Mahindra & Mahindra's ambitious foray in the United States, a first by an Indian automobile company, is to take place by the year-end, with the launch of a couple of compact diesel-driven, pick-up truck models.
The US is the world's largest pick-up truck market, with annual sales of more than 13 million units. The compact truck market is about 240,000 units currently and expected to grow to 300,000 units by next year, according to M&M.
India's largest company in the utility vehicle market, it will make the foray with a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, common rail diesel engine, mounted on a Scorpio platform. It will have six-speed automatic transmission and be available with two-door and four-door options.
These will be initially made at the Chakan facility (near Pune) in Maharashtra and exported to the US. This would then be followed by a local production operation in the US, with the assistance of a local partner.
M&M's original plan for venturing into the US market featured a launch by December 2008. This was delayed due to the recessionary buying trends hitting purchases in the US, followed by delay in getting a go-ahead from emission-related authorities.
M&M expects to gain certification from the US Environmental Protection Agency by July. Production of these vehicles will begin in September, followed by the launch in late December. Till date, the company has built 175 prototypes in India and tested 30 in the US.
Currently, no pick-up manufacturer offers a diesel option and M&M hopes to gain from this. It expects to garner 5-7 per cent market share in the initial 12 months. The first two pick-up trucks will have a 1.32-tonne and 1.38-tonne payload.
The company says the 30 miles per gallon (12.75 km per litre) the vehicle would offer is 25 per cent better than current compact trucks. Its competitors will be Toyota's Tacoma, Ford's Ranger GM's Colarado and Nissan's Frontier.
The company has decided not to give the vehicle a name yet. It will be called the TR20 and TR40, depending on the model. "Since we're new, we want to emphasise that the truck is just branded Mahindra," said Pawan Goenka, president, auto and farm equipment operations.
The launch of the pick-up line will be followed by the introduction of the sports utility version of the Scorpio by December next year. Its new SUV, currently being tested, will also be launched in 2012. The vehicle will be launched in India next year.
A four-door, pick-up version of the Xylo multi-utility vehicle is also expected to be launched in 2012. The company is reportedly working on a gas electric hybrid vehicle for the US market which could be launched by 2013.