Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mahindra Trucks Coming to America: Indian Style

Mahindra’s agriculturally influenced styling is an honest reflection of its tractor expertise. Some see the beauty in a vehicle which has clearly been designed with function as the top priority. Mahindra’s farm implement roots are well represented in the style of the Mahindra Pik-Up and Scorpio SUV. Sharp-edged lines of the cab and SUV bodies abruptly transition into a rounded nose fitted with composite headlamps. The style is… unique. The combination manifests itself as somewhat of an odd historical timeline of Japanese mini-trucks from the late-1970’s to the mid-1990’s. It’s been a long time since American’s have seen external tie-down cleats on a truck box.

The question for Mahindra is: Will the current styling for Mahindra trucks translate into sufficient US vehicle sales?

The trucks are unique and certainly carve a niche, but as noted in a previous post, Mahindra will likely be faced with absorbing the Chicken Tax into their North American operations in some way. If that cost has to be passed on to consumers through an increase in vehicle price, Mahindra must acknowledge that they have reduced their niche further than previously anticipated.

Styling is a key element in an American culture that has come to expect a high level of style in even the lowest priced products. As seen in the lead photo, Mahindra has launched a facelift for the Scorpio this year (photos at www.cubiccapacity.com). This alone is probably not enough to change many initial American impressions. In another previous post, Mahindra Planet noted that Mahindra does plan a completely new Scorpio design for 2010, but it seems that the current pick up will come to the US as it is.

There are glimpses of amazing automotive design coming out of India (do a Google search!). International companies like GM and Renault have design centers based there. Unfortunately the Pik-Up and Scorpio do a bit of a disservice to the Indian auto design community. While these vehicles are a testament to the world market aspirations of Mahindra and the Indian auto industry, it is not putting their best foot forward in design and styling.

First impressions will mean a lot to Mahindra. If the trucks offer exceptional performance and value for their price, many will likely accept the styling as it is, but it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. To grow their US market share, Mahindra will not only need to deliver on quality, service, and performance, they will also have to create a signature design direction and further develop styling that stands out in the US landscape.