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New Mahindra models on horizon

Auto boost: Mahindra is working to add a much-needed automatic transmission option to its XUV500 SUV in Australia.

Indian brand Mahindra’s Australian subsidiary plans for mid-term growth

29 Apr 2014

MAHINDRA Australia’s decision last week to slash the entry price of its utilitarian Pik-Up utility range to $18,990 driveaway was the first step in a plan to boost sales by broadening its local range, increasing its dealer network and adding new-generation global models from early 2016.

According to Mahindra Automotive Australia (MAA) national manager Mahesh Kaskar, the factory-backed local distributor has a medium-term plan to increase its local presence firstly by introducing an automatic version of its struggling XUV500 SUV, likely before year’s end.

Meantime, the company will also look to increase its dealer network from about 30 to 50 sites, with a particular focus on improving its presence in South Australia and Western Australia.

“To be very honest with you it’s (Australia) one of the most competitive markets in the world, and a brand like us without the complete product range and which, I’d say, is still a non-name for most Australians, is the biggest challenge, first of all to convince them about Mahindra and the products,” said Mr Kaskar.

The network boost will set the company up to handle a new generation of the Pik-Up due here in 2016. This new Pik-Up, far from being a utilitarian farm-friendly special, will be a global design pitched firmly at western markets, potentially with a five-star safety rating.

“I can only make a statement that next Pik-Up will be in a true sense a global pick-up with all the safety and features … to a global standard,” said Mr Kaskar.

Furthermore, Mahindra is understood to be investing significant sums in developing a spate of new products to be built at a new plant near Tamil Nadu, commencing with a small SUV to rival the Ford EcoSport, codenamed S101.

Other models in the pipeline include a mid-sized SUV codenamed U101, a global MPV codenamed W202 and a P601 light truck.

When asked if Mahindra’s local subsidiary planned to introduce some of these vehicles in the mid-term, Mr Kaskar said “for sure”.

“Right now we’re working in getting (XUV) 500 in auto version, but having said that, there is a totally different product platform Mahindra is getting ready that we will be launching, but before that we’re taking new dealers we’re getting onboard to India to showcase products for Australia.

“Basically we’re handicapped not having an auto, because 90 per cent of industry is auto, we are actually with that new product getting into mainstream SUV segment.

“Basically the whole idea is to become a little more aggressive, because the whole industry is getting very aggressive and we thought in order to differentiate us … we needed to be a little different.

“The price cut is just one part of it. Definitely we will be introduce some new products, rationalise (our) product portfolio, and we are working also on increasing our dealer network.

“We are trying to focus on having 50 dealers by year’s end (end of financial year, March 31) ... basically we are right now focusing on three to four states only, but trying to improve our network in SA and WA.”

Mr Kaskar said Mahindra would also refocus its approach to selling its two separate commercial vehicle lines, targeting the utilitarian Pik-Up at underground mining fleets without five-star safety requirements – the vehicle currently has a three-star rating – and the Genio at tradespeople.

“We have two pick-ups: we will focus Genio mainly for tradies because of its big 2.7m tray, whereas Pik-Up will be mainly for mining and farming, because it has better off-road capability to exploit,” said Mr Kaskar.

“We’d like to be more dealer specific (but) we are not in a position for nationwide marketing yet.”

Mahindra does not submit sales figures to industry statistician VFACTS, though it is expected to do so soon. Mr Kaskar said the company sold between 400 and 500 vehicles last year.

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