The Wrangler Clone Jeep Wants To Ban

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, now going by the name Stellantis, is again trying to enforce a legal block on the sale of an off-road vehicle made by India's Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. The Fiat group's fury first erupted back in 2018 when it filed a complaint before the U.S. International Trade Commission. The complaint asked the organization to put an import ban on Mahindra's Roxor vehicle which was apparently a little too similar to the classic Jeep design originating back in the 1940s with the Willys. Here's the Roxor, for reference:

In its complaint, Fiat Chrysler labeled the Roxor as "a nearly identical copy of the iconic Jeep design," further adding that it was "modeled after the original Willys Jeep." The U.K.-based company pointed out how the Roxor's boxy body lines, flat sides, and level height for the rear and hood were a blatant rip-off of Jeep's own products. The automaker expressed concerns that Mahindra was trying to eat into Jeep's market share because the Roxor undercut the latter's offerings by a healthy margin.

But the story isn't as simple as it appears on the surface. Mahindra and Fiat Chrysler are both tied to a meaty licensing agreement that continues to this day. Interestingly, the licensing terms go all the way back to the 1940s and cover the Willys Jeep, too. In June 2020, the U.S. ITC ruled that Mahindra's Roxor was in violation of the Jeep Wrangler's "trade dress" and gave a sale and import ban on Mahindra's vehicle.

Another lifeline for Fiat Chrysler

Within months of being slapped with the import ban, Mahindra redesigned the Roxor. Soon after, the U. S. ITC modified its ban order and noted that the Roxor models made after 2020 can be imported and sold in the country because they no longer violate the Jeep Wrangler's "trade dress" aka signature design. However, Mahindra was not content with the victory and asked the court to lift the ban on pre-2020 Roxors, as well.

In January 2022, Fiat Chrysler went knocking at the doors of the 6th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Detroit, filing a fresh complaint that the modified Roxor still infringes on its Jeep design property. Mahindra, on the other hand, was waiting for its own legal results. Fast forward to March, when Mahindra & Mahindra's petition to get the import ban on pre-2020 Roxor lifted, was discarded. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the ITC's original import ban decision.

Earlier this month, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got another lifeline from a federal court in Detroit regarding its fresh petition. The court argued that wrong standards were applied while judging the case and classified Mahindra as a known infringer. "The simple fact that a known infringer's redesigned product is non-infringing does not support the conclusion that the safe distance rule should not apply," remarked one of the judges. Fiat Chrysler is now fighting again, seeking a permanent ban on all Roxor sales in the country.

You can't just import a Roxor and drive it on the road

If for whatever reason you really wanted a Mahindra Roxor and were prepared to spend thousands of dollars purchasing one abroad and shipping it to the United States, you still couldn't take it on the road. The country has some incredibly strict import laws, and not all of them are designed to protect American manufacturers' designs. While other acts and safety regulations may prevent you from importing your own Roxor, the main one you'd grapple with is the 1988 Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act. The act states that you can't import a vehicle that hasn't been sold in the United States, and it's one of the reasons Americans couldn't get their hands on a Land Rover Defender for a long time.

However, as with all rules and regulations, there are exceptions. The main one with the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act is a clause that allows vehicles that were manufactured more than 25-years ago to be imported. The foreign version of the Roxor, the Mahindra Thar M2DICR variant, has been manufactured in India since 2010. So if you find an older model, you might only have 13 years to wait. But finding a 25-year-old vehicle isn't your only problem. If you want to get your knock-off Jeep on the road, it must be unmodified and meet other regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. To make matters worse, if you live in California, there are a few extra hoops you have to jump through. So really, you're better off either keeping your Roxor off road or simply buying an actual Jeep.