Via Venkig (on our spiffy new News Tab), I see that the Indian car company Mahindra & Mahindra will soon be selling a line of SUVs and pickup trucks in the U.S. Though Mahindra is already well-established in the U.S. as a seller of tractors, there’s a fair amount of skepticism as to whether the company can break into what is already a pretty crowded market:
Mahindra & Mahindra, a conglomerate based in Mumbai, intends to find out. In spring, 2009, the company plans to launch two- and four-door pickups and a sport-utility vehicle in the U.S. This trio of diesel-powered trucks will compete against a big pack of aggressively promoted offerings from General Motors, Ford, Dodge, Nissan, and Toyota. All of these manufacturers have been warring over a domestic pickup market that is shrinking and a SUV market that’s overcrowded.
Skepticism abounds. Trucks in the U.S. are sold with imagery of waving flags, macho companionship, and brawny workers showing off feats of towing strength to the sound of John Mellencamp anthems. Buyers tend to be loyal, practical traditionalists. (link)
The reasons Mahindra trucks might have a chance are 1) they’re aiming pretty low initially, and will come in with a small number of trucks and a modest marketing budget; and 2) gas mileage:
But at a time of soaring gas prices, Mahindra’s vehicles are going to have one big thing in their favor: superior fuel economy. Despite diesel’s historic brown image, it is emerging as a green technology. New low-sulfur fuel, federally mandated in 2006, can produce mileage figures that nearly equal those of more fashionable hybrids. Mahindra estimates that its compact SUV, the Scorpio, and pickups, one of which will be called the Appalachian, will get about 30 miles per gallon in the city and as much as 37 on the highway. That compares with 30 city/34 highway for the $27,000 Ford Escape SUV hybrid and 21 city/27 highway for the gas-powered $23,000 Toyota RAV4. (link)
A cheap SUV that gets 30 miles per gallon city? Sign me up! That appeals to me economically as well as environmentally. (I’m now an official member of the rather absurd class of people who want an SUV for practical reasons — try stuffing a jogger stroller into the trunk of a mid-size sedan — but is ambivalent about actually buying one because of the low gas mileage.)
What do you think, does Mahindra have a shot at selling pickup trucks and SUVs in the American market? Would you consider buying a “Mahindra Appalachian”?
(For readers in India, does anyone have a Mahindra Scorpio? How is it?)