Mahindra Still Working Toward US Launch
By Chris Haak
India’s largest utility-vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ltd., has been working for several years toward the goal of selling its basic, but apparently very sturdy compact pickup in the US. Although the company had hoped to launch its truck in the US in 2009, that did not happen, but the company expects to determine a final timeframe for its launch within the next two or three weeks.
The current holdup is the required safety and emission certification. Mahindra executive Pawan Goenka, president and member of the management board, told Reuters in an interview that his company is still testing the pickup before submitting a formal application to the EPA, and their testing should conclude in a few weeks. The EPA then usually takes about a month to review – and hopefully for Mahindra approve – an application.
Some of the earlier delays that beset Mahindra’s efforts to sell its pickup in the US were product improvements based on feedback from users in the US who had been evaluating the pickup. As Mahindra is cognizant of the saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, the company wants that first impression to be a positive one in the eyes of US consumers.
The pickup, which will compete with Ford’s aging compact Ranger and midsize pickups from Toyota, Nissan, and GM, looks like a throwback to the compact pickups of an earlier era, aside from its composite headlamps. The bed sides, in particular, have a tiedown channel design similar to the ones on the compact Japanese pickups from Mazda, Datsun, and Toyota that first reached US shores decades ago.
Mahindra has a few key advantages as it enters the world’s most compeititve automotive market. First, Mahindra & Mahindra is not a completely-unknown name among commercial buyers. Mahindra tractors have been sold in the US for decades, and we understand that they are rugged, capable machines that are well-regarded by their owners. Second, there is not much competition in the small-pickup market. Aside from the Ranger, everything else is at least midsize or fullsize, and GM is likely to discontinue its unloved Colorado and Canyon within the next year or two. This means an opening for Mahindra’s small pickup. Finally, the Mahindra pickup will have a 2.2 liter common rail diesel and a six-speed automatic under its little hood; combined with the truck’s small size and light weight, it should easily be the most fuel-efficient pickup on the market. Add in competitive pricing that we anticipate, and Mahindra could have something of a hit on its hands.
Of course, buyers who are unfamiliar with the Mahindra name may take a pass until they are more assured of the trucks’ quality and durability. Some buyers may assume that Mahindra is building vehicles on par with some of the quality control and safety nightmares that many Chinese manufacturers are building today. My advice to Mahindra is to just buckle down, launch the pickup, make it high quality, and keep improving it. With that strategy, they’re sure to find a niche of happy buyers that should only grow.