Jeep parent company Fiat Chrysler is seeking to block India's Mahindra from selling the ROXOR 4×4 in the U.S., Bloomberg reports, arguing that the vehicle looks too much like its own Jeep Wrangler. FCA filed a trade complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission, arguing that the Mahindra ROXOR infringes on Jeep's "trade dress," which is a legal term to describe the trademarked appearance or image of a particular product.
The ROXOR is a descendant of earlier Jeep-style models that Mahindra has been making for decades, and one of the models that the automaker, which has been trying to gain a foothold in the U.S., has been selling in other markets for quite some time. The ROXOR has been in production in Michigan since March of this year, but it's not licensed for the road, instead aiming at side-by-side off-road all-terrain vehicles.
"They are a nearly identical copy of the iconic Jeep design," Fiat Chrysler said in its complaint, according to Bloomberg. "In fact, the accused product was ‘modeled after the original Willys Jeep.'"
The ROXOR features a ladder-frame construction, metal body panels, 16-inch wheels and a four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission — quite a serious upgrade from the typical plastic-bodied side-by-side ATVs. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel produces 62 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque, but it has a top speed of 45 mph. ROXOR's off-road status in the U.S. is largely a legal necessity, as it's very much an on-road vehicle in other countries. The U.S. version starts at $14,999.
Despite the fact that the ROXOR is not sold in the U.S. as a road-legal vehicle, Jeep's legal challenge on trade dress grounds is seen as a pre-emptive move against a future road-legal ROXOR, as well as the arrival of other Wrangler competitors from China.
The Indian automaker has also been eyeing the pickup truck market and has been exploring the possibility of building pickup trucks in the U.S. to avoid the so-called Chicken Tax on imported light trucks. Mahindra is aiming for the low end of the market in a size and price segment that hasn't existed since the 1990s.
Jeep's opposition to Mahinda's plans to sell the ROXOR raises some interesting questions, besides the legal ones. In the decades since WWII, there has been no shortage of Jeep-like vehicles created by other automakers, including those made by Nissan, Toyota and Fiat, to name a few, some closer in appearance to the original Jeep than others.