After a gap of 20 years, Indian auto maker Mahindra is back in Australia.
"Mahindra Utes initially will be available only in New South wales but the dealer network will include Queensland within a month or two," importer Michael Tynan, who has been a car dealer for more than 40 years, said, adding that while dealers in other states and territories are likely to be appointed by October.
Having dabbled in the boat importing business in the 1980's, it is Tynan's first foray into car importing.
Tynan said he became involved with Mahindra after representatives from the company approached him over twenty years ago. "They came knocking on my door. I'm not sure why they did, but they did," Tynan was qouated as saying in The Sydney Morning Herald.
"I told them I was a car dealer, not an importer, but they were adamant that I consider representing the brand locally," he said.
Tynan admits he had concerns about the quality of Indian-made vehicles before he began talks with Mahindra. "I had a perception of Indian vehicles which worried me (but representatives from Mahindra) were pretty insistent, so I had one of my senior staff go over and have a look at their cars and their factory two years ago. He rang me from there and said I should get on a plane and get over there because it wasn't as bad as we were expecting."
Mahindra UTES have not been tested by the independent crash test body, NCAP, but Tynan said he will happily donate a car to be tested and auditors can select a car randomly from his stock to ensure it is an indicative sample of a customer car.
Mahindra UTES are priced from $23,990 for a single-cab 2WD model to $29,990 for a dual-cab 4WD model.
All models are powered by a 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine (79kW of power and 247Nm of torque) with a five-speed manual transmission.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, power steering, power windows, a CD player and remote locking. Airbags and anti-lock brakes are not available until early next year.
The company expects to sell about 600 vehicles in its first year and 200 cars have been ordered from the factory for distribution to dealers. The first 50 vehicles were delivered to dealers this week and Tynan says dealers have taken eight customer orders so far.
"We are not a threat to anyone, we are a blip on the radar," he said adding "We just want to sell a few UTES." Mahindra expects rural customers will account for most sales. There are 12 dealers in rural NSW and three in metropolitan Sydney.
Six months ago Mahindra supplied two UTES for testing to the Nyngan farming community west of Dubbo.
"The farmers did 6000 km in each vehicle and tried to break them but couldn't," Tynan said.
"The only thing we've done is move the exhaust so it wasn't as vulnerable to damage, and there's a shield on part of it now. People talk about harsh Australian conditions, but you should see some of the roads in India. I think their road conditions are 20 times worse than ours" he added.
Mahindra vehicles are covered by a three-year, 100,000 km warranty.