Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hey Mahindra, Are You Listening?

And Mahindra & Mahindra thinks I’m down on them? Mahindra Planet’s occasional constructive criticism and suggestions for mitigating Mahindra’s multiple US pickup launch delays, their blatant disregard for positive public relations, and how they appear to ‘deal’ with their partners (Global Vehicles), their dealers, and their future customers has nothing on what some Indians have to say about them. This is not to mention all of the great commentary written by fans and detractors alike on various mainstream automotive news sites. Consider this post as an open appeal to Mahindra.

Dear Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd,

Most of us fans here in the US now figure that you really don’t care what any of us may think of you. However, most of us are convinced that you have the right product at the right time (and are ready to buy it now) and generally want to see you succeed. Some see your promised launches and subsequent delays as a reflection on your ability to deliver a vehicle that will meet expectations. Others see you as an arrogant corporation who has frustrated it’s own dealer network, is being sued by GV in the US and the UK to motivate you to deliver vehicles, is trying to dissolve contracts via press releases, and is even trying to kill Mahindra Planet as it currently exists and takeover http://www.mahindraplanet.com/ for it’s own use.

I don’t know much about marketing, but it seems to me that listening to your customers and working to continuously improve your public perception are things that most companies aspire to do. Regardless, if you do actually care about your future in the United States, you should click the links listed below and see what your potential customers really think of you, your business practices, and your products before you, ahem, deliver pickups in December.

Mahindra Planet

Here you go Mahindra (or anyone else interested). Here are the MP top 5 must-read, user-generated, Mahindra PR links:

1 – Team-BHP.com
This is (IMHO) simply the best Indian car forum out there. Some serious car fans from around the world are on this site. This very long thread reveals that some people in India have a surprising lack of faith in the success of Mahindra’s US launch. It’s an eye-opener.

2 – Autoblog.com
This is a post with some, er, interesting comments. Some good, some bad. All are a good read.

3 – PickupTrucks.com
This is Mike Levine’s latest post on Mahindra, again full of colorful commentary. I suggest digging through some of the older posts and reading those comments as well.

4 – Jalopnik.com
It’s hard to beat Jalopnik’s posts. Again, the comments are a very interesting read. Search through older posts and read those comments too.

5 – MahindraTruckForum.com
Goes without saying, MTF is the voice of Mahindra lovers and haters in the US, offering opinions galore. If you sincerely want (or barely care) to put your fingers on the pulse of the US Mahindra truck scene, you’d better get on board. Your importer and dealers lurk and participate on MTF; you should be doing the same.

Sources: As Hyperlinked

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mahindra Scorpio Spotted Testing In Tennessee

Jalopnik.com has posted photos of a Mahindra Scorpio SUV caught testing in Tennessee earlier this month. The Scorpio is likely to launch stateside sometime in 2011.

Mahindra has repeatedly said that an SUV will follow the eventual launch of Mahindra TR20 and TR40 pickups. It appears that this test mule is proof of that recurring statement. Sighting of the Scorpio (and the trailer it is towing) could be a very good indication that the December launch of Mahindra’s compact diesel pickups is actually (for once) on schedule.

Source: Jalopnik (with more photos)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mahindra Moves Forward: “We Have Dealers Calling Us”

Alabama-based, MontgomeryAdvertiser.com posted a report this morning after speaking with Global Vehicles USA’s Dan T. Najour (vice president of sales and marketing) and Max Butler (GV’s marketing and PR consultant) on the expected December sales date for the Indian-made, compact diesel pickup trucks.

Najour was asked if dealers were backing out of their commitment to selling the first Indian brand of light trucks and SUV’s in the United States. His response was that very few have backed out, and GV is still getting inquiries from dealers interested in carrying the Mahindra brand despite launch delays and pending lawsuits.

MontgomeryAdvisor was unable to contact Birmingham-based Mahindra dealer, Serra Automotive Group (one of the first dealerships in the country to publicly acknowledge their connection with Mahindra) and noted that their website (serraautomotive.com) was no longer operational. However, Serra’s Chevrolet website does still appear to be active and they are still listed as a dealer on the Mahindra NA dealer map.

The outlook for a December 2010 launch of the low-to-mid $20,000 compact pickups is still optimistic. Let’s hope it happens this time around.

Sources: As Hyperlinked

Friday, August 20, 2010

Breaking: 2011 Mahindra Pickups Get EPA Certification!

PickupTrucks.com and The Wall Street Journal are reporting that Mahindra has finally completed requirements to obtain EPA certification for their 2011 model TR20 and TR40 pickups in the United States.  This is great news for all of those eagerly awaiting the all-diesel compact pickups which are slated for sale at the end of 2010.

Stay tuned.

Sources: As Hyperlinked

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

India Parts Shortages Continue: Does Mahindra Launch Hang in the Balance?

“At least for the next three to four months, the problems won’t get resolved.” – Pawan Goenka, President of Automotive and Tractor Operations, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (referring to widespread parts supply shortages in the Indian auto industry).

The doubling of per capita income in India over the last eight years has resulted in ever increasing demand for new cars. 2010 has witnessed a 30% increase in demand for new vehicles, with companies like Suzuki and VW resorting to waiting lists for prospective customers. Suzuki is claiming that they have a backlog equivalent to 15-20% of monthly sales volume.

At the dawn of the global economic meltdown, many Indian OEM suppliers conservatively curbed their growth in fear of reduced demand for parts. Combine the unprecedented increase in consumer demand with the overly cautious manufacturing approach that suppliers took in 2009, and the result is serious challenge for manufacturers unable to provide every customer with one of their vehicles.

Mahindra has operated under capacity since the end of 2009 when they began seeing vehicle demand increase, and realized that suppliers weren’t keeping up. In June alone, Mahindra saw an 8-10% loss of production due to parts shortages.

Mahindra still has at least a three to four month scramble ahead of them just to satisfy their own domestic demand for new SUV’s and pickups. It is unclear how this will affect the expected December launch of US compact diesel pickups (the TR20 and TR40).

If Mahindra were to begin diverting Indian (and other markets) parts and production to US market vehicles in order to meet their proclaimed December due date, they could potentially lose domestic sales to competitors by doing so. Mahindra may have to make a tough decision about which market is more important to them and which one they are willing to make sacrifices for; the thriving Indian market, or the unknown (but prestigious) US market.

Sources: LiveMint (WSJ), Bloomberg, Mahindra Planet, & Mahindra Planet

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rally dos Sertoes: Mahindra Action Photos, Stages 1 & 2

The 18th Rally dos Sertoes began Wednesday, August 11th with an arena-format, special stage (called the Super Prime) in the Brazilian city of Goiania. From there, the point to point stages have begun.

So far, so good for the Mahindra entries very early in the race. It’s too early to post positions, but here are some great Super Prime and stage photos of the Mahindra trucks in action courtesy http://www.sertoes.com/ and http://www.mahindra.com.br/

I also threw in a photo of one of the big diesel Ford’s racing at the Super Prime for you Ford fans.  Click photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mahindra Begins Sertoes Rally, Intends to Race Dakar in 2011

The 15-day Rally dos Sertoes begins today in the wilds of Brazil. Rally dos Sertoes is considered one of the toughest long distance adventure rallies in the world, arguably second only to the Dakar Rally.

Last year, Ricardo “Rasc” Campos, put a lightly modified Mahindra TR20 pickup on the podium in the first adventure rally a Mahindra vehicle has ever competed in (unofficially). Last year’s Mahindra entry was a quickly pieced together effort funded by Rasc, the Brazilian Mahindra factory (Mahindra by Bramont), and Mahindra dealer Mahindra-Govesa. Rasc, his son “Rasqhino”, and their Mahindra TR20 endured 3,100 miles over 11 days to finish third in class. A pretty impressive debut for any nearly stock pickup.

For 2010, a more serious team effort has been put together for Sertoes. Two new Mahindra trucks have been built to compete in the Production class. A Mahindra Scorpio SUV will be piloted by Rasc and again co-piloted by 17-year-old Rasqhino. A Mahindra TR40 pickup will be piloted by off-road racing veteran, Joshua Paniago.

In addition to the two new trucks, it appears that last year’s podium finishing TR20 will be brought back and raced by Felipe Paniago.

Both new race trucks are based on the latest production versions of the Scorpio and the TR40 pickup currently being built in Brazil. Production class rules stipulate that the vehicles retain production powertrain and suspension. Accommodations must be made for standard FIA dictated safety equipment such as a full roll cage, fuel cell, racing seats, and harnesses.

Reports also state that at least one of the trucks (the Scorpio?) has been prepared with Dakar Rally rules in mind. Rasc says that he hopes to race a Mahindra in the 2011 Dakar Rally in January. Sertoes may serve as a pre-run for their Dakar effort.

With proven veteran racer Rasc in the driver’s seat, and a serious two-truck effort (plus last year’s truck), the likelihood of Mahindra’s first ever rally victory is a distinct possibility. MP will follow the action and do our best to translate the Portuguese reports (thank you Google translator). Stay tuned.

Correction: Only two Mahindra trucks have been entered in the 2010 Rally dos Sertoes. Last year’s third place in class Mahindra TR20 pickup is once again being run this year, this time with Paniago/Paniago as driver and navigator. A newly prepared Mahindra Scorpio is being piloted by last year’s third place driver and navigator, Campos/Campos. A third truck noted in the post (a Mahindra TR40) is not being raced.
Source: Mahindra Brazil

Monday, August 9, 2010

Collateral Damage: Dealers Caught in the Middle of Mahindra Pickup Delays

Been wondering why 350+ Mahindra dealers have been so quiet? BS Motoring posted a great article this morning, interviewing Mike Geylin (GV spokesman) and Larry Neuwirth of Safeway Chevy (http://www.mahindranc.com/). Actually, it’s probably one of the best news articles I have read from an Indian source on the GV/Mahindra lawsuit, and includes the dealers view on the subject. Sounds like the dealers have low confidence in Mahindra’s ability to market and distribute their vehicles in the US themselves without the use of an intermediary like importer, Global Vehicles USA.

The BS Motoring article is here: Court battle puts a hold on M&M pick-ups

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ssangyong, Nebraska, and Flying Pigs

Ssangyong Motors

Rumor is that Mahindra is prepared to bid $400 million on the barely breathing South Korean automaker, Ssangyong Motors. MP has detailed some of Mahindra’s justification for interest in Ssangyong, including expanding their current range of vehicles: Korean Pickups

“We want to buy it for the world market. We can’t justify buying it only for the Indian market.” - Pawan Goenka, President Automotive Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra

Ssangyong would give Mahindra a turn key line of sedans, SUV’s and additional diesel technology. In some ways the Ssangyong products could be considered a more sophisticated, and a worldlier lineup than the current Mahindra portfolio.

Nebraska Dealers
MP received an anonymous tip about three potential Mahindra dealerships in Nebraska. Two of which are former (and relatively new) Saturn stores run by Dennis Schworer in the Lincoln and Bellevue/Omaha areas. The third dealership may be in the smaller town of Norfork.

The tipster also pointed out that the Bellevue/Omaha dealership is in close proximity to Offutt Air Force Base and suggested that many of the people employed there certainly would’ve had some exposure to diesel vehicles in Europe and Asia. Nebraska has been added to the Dealer Directory.

Thanks, JJ.

New Poll
Check out the new poll on the right sidebar. This is your chance to say what you think about the ethereal vapor which currently is the TR20 and TR40 pickups.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and as hyperlinked

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mahindra v. Winfield, Part II

Unsurprisingly, Winfield has lost. I could gripe about it, but life is too short. If $6 billion international conglomerate, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, wants to waste time and money shaking down some blogger who’s actually an advocate for them instead of spending time getting product on the ground in the US; well that’s their problem.

If Mahindra had taken a few minutes to contact me, a five minute phone call could’ve saved them however many thousands of dollars their attorneys extracted from them, and saved them some negative publicity. Yes, if Mahindra had called me directly instead of assuming I was out to get them and seek arbitration, I would have given them the domain names they wanted on the spot. Sincerely, it’s their loss.

Mahindra Planet is still here, and staying put as far as I am concerned. Mahindra can do what they feel is right and I‘ll keep doing the same. If this website is shut down next week, you will know what happened. A lesson has been learned from my rapid internet education provided by the University of M&M.

At the end of the day, I still want to see Mahindra get those trucks here. I think they will be a great alternative choice for a lot of potential midsize pickup buyers, and they may even snag some sales that would’ve gone to full-size and compact pickups. Whatever you may think of Mahindra or their vehicles, there are no two ways about it; a rugged, midsize diesel pickup is the right product at the right time.

In spite of the flogging, I look forward to Mahindra’s success and anxiously await the eventual arrival of their pickups in the US.

Click here for Mahindra v. Winfield, Part I