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  1. Analysis
March 18, 2019

India’s quiet achiever – the rapid rise of Mahindra

The battle for third place in the Indian market for passenger vehicles is hotting up, with both rivals drawing on foreign subsidiaries to expand their ranges. Tata is well placed to attack the country's traditional number three brand from later in 2019 as new models come on line. For now though, Mahindra is pulling ahead thanks to ever more Ssangyong-derived SUVs.

The battle for third place in the Indian market for passenger vehicles is hotting up, with both rivals drawing on foreign subsidiaries to expand their ranges. Tata is well placed to attack the country’s traditional number three brand from later in 2019 as new models come on line. For now though, Mahindra is pulling ahead thanks to ever more Ssangyong-derived SUVs.

India’s unheralded SUV specialist brand

For such a giant company, Mahindra and Mahindra somehow manages to keep a fairly low profile outside India. The Automotive business unit has been quietly working away on the task of integrating – where logical – platforms and powertrains following its purchase of SsangYong Motor. For a long time there were few signs to outsiders that this was even going on. Lately though, there has been a flurry of activity and more is planned.

Mahinda’s reputation within India and abroad as a brand which makes long-lasting, low priced vehicles – the wildly successful tractor business comes to mind – is enviable. It has segued that into passenger models at home, while also pushing cautiously into a limited number of markets.

Will the Roxor lead to a bigger presence in the US?

In Europe, Italy is one of the few countries where Mahindra vehicles are marketed. Sales there remain at a low level, however. As for the USA, there might be an assembly operation in place but the made-in-Michigan Mahindra isn’t an on-road model, the Roxor being a specialist vehicle. So while the future could be big for this MPV, SUV and 4×4 specialist brand, today things are mostly concentrated on the Indian market as the company rightly sees its chance to keep on growing by becoming entrenched as the number one SUV brand there.

Chasing 10% of a major world market

February was especially encouraging for the brand, its sales rising by a fifth thanks mainly to the arrival of the SsangYong Tivoli-based XUV300. This small crossover logged 4,484 deliveries and dropped straight into the sales charts at position twenty, pushing the always popular Mahindra Scorpio into position twenty one. The Vitara Brezza is the B-SUV segment’s number one model (11,613 deliveries last month) so Maruti Suzuki will be watching this insurgent closely. That also applies to Hyundai (Creta deliveries numbered 10,206 in February) and Tata (Nexon: 5,263).

This year will see a fascinating battle for not just the number three position. Whichever of the two brands ends the year in that place – Mahindra or Tata – should also have moved itself that much closer to HMIL and Maruti. At the end of the first two months, Maruti-Suzuki had logged sales of 276,352 (50.1% market share, +0.2% year-on-year), followed by Hyundai on 88,913 (16.1%, -1.2%), with Mahindra’s 46,919 (8.5%, +10.9%) being more than enough for it to pull away from Tata (35,936, 6.5%, -5.0%). Honda, in fifth place, (31,788, 5.8%, +19%) is the only brand in the top ten beside Maruti and Mahindra to have improved market share this year. 

M&M isn’t saying so publicly yet surely the automotive division has a goal of ending 2019 with market share in double digits, as long as there is healthy profit accompanying it. Considering how well the XUV300 has performed in only its first weeks and looking at the extra models and replacements for existing ones which are coming, fiscal 2019-2020 could be a big one for the company.

Crossovers/SUV

Ironically, one of Mahindra’s oldest models is also its best seller in the Indian market. The Bolero is now in its eighteenth year of production. It has sold solidly in the home market year in, year out. The successor has been pushed back to the 2020s, the company having decided that it can re-engineer the current model to meet new safety and emissions norms. A major facelift is due out later this year.

The Scorpio (Goa in some export markets) is the brand’s number two model at home. The current generation of this body-on-frame SUV has been around since September 2014. Configurations include 7, 8 or 9-seat variants as well as rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive versions. A facelifted Scorpio appeared in November 2017. There should be another update in 2020 and then a successor model in 2023.

The brand’s smallest crossover or SUV is a curious example of a vehicle which can burn way too brightly and then fizzle out. The 3.7m long KUV100 was developed in collaboration with engineers from SsangYong Motor. After it went on sale in January 2016, this low-cost crossover took off: the order bank reached more than 110,000 units in India alone.

Sadly for Mahindra, the KUV one double oh has since crashed to earth, a mere 1,064 having been sold during January and February (-80% YoY). And that was even with what should have been the benefit of a facelift, the nip and tuck and a name modification (KUV100 NXT) taking place as recently as five months ago. The main issues for the model’s sales collapse are thought to be a lack of front-seat legroom for the occupant in the middle; no airbag for that person; a less than state of the art infotainment system and a small screen; so-so handling due to small, narrow tyres; and too much body lean. The little six-seater (3+3) is likely to be given the axe later this year.

As noted earlier, the XUV300 is the brand’s most recently released model. It was developed under the project code of S201 using the architecture of the SsangYong Tivoli. The adaptation saw the donor vehicle shortened so as to bring the length below 4,000mm and therefore subject to a lower Goods & Services Tax in the Indian market. The front and rear were redesigned, but the basic vehicle is a modified Tivoli. The life cycle should be seven years, meaning a facelift during the third quarter of 2022.

What had been presumed to be the successor for the Bolero (it wasn’t) was announced by Mahindra in September 2015. The TUV300 (TUV Three Double O) is a body on frame design. The T stands for Tough and that reflects the aesthetic of the vehicle which has utilitarian styling said to be based upon a military tank. A facelift isn’t expected until the third quarter of 2020, with the replacement probably as far off as 2025.

The TUV300 Plus went on sale in India during June 2018. This 4,400mm long nine-seater crossover is an extended TUV300 (+405mm) and is powered by a 120PS 2.2-litre mHAWKD120 diesel micro-hybrid engine. Its facelift should take place during the fourth quarter of 2021 with a replacement following in 2025.

The next XUV500, due out in 2020, may either use an update of the existing architecture or else the same architecture as the new SsangYong Korando. This could also be the ‘midsize sports utility vehicle (C-SUV)’ named in a 22 March 2018 media statement as being part of a JV with Ford Motor Company.

The SsangYong Rexton was shown to the Indian public in February 2018 at the New Delhi Auto Expo. M&M assembles this ladder-frame SUV locally, fitting it with Mahindra badges and a unique grille and selling it as the Alturas G4. SsangYong may build the Rexton for a decade, facelifting it in 2021 and again in 2024. The same facelift dates would apply for the Mahindra, with production ending around 2027.

There may be another Mahindra SUV above the Alturas G4 too. The ‘Alturas G5‘ would be the brand’s equivalent of SsangYong’s D200 project, a proposed rival for the Kia Mohave/Borrego successor.

MPVs

The Marazzo went on sale last August. It supplements rather than replaces the aged Xylo, another MPV in the same size class and competes against the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, Renault Lodgy and Toyota Innova Crysta. M&M says the vehicle’s name is linked to a word in the Basque language which means shark.

The standard engine at market release in India was a then-new 1.5-litre diesel. Its outputs are 130hp and 300Nm. The Marazzo was the first model for an innovative ladder frame/monocoque platform. What makes it unusual is the transverse positioning of the engine. Mahindra will likely facelift this MPV in 2022 and replace it in 2028.

EVs

Mahindra Electric (the former Mahindra REVA division) is nearing the completion of a project to electrify the KUV100. The eKUV100, a small crossover, was revealed to the public as a prototype at the New Delhi auto expo in February 2018. Production is due to commence in mid-2019. It may even be the case that the company stops building the combustion engine versions and tries to reinvent the KUV100 as an electric-only model, hoping for better things in the market place.

One size up from the eKUV100 will be an electric SUV which is expected to be called eXUV300. This model’s development code is S210. The battery cells should be supplied by LG Chem, with production due to start in India during the middle of next year.

There will likely be yet another electric SUV and this one will be larger than the existing two. To be based on SsangYong’s E100 project, it would likely go on sale from 2021 and be called either eXUV500 or eXUV600.

Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE. That includes various other models not mentioned above, including the Xylo, E-Verito and Thar.

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