Mahindras, Chrysler lock horns over ‘jeep’

March 23rd, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, March 23 (IANS) The South African arm of Chrysler has disputed an ad by Indian vehicle maker Mahindra and Mahindra, which uses its automobile marquee “jeep”, saying it owns the trademark to the world’s oldest sport utility vehicle of World War II vintage. The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (Asasa) is looking at the matter even as Mahindra and Mahindra says it used “jeep” with a lower case to denote the generic name for the kind of multi-purpose vehicles it makes.

“We do not lay claim to the Jeep brand,” Terence Gregory, the chief operating officer of Mahindra and Mahindra’s South African operations, told IANS, as the company even placed another advertisement tiled “Public Declaration of Facts”.

“An objection to the Mahindra heritage advertisement has been lodged with Asasa on behalf of a large multinational corporation,” the full-page advertisement in a national weekly said to counter the allegations by Chrysler.

“Mahindra South Africa has defended both the content and the accuracy of the advertisement and we are confident that the ultimate ruling will be in our favour,” the counter-advertisement added.

Richard Sloman, the public relations manager of Chrysler South Africa, told IANS that one of the main concerns in his company’s complaint was that the Mahindras had misused its trademark “Jeep” that has been with it since 1941.

The Mahindra and Mahindra group said in its initial advertisement that it had built the first Willy-Overland jeep in India in 1949, but Sloman said he would not like to comment further as the regulator’s decision was awaited.

“The original advertisement was done to reaffirm our position as a heritage brand in the South African market, and to let consumers know our DNA and roots in India,” Gregory said, adding the Mahindra name was “iconic” in India.

But in South Africa, Mahindra and Mahindra was relatively a newcomer and therefore little was understood of its brand and heritage, he added.

According to the group’s web site, its association with the jeep began in 1945 when its founder K.C Mahindra met with the inventor of the “general purpose” vehicle Barney Roos in the US and secured a franchise to make them in India.

The first batch of 75 jeeps as completely knocked down kits came in from Willys Overland Export Corp of the US in 1947 and their assembly began at the group’s unit at Mazagon in Mumbai.

Then in 1954, the company entered into a technical and financial collaboration with Willys to manufacture the jeeps in India and secured the government’s nod for 2,500 units per year.

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