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Mahindra confident on future mobility

Premium push: A production car based on the Mahindra XUV Aero concept is likely, demonstrating the company’s confidence in technology and design.

In-house IT firm, Pininfarina stake place Mahindra well for EV, autonomous car boom

9 May 2016

THE automotive division of Indian industrial conglomerate Mahindra believes its global IT arm, the recent acquisition of Italian design house and coachbuilder Pininfarina, its Formula E racing team and last month’s European launch of its first electric passenger vehicle provide it with the perfect platform to make serious waves in the field of future mobility, including autonomous cars.

In addition, Mahindra has bold intentions for future products including a strong desire to put a coupe-SUV into production, based on the striking XUV Aero unveiled at the Delhi Auto Expo in February this year.

Visiting Australia for a media preview of the automatic XUV500 in Brisbane last week, Mahindra Automotive CEO Pravin Shah told Australian journalists he sees the company as becoming “future-ready”.

“We have launched nine products in the past 12 months. No other company would dream of that but we were fortunate in successfully launching them, and three of them were totally ground-up new-platform vehicles,” he said.

“We have acquired Pininfarina keeping in mind the future trends in automobiles, which are towards autonomous vehicles. It means digital will have to play a vital role. We have Tech Mahindra – also present in Australia and NZ – which along with Pininfarina surely helps us to get ready for the future and have products that are futuristic and differentiating.

“Behind that acquisition was strategy and how we are getting future-ready.

Mahindra is the only company in India that has seen the future is not conventional petrol and diesel, but alternative fuel vehicles which include electric vehicles.”

To this end, the Mahindra e20 electric car’s first export market was Britain, with the model launched in London last month and capable of a 160km battery range. Mahindra acquired a controlling stake in Indian EV developer Reva before renaming the company Mahindra EV.

46 center imageLeft: Mahindra Automotive CEO Pravin Shah.Mr Shah said Mahindra would consider bringing EVs to Australia “subject to infrastructure and government support”.

“I have seen some other companies doing it and having a difficult time. I am sure going forward, as Mahindra builds a portfolio of EV products, time will surely bring opportunities to come to this market,” he said.

The e20 includes a patented ‘revive’ function that enables emergency reserve energy to be released for an extra 10km of range if the driver gets stuck with a flat battery, but must be activated remotely by Mahindra at the driver’s request, with uses limited to preserve the battery pack’s life.

Mr Shah also highlighted the forays of Silicon Valley giants Google and Apple into the automotive arena as reasons why Mahindra could become a contender in the autonomous mobility field.

“Did you ever think Google would talk about the autonomous car, with no automotive background?” posed Mr Shah.

“Mahindra Tech is one of the top six IT businesses, we have our own very innovative design house with Pininfarina and we have expertise in the automotive arena. The combination of all three lends us to a prestigious, differentiating opportunity for the group where we can move towards the future of mobility.”

Asked about the role of Pininfarina, Mr Shah explained that Mahindra had worked with the iconic Italian firm on product development in the past. And pointed to the three designs produced for potential future Formula E racers.

He emphasised that the BMW X6-inspired XUV Aero concept was a product of Mahindra’s own female design chief Ramkripa Ananthan, but that “since it was a show car we wanted it executed right so it was executed by Pininfarina”.

Asked by GoAuto whether the XUV Aero previewed a future production car, with a glint in his eye Mr Shah said: “Generally as a philosophy we don’t produce show cars just for the sake of participating in this.”

He agreed that it would more closely associate Mahindra with premium marques that have coupe-SUVs in their ranges such as BMW and Mercedes.

“You are heading in the right direction with this thinking, and we have also supported the opportunity and possible success for us in that space,” he said.

“It is a concept that can carry for us in our product plans.”

Mr Shah said Mahindra sees the segmentation between SUVs and passenger cars as converging, but plans to remain an SUV and ute specialist in the mould of Jeep and Land Rover, despite the e20 – essentially a bought-in design from Reva – resembling a conventional passenger car.

He used the XUV500 as an example of a vehicle with passenger car-like monocoque construction that “has all-wheel-drive and can tackle the most difficult terrain”.

“We continue to be an organisation that listens to customers in the markets where we are present and right from the start of the product development process, we understand customers’ unmet demands and requirements and put them on the drawing board to create an iterative process that helps us meed the desires of customers,” Mr Shah told assembled journalists.

“It has helped us to keep our leadership position in our home market and become a brand of choice in global markets.”

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