Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mahindra Launch Delays: Is 2010 Too Soon?

Automotive News published a fantastic report by Lindsay Chappell on the state of Mahindra’s US vehicle launch on Monday. It has subsequently been hacked by the blogosphere into disjointed, bite-sized chunks of reconstituted “news”. We’re not going to do any further disservice to AN here, so please click this link, read the article in its entirety, then finish reading this Mahindra Planet commentary. Automotive News: Mahindra Dealers are Still Waiting

Missed Dates
Although AN was unable to contact Pawan Goenka for a comment on the delays for their article, Mahindra Truck Forum member, Joe Callimachus was able to directly contact Goenka by email late last week. His letter follows:

On March 4th you told Reuters that Mahindra would be announcing the times for the US launch of the Mahindra Pickups, TR20 and TR40, in 2-3 weeks. It's officially three weeks today.

I really need to decide on buying a new pickup and the TR20 is exactly what I want. But I can’t keep waiting forever. My F250 is literally falling apart. I just had to take one of the fuel tanks off ‘cause it rotted away.

I would like to know if you are going to get the EPA certification and start production of these trucks soon. If not I will have to start looking at other trucks that I really don't want.

Yours truly,
Joe Callimachus
Goenka responded to Callimachus’ letter with the following:


Thank you for your interest in the Mahindra Pickups. It is very encouraging to note that there are customers waiting to purchase these vehicles. Unfortunately we are not in a position to announce a definitive date as we are still waiting for the homologation process to be completed. Only after the process is completed can we give a firm date. Hope you are able to wait for the vehicle.

Pawna Goenka
President (Automotive Sector) Mahindra and Mahindra
Obviously, Goenka is very noncommittal at this point, as is Global Vehicles. This only reaffirms contact that Mahindra Planet has had with GV and franchised dealers. All news and timelines on the launch have been driven by India since the start of 2010. Global Vehicles has taken a stealthy approach to PR and media, only passing on information as they get it, and not offering much more. It’s better to keep quiet, than to keep pissing on the customers’ Cheerios.

Feeling the Love/Hate
The overall feeling among dealers and fans is positive about Mahindra products, and most are confident that Mahindra will be a great success… once they get here. Some of the web media seems to perpetuate the gloom and doom of missed launch dates and lack of information (not that we haven’t done it either).

Whatever. That’s old news, so get over it. Part of Mahindra’s (and GV’s) charm is that they are so excited about, and emotionally invested in, their product that they tend to be overly optimistic on announcements and timelines. Does it hurt their credibility? Possibly. But then, would you rather be known for multiple missed launch dates, or for selling a crappy product that falls apart, or possibly accelerates your customers into oblivion, or worse?

Tensions Are High
Clearly there are strained relations between GV and Mahindra. GV finds themselves precariously hanging onto millions of dollars in franchise money from dealers who are spending even more money to pepper the country with proper sales shrines for Mahindra vehicles (insert your own Taj Mahal quip here). In return, Mahindra will not commit to a go date.

We’ve Waited This Long
Between supplier issues in India, the complexities of making a new vehicle ready for the road in the United States, and the development of new world-market platforms, there certainly could be concern that even a summer of 2010 launch may not be a possibility. Mahindra Planet has previously questioned some of the logic in actually launching the current first generation Scorpio platform (TR20 and TR40) in the US when the second generation vehicle looms large on the horizon.

Keep in mind that the truck Mahindra is trying to launch here is new to us, but was first introduced to India in 2002. Aside from the arguably relevant and truly geriatric Ford Ranger, eight years is ancient history for any unchanged vehicle platform for sale in the US.

From the AN article:
Speaking with Automotive News last year, Goenka said Mahindra's entry into the United States was important -- but not the company's most important current project. He said only about 6 or 7 percent of Mahindra's total global engineering force of 1,000 was working on the U.S. entry.

"We also have three new vehicle platforms we're working on right now and just completed a fourth," Goenka said. He said that entering the United States would cost half as much as developing a new vehicle platform.

More important, he said, was doing it correctly: "A launch date is very important to us, but not as important as getting our product right."

At this point, would it make more sense to redirect the efforts of those engineers working on Americanized pickup design projects and ensure that the next generation trucks are inherently designed with the US-market in mind?

If Mahindra were to scrap plans to bring the current generation TR20 and TR40 to the US, do a post-mortem on everything they have learned about developing a US vehicle, and use that knowledge in making a solid effort with a brand new truck, would they lose any more face than they already have? Again, we’ve waited this long for Mahindra, what are another few months or even another year going to matter.

Go ask your neighbor if they plan to buy a new Mahindra this year. Unless they are highly aware of auto industry news, a farmer, or possibly Indian-American, they probably won’t have a clue what you are talking about. It’s easy for all of us closely involved in Mahindra goings-on to assume that everyone in the country is on the edge of their seat waiting for these trucks. In reality, if Mahindra were to wait until 2011 to launch an all new truck, most Americans would be none the wiser, but maybe all of us hardcore fans would reap benefits worthy of our patience.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dealer News for March 29, 2010

Some new dealers added to the Dealer Directory last week. Also check out all of the construction going on at MahindraNC this spring.

Montana Dealer
Archie Cochrane Motors in Billings, Montana has been added to the Mahindra Planet Dealer Directory.

Massachusetts Dealer
General Truck Center in Methuen, Massachusetts has been added to the Mahindra Planet Dealer Directory.

Georgia Dealer
Childre Mahindra in Milledgeville, Georgia has been added to the Mahindra Planet Dealer Directory.

Kansas Dealer
Olathe Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Olathe, Kansas has been added to the Mahindra Planet Dealer Directory (thanks for the tip, Ack!).

MahindraNC Construction
MahindraNC has been busy with the construction of their Mahindra facility this winter. They have been posting photos to their Facebook fan page and Twitter (@MahindraNC) accounts.

Friday, March 26, 2010

US Mahindra Test Drive Interview, Part II: Power, Style, and a Great Offer

This is Part II of our interview with Jay Keffer of Motorcars Mahindra. Click here to read: Part I

MP: Explain the power characteristics of the trucks you drove.

JK: “The 1st truck I drove was a very foreign market TR40. I was not impressed with the power of this truck but none the less I was cordial as I was a guest. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was being set up by GV. The next truck I drove was the TR20. Before I got out of the parking lot I was smiling ear to ear. I looked over at Fernando and said WOW. He too was smiling ear to ear. At this time he told me that this was a step closer to the US truck but that our truck was even better. This truck felt like a scaled version of an F-250. Powerful with a firm suspension but didn’t ride rough at all. The brakes are touchy firm and will put you through the glass until you get used to them. This version could have been released last year with much success. To be told that the American spec truck that we receive will be an improved version of the “enhanced” TR20 I drove is very, very exciting.”

MP: How would you say the power compares to other similar sized pickups you have driven?

JK: “That’s a great question and a difficult one to answer. I really didn’t find myself comparing it to anything while driving. If I had to compare it to something I guess it would be a Kubota truck. That’s if Kubota made them.”

MP: Styling is a polarizing element of the Mahindra TR20 and TR40 (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing). I will admit, some vehicles I have seen first in photos or video have not looked right to me, but after seeing them in person, I liked them (the BMW Z4 was one for me). What were your impressions when you saw the trucks in person for the first time?

JK: “These are great questions. Before seeing them in person, people asked me “What is a Mahindra?” I told them that it was like a Dakota sized truck with a diesel. I guess that was O.K. but I haven’t told anyone that since I saw and drove them for myself. They are taller than any midsize truck I have seen. The bed was deep with smaller than normal wheel wells (in the bed). Something reminds me of the Toyota T-100 but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the leveled out hood in combination with the grille and stout front end (not as wide as the T-100 though). So maybe a cross of a T-100 with some Land Rover characteristics (tall with big glass) with a little Kubota mixed in (work horse diesel).”

Motorcars Mahindra
MP: I understand that you are considering creating a special reservation list and making a special offer to Mahindra Truck Forum members on the delivery of the first Mahindra TR20 and TR40 pickups that your dealership receives. Would you care to reveal this offer or make a statement at this time?

JK: “Absolutely but first I have to explain something. I was destined for a career in automobiles. I’ve had this car crazed passion since as long as I can remember. I drive a different car from our used car inventory everyday and not just the flashy fast ones (although those are the most fun). I drove straight thru from Cleveland Ohio to Alpharetta Georgia with very little notice after working all day at the dealership and spent about 4 hours meeting, seeing & driving Mahindras. On my drive home that night I couldn’t wait to get back to the store to put my name on a Fiery Black TR40 4x4 with Leather/Alloy & Tow package. The next day I read all the posts on MTF from people who are just as excited to own one of these trucks as I am. The members on the forum were all very thankful for whatever info I could pass on and they all thanked me for driving down and getting a look for myself. There a lot of “Good People” on the Forum all of which I feel a little closer to since my involvement. One guy even picked up the phone and called me just to talk – that’s cool! (Here’s to you topgut). So, here is a “Thank You” to all the good guys and girls on the Forum. I have ordered 40 trucks which is the most any dealer was able to order (and not all did). The order platform for all dealers was 20% TR20’s and 80% TR40’s. Out of the 40 I have coming 38 are available. I will post my entire incoming inventory on the Forum tomorrow for all to see. Any Mahindra Truck Forum “Member” can quote back the truck they want and I will put their Member Name on that truck until it shows. I don’t want any deposits and will not ask for anything from any member until the trucks arrive. Let’s call it “Reserved Upon Arrival”. Once that truck hits my lot I will contact the member that reserved it. If that member purchases the truck they reserved I will ship it to their front door at my expense (US only please). I hope anyone who takes advantage of this will get as much enjoyment on seeing their name on one as I do.”

MP: Thank you again, Jay. I appreciate your time and wish you luck with Motorcars Mahindra.

JK: “Thanks for the opportunity it was great to hear from you.”

Mahindra Planet hopes to be able to give a more detailed test drive report once the US-spec TR20 and TR40 pickups hit US soil. So stay tuned.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

US Mahindra Test Drive Interview, Part I: First Impressions

A few weeks ago, Mahindra Planet was offered the opportunity to travel to Global Vehicles (the US importer of Mahindra vehicles) headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia. Although Mahindra Planet decided to wait until US-spec vehicles were available to test drive, Jay Keffer of Cleveland, Ohio-based Mahindra dealership, Motorcars Mahindra, did take GV up on their offer and traveled to Georgia for a test drive.

Mahindra Planet interviewed Keffer and got some of his first hand impressions of the Mahindra TR20, TR40, and Scorpio SUV:

Global VehiclesMP: Jay, thanks, so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about your trip to Global Vehicles headquarters and your test drive in the Mahindra pickups they had on hand. First off, what was your first impression of Global Vehicles and the people you met with in Alpharetta?

JK: “The people at GV were great. Being a first time visitor I was really geared up to see the trucks when I arrived. The first thing we did after the introductions was visit the conference room. Across the front of the room they had the Mahindra Heritage wall. This is the wall that all of us dealers have on order that will be placed in the showroom of all the Mahindra stores. Next we watched a video. The video started by showing non-Mahindra trucks jumping through burning buildings, loud music and guys parachuting, much like most of the truck commercials we see today as consumers. Then the music changed and it was a much softer message about a very usable truck that’s very green too. GV was as excited to show me the truck as I was to see it but didn’t lose focus of the company message in all the excitement. They were genuinely kind and interested in what I thought of the vehicles I looked at and drove. Simply put they are, ‘good people’!”

MP: You’ve stated on Mahindra Truck Forum that the GV people have a confident attitude about the Mahindra product. So much so, that they aren’t concerned about the naysayers predicting epic failure for the company. Global Vehicles feel that the product will speak for itself. After your first impressions of the vehicle, do you agree with this?

JK: “Yes, more so than ever. Its one thing to be told the product will speak for itself but once you get to see it for yourself it’s much easier to believe. I really felt that GV is in the same boat most of us are. In other words I got the impression that Mahindra (India) is calling the shots as far as when the trucks will hit and what they will be when they do.”

Driving the trucks
MP: Clearly these weren’t test mules, but they were foreign market trucks that have been in the US for a while. Could you give us an idea of how much mileage was on the trucks you drove, and your general feeling based on the condition of the trucks?

JK: “You’re absolutely right. These were foreign market trucks. The TR20, TR40 & Scorpio I drove had between 8k & 10k miles on them. They weren’t beat up nor did they show signs of excessive wear. In other words they didn’t have wires hanging from the dash or loose garnishes (fit and finish) that gave me the impression these trucks were thrown together to see if they could pull off selling them in America.”

TransmissionMP: It sounds like the drivetrain in the Scorpio you drove was pretty close in spec to the US pickups. What was your impression of the way the paddle-shift transmission operated and felt?

JK: “Both the pickups were of course manual but the Scorpio was in fact automatic. This transmission I was told will be enhanced for the American vehicles. They did not elaborate on this, however, the transmission shifted smooth and solid. This was the only vehicle I was permitted to take on the highway. By the time I got on the highway I was so impressed with the power that I quit paying attention to shift points. As I mentioned on MTF I was going 85 MPH down the highway and knew I had room to accelerate but had to hit our exit. If there was less traffic I would have pushed more. I did manage to get a call off to my wife just to rub it in (she has her heart set on one).”

NVHMP: How was the noise, vibration, and harshness aspect of the trucks you drove? Was there a noticeable difference between the pickups and the SUV (i.e. diesel clatter, road/wind noise, ride quality, etc.)?

JK: “Not driving the pickups on the highway I can’t really speak about wind noise there but the Scorpio was very quiet and I would venture to say the trucks are just as quiet. The diesel clatter is almost non-existent (compared to what we as Americans relate to when we think of our diesels). In fact with the windows up you’re not going to hear much of the engine. Personally, I like the diesel clatter of the big trucks but this is no way comparable to that. I actually rolled the window down in the parking lot while driving the TR20 just to hear what people outside were experiencing as I drove by. When my 7.3 F-350 is cold I can’t hear the person next to me, big difference.”

The rest of the interview including Keffer’s impressions of the Mahindra trucks power and styling, as well as an interesting offer from Motorcars Mahindra continues in: US Mahindra Test Drive Interview, Part II: Power, Style, and a Great Offer

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mahindra 2011: All-New World SUV, 2nd Gen Scorpio Retains Body on Frame, Xylo Gets 4WD

India’s Business Standard Motoring reports this morning on some future Mahindra products. It’s difficult to understand exactly what they are getting across about some models. To hopefully provide some better understanding, we will quote from the article, and comment below it.

All-New World SUV
BSM: “The world SUV that is to emerge from Mahindra's Chakan facility in 2011 is the third SUV in the lineup and will be priced in the range of Rs 16-18 lakh. A more powerful diesel engine and an automatic gearbox apart, the world SUV will also have automatic climate control, cruise control and ESP. Aimed at the likes of the Chevrolet Captiva and the Toyota Fortuner, this SUV would be primarily for export markets, apart from the local market with the aim of expanding the company's presence in the more developed markets such as the United States where the company is planning to begin the sale of its pickup trucks later this year.”
MP Interpretation: As we’ve reported before, an all-new Mahindra SUV with unitized construction is being (or has been) designed for release late this year or early 2011. As the article states, the intention of this SUV is to be a world market truck. We assume that this SUV is being designed with the US and European markets in mind first and foremost. The amenities are a given, but it is interesting that they mention a “more powerful diesel engine” for the new SUV.

Second Generation ScorpioBSM: “Sources suggest that apart from a new generation Scorpio, two more SUVs are in the pipeline.” “The new Scorpio could retain its body-on-ladder format and a new petrol engine is also being developed to be fit under the bonnet of the Scorpio and the world SUV.”

MP Interpretation: The confusing thing about these statements is that the Indian press often lumps together the Scorpio SUV and the Scorpio Getaway pickup (our TR20 and TR40) together. Either way, this statement continues to affirm previous rumors of a second generation SUV/pickup being developed. This also puts into question why Mahindra is bringing the first generation TR pickups to the US when the next generation is just on the horizon.

Xylo 4WDBSM: “According to sources, the Xylo has been designed to be a part time 4wd system using an advanced version of the Borg & Warner system. Reports seem to suggest that it could be a real-time all-wheel drive system like the Honda CR-V, where the focus is on road grip and tackling bad roads and not specifically as a pure off-roader. However, there is no confirmation yet whether Mahindra will adopt such a system. The Xylo 4x4 would end up becoming the first MPV in the country with a 4-wheel drive system, but it remains to be seen how big a market is there for such a concept. Mahindra could also be seriously looking at the export markets such as South Africa for such a vehicle."

MP Interpretation: This article has a narrow focus on the Indian market. We believe the true intention of the Xylo 4WD system is for implementation in the Mahindra MUC which could be introduced in the US by 2012. MP has previously surmised that the MUC will be a pickup version of the Xylo. The addition of a 4WD or AWD system certainly emphasizes this theory.

The article also fuels the US launch delay fire with the statement: “…such as the United States where the company is planning to begin the sale of its pickup trucks later this year.” The statement is not well defined, but does not seem to suggest an immediate launch of US spec Mahindra vehicles.

Source: Business Standard, Motoring

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mahindra US Launch Delays: Parts Shortages to Blame?

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Indian automaker Mahindra has been experiencing parts shortages, affecting production levels since October.

Production has been decreased by 10-12% every month since October according to the article. Demand for vehicles has steadily increased as the global economic tide begins to change. Suppliers have been slow to ramp up operations to keep pace.

Adding to the parts shortages are recent production cuts at Bosch Ltd. Bosch supplies fuel injection pumps, starters, and alternators to Mahindra.

The complete WSJ article: Mahindra Faces Production Constraints

Mahindra Pickup US Launch to be Announced in Early April

Transport Topics Online reported yesterday that that Mahindra will make an announcement on the official US launch of the Indian-built TR20 and TR40 pickups in early April.

The article states that the vehicles are currently undergoing testing in the US per Pawan Goenka, president, automotive sector, M&M.

The diesel pickups have been delayed several times in the past year. Previously Mahindra anticipated a first quarter launch, but it appears that will be pushed further out.

Source: Transport Topics Online (via Bloomberg)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dealer Directory Additions

Mahindra Planet has received a flurry of Dealer Directory updates this week. The following dealers have either been added or updated this week:

Kevil Chevrolet – Budd Lake, NJ
Estes Motors, Inc – Columbia, MO
Holman Automotive Group – Maple Shade, NJ
Sames Crow – Corpus Christi, TX
Landmark Mahindra – Tigard (Portland), OR
Tysinger Motor Co., Inc. – Hampton, VA
Modern Motors Inc – Thomaston, CT
Commonwealth Motors – Lawrence, MA
Ken Smith Motors, Inc – Ridgewood, NJ

We now have 26 states covered, and well over 50 dealers listed. Click here for the full list: Mahindra Planet Dealer Directory

If you are a dealer and want to build some free buzz for your franchise, contact Mahindra Planet and get listed in the Dealer Directory!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mahindra Inaugurates Chakan Facility, Will Produce US Trucks

Saturday, (March 13, 2010) Mahindra opened the doors to their recently upgraded Chakan facility in India. Mahindra Planet reported in January that this facility was receiving USD $1 billion in capital improvements. Of that $1 billion, $150 million is to be dedicated to the next generation Scorpio SUV platform. The new Scorpio will be of unitized construction and has been designated for US launch in late 2010.

The new and improved facility will produce a wide range of vehicles from the ¾ ton Maxximo mini trucks to heavy duty Mahindra-Navistar trucks, in addition to US-bound vehicles.

“We will manufacture all new products here, including the range that will be exported to the US.” – Pawan Goenka, President, Automotive Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra

The future for US built Mahindra vehicles still remains unclear at this point, but it does appear that at least the new Scorpio will be built in India and exported for sale in the United States.

Sources: Mahindra Navistar’s Blog and WSJ

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Mahindra Test Drive

The Offer
So, I got the call from Mike Geylin (Global Vehicles USA Spokesman) last Friday just as Andy Isaacson (of had. I got back in touch with Mike on Tuesday morning. The offer was to fly down to GV-USA’s headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia and drive some Mahindra pickups next week before they are sent off to be destroyed.

I immediately got on Priceline and bought my ticket from Syracuse to Atlanta, then got thinking more about the value of the trip. The trucks available to drive right now are from various foreign markets. They are not equipped the same way our US spec TR20 and TR40 pickups will be.

So, I called Mike yesterday (Thursday) morning and told him that I would rather wait. I would prefer to be invited back to drive the first production trucks to arrive in the US.

Driving the foreign-market pickups would certainly give a general feeling of what we can expect, but they are not what we will actually be driving in the near future. I realized that I would rather photograph, video, and drive US spec pickups that are an honest reflection of the trucks that will be in dealer showrooms.

In a nutshell, I decided wait and report and write about Mahindra’s best US effort, and not try to look past flaws or inconsistencies in the vehicles that are currently available to drive. I believe that will be far fairer to Mahindra and GV, and better serve all of the people that read and support Mahindra Planet.

Other American Impressions
To quench your hearty thirst for a test drive report, Mike Levine ( drove the TR’s on US soil back in August of 2009. His impressions of the foreign-market pickups (possibly the same ones) can be found here: Mahindra Test Drive on US Soil

Additionally, Jay Keffer from Motorcars Mahindra (Cleveland area dealer) was in Alpharetta this week to drive the foreign-market pickups first hand. He has posted a fantastic synopsis of his experience on Mahindra Truck Forum. Mahindra Planet will also provide a detailed report on Jay’s impressions, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mauro Motors Launches New Website

Woodbridge, New Jersey Mahindra dealer, Mauro Motors, announced yesterday that they have launched a new website.

The website currently features Mauro Motors used car inventory and is set to include Mahindra vehicles when they become available. Mauro Motors may be contacted at 866-531-4797 for more information.

Mahindra to Announce US Launch Timeframe in 2-3 Weeks reports from India this morning that a top official (we assume in India) tells them that Mahindra will make an announcement on the US launch of Mahindra TR20 and TR40 pickups in 2 or 3 weeks.

No source for the information is sighted, but the article does contain quotes from Pawan Goenka on the US emissions certification process and delays (apparently from a previous interview).

For the complete article: Mahindra to set date on US launch in 2-3 weeks

Monday, March 1, 2010

City of Chatham, Ontario Pursuing Mahindra TR20/TR40 Production

The Chatham Daily News posted an article yesterday regarding efforts being made by the Canadian city of Chatham to influence Mahindra and Mahindra into producing light trucks in the province of Ontario.

The plant, which built Navistar’s International brand heavy trucks, was idled in July of 2009 after failed negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union.

The article states that the city mayor, Randy Hope, has been attempting to contact decision makers at Mahindra in hopes of bringing the plant back to life.

The complete article is here: New Hope for Idled Truck Plant?
Background on the Chatham plant is here: Navistar Lays Off 1000 at Ontario Plant