat Chrysler has become increasingly reliant on its Jeep line-up. Last week, FCA reported its highest ever July sales for the Jeep brand, up 16%, to power the company’s overall 5.9% jump from a year ago.

Mahindra plans to invest about US$600 million (RM2.4 billion) in November for its Roxor manufacturing facility. The Michigan unit tripled its workforce and by 2020, the group plans to employ as many as 670 workers there. What’s your take on the matter, folks?