Mahindra plans new mass-market SUV; eyes lowest-price slot

Mahindra plans new mass-market SUV; eyes lowest-price slot

After big success of its existing models like Scorpio and XUV 500, auto major Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) is working on a new mass-market sports utility vehicle (SUV) and plans to position it as the lowest-price vehicle in this segment.

The company is currently working on 2-3 platforms for this new SUV, which it plans to launch beginning 2015 at a price even below that of Scorpio, senior executive Pawan Goenka told PTI in an interview here.

Mr Goenka, executive director and president (automotive and farm equipment) at M&M, was here for the World Economic Forum annual meeting, which was held from January 21-25.

The $17-billion multinational Mahindra group, employing over 185,000 people in over 100 countries, is a major player in automotive business through its flagship entity M&M. Besides, it is also present across various other sectors including technology, aerospace, defence, financial services, hospitality, retail and real estate.

"If you look at journey of Mahindras, starting from Scorpio, we basically have pushed the envelope for making the mass market higher in terms of price," said Mr Goenka, who is known as father of the highly successful Scorpio.

Asked what next to expect from M&M in the SUV segment, Mr Goenka said, "When we started selling

Scorpio at about Rs 6 lakh, there was no mass market product being sold at Rs 6 lakh.

"Nothing was sold more than few hundred units at Rs 6 lakh at that time and then we came and sold 3,000-4,000 Scorpios a month at that price," he said.

"Then, when we launched we launched XUV at Rs 12 lakh, again there was no mass market product sold at that price. But we again came in and pushed the envelope. We have done all these," he said.

"Now, going beyond Rs 12 lakh price position is probably unlikely in India right now. There has been a very significant change in the segmentation of this SUV business where the smaller sub-four meter, may be even petrol driven, SUVs are suddenly becoming very popular."

"So for Mahindras, the next big thing would be not to go from Scorpio to XUV to something bigger and more premium, but to come on this end, that is below Scorpio, to see how do we go into the newly created segment of sub-four metre, primarily five-passenger vehicles."

"That is where our next big bet will be," he said.

Asked whether this new vehicle could be the lowest price product in the SUV segment, Mr Goenka replied in affirmative.

About the possible timeline, he said, "We will have 2-3 new platforms that we will be launching starting 2015." Mr Goenka also said that Mahindra group was very active in overseas markets, while the India growth story has also remained intact and the same has been asserted by Indian leaders during WEF summit at Davos, Switzerland.

"There has been this perception that India is falling behind. It's true that India has fallen behind what it is capable of and it has missed some opportunities, but even then about five per cent growth is not something that you can ignore. That message has come through here very clearly," he said.

On British Prime Minister David Cameron saying at Davos that he was proud of JLR growth story being driven by an Indian investment (by Tata group) and Britain inviting more foreign companies to invest in the UK, he said, "In the last couple of months, we (Mahindra group) have had one-on-one meetings with Cameron."

"I was very much impressed that for one small possible investment by Mahindras in the UK he personally met me to demonstrate his support for the same," Mr Goenka said.

"This is kind of changing the way top political leaders are approaching economic growth or to enable economic growth for their country, to go and talk to people from outside the country, that too not for huge investments," he said.

"Even South Korean President Park Geun-hye, during her recent Delhi visit, expressed similar sentiments," he said, adding, "We along with Group Chairman Anand Mahindra, had meetings with her. She was appreciating what Mahindras have done for Ssangyong and in fact she thanked us for investing in Ssangyong at a time nobody else was willing to and for helping the company turn around."

Terming as good signs the appreciation expressed by Mr Cameron here for JLR turnaround and the appreciation by Park for Mahindras, Mr Goenka said, "This shows that Indian business intervention in these developed economies is being appreciated."

"These things add to growth of Indian story when not only Indian products, but also the Indian business and Indian business leadership are getting appreciation outside the country. This will help build the brand India."

"Similarly, in the US when we talked about some small technology investments there, there was a tremendous support from the local governments and other agencies there..."

"All these show that Indian businesses and the Indian business leaders are being appreciated across the world for what they bring in terms of managing and expanding the businesses... A number of top leaders, presidents and prime ministers who have been here, they are talking about these things," he added.

Mr Goenka also said that Indian companies are not shy of making big bets in overseas markets.

"We need to invest in foreign countries, either through organically setting up plants or through acquisitions. That is happening at Indian groups, including at Mahindra."

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