By on November 4, 2017

Mahindra KUV100, Image: Mahindra & Mahindra

For the company’s sake, hopefully Mahindra & Mahindra’s second attempt to enter the U.S. market won’t go the same way as the first.

The Indian automaker is reportedly planning a 400,000-square-foot assembly plant in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, and has scheduled a press conference with government officials for November 20th. As we all know, local representatives and their higher-ups don’t like braving the cold unless there’s a promise of jobs and cameras.

A previous attempt to tap into the U.S. market went nowhere, ending in a lawsuit. If this plan comes to fruition, it would make Mahindra’s auto plant the first built in the Detroit area in decades — and would provide American consumers with some new SUV options.

According to Automotive News, Mahindra did not include a production timeline in its advisory.

The automaker, one of India’s largest, already operates a technical center in nearby Troy, Michigan. While it remains the world’s largest tractor manufacturer, the company is increasingly anxious to spread its passenger vehicles to new markets. (It also holds out hope of securing the contract for the next U.S. Postal Service mail delivery vehicle.)

Mahindra Bolero

Reports in Bloomberg and The Times of India in recent days pointed towards a looming American announcement, though little information was contained within. The Indian publication asserts that Mahindra wants to build sport-utility vehicles at the future Michigan plant.

SUVs are what Americans want, and that just happens to be the automaker’s main focus — overseas, its Bolero, Xylo, XUV500, TUV300, and KUV100 do battle with vehicles in the subcompact to full-size class. With product in the bag, that leaves public interest and regulator certification as Mahindra’s top U.S. concerns.

A decade ago, Mahindra had a dealer network and distributor all lined up. The plan — to sell an imported diesel pickup (subject to the 25 percent “chicken tax”) and other vehicles assembled from tax-avoiding knockdown kits — never came to pass. Dealers pointed the finger at Mahindra, suing the company in 2012, while the automaker accused its U.S. distributor of messing the whole thing up. The case is still working its way through the courts.

Update and correction — The lawsuits were dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, meaning the legislation has been terminated and is no longer pending. We regret the error.

[Images: Mahindra & Mahindra]

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61 Comments on “See the USA in a Mahindra? Indian Automaker to Open Detroit-area Plant, Report Says [UPDATE]...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    A U.S. factory would seem to make entering the pickup market a no-brainer.

    I like the Bolero, very reminiscent of the G-Wagon, only with what look to be Walmart wheel covers. Some decent wheels would go a long way to making it an attractive off-roader.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      @John Taurus- agreed.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Step 1: Remove hubcaps.
      Step 2: Toss hubcaps in ‘art bin’.
      Step 3: Wipe down wheels.

      If you like silver, you’re done! If you want black (I think I would), pull ’em, mask the tires, and do a couple coats with a rattle can.

      Hey, if it’d be taken down fire roads (or equivalent) on a regular basis, steelies are perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I was going to say, I’d prefer steel wheels on a rig like that. Silver would be great.

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          Agreed. Silver or black, they just work:

          http://www.publiqzone.com/photos/main/21-9-11212315-10152970587347981-2067938786-n.jpg

          http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/attachments/4×4-vehicles/1306855d1415441428-my-first-uv-mahindra-bolero-lx-4×4-20141031_132800.jpg

          They just look right on something so utilitarian. Being able to tackle potholes, rocks, and curbs without (as much) fear is a bonus.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            None of you guys had a look at their website…

            here’s the breakdown…

            its about $12,000 usd in a random province I selected, perhaps there’s some local taxes included.

            Obviously this car satisfies no international safety or emissions requirements.

            The truck is typically 4 meters long, at over 1,600kg (say 3,500lb) with an amazing 70hp 150lb/ft torque out of an antiquated 1.5 liter turbo diesel triple.

            Top speed is an face melting 75mph and 0-60mph is in 30 secs (thirty seconds!)

            Oh and its rwd only. This car would not be acceptable in many developing nations.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Consider me intrigued by the Bolero as well. Like you said, drop the stupid hubcaps, throw on a steel bumper to replace that cheap looking monstrosity, and we’re in business.

      And I certainly hope they’d make a new attempt to bring one of their ill-fated pickups over, one of them would fit my parents’ needs perfectly. 4WD with low bed sides, and fairly cheap.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    They’re a tractor manufacturer?

    They should go straight to supercars.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Yep-underestimate them…just like everybody did with the Koreans.

    Any half decent SUV/CUV with a competitive price point will sell here.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They have to build the plant first. Then they have to equip it and hire people who know how to run it. They also have to have product that meets US standards. Then they have to wait for their previous franchise attempt to be settled before they can set up a new distribution network.

      How long will that take? I’m guessing at least four years, and who knows what Mahindra’s management and financials will look like? Then there’s the fickle US market – will subcompact to full size CUVs/SUVs still be driving the market? Even if they are, how quickly will an unknown foreign nameplate catch on?

      Mahindra had better be playing a very long game, and have the management stability and financial heft to stick it out. Just ask Peugeot and Renault.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        There is no reason they have to wait for the mess that Global Vehicles created. But yes if they want to build a plant from scratch they are looking at least 2+ years before they could actually start production, and of course they will need a product that meets all US regulations, which may mean basically all new vehicles to meet crash standards.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Nobody underestimated the Koreans.

      They produced dreadful cars that became less dreadful after several iterations.

      While I would own one before buying a Toyota (Tacoma and Land Cruiser excepted), I wouldn’t really be excited about buying one. I say this as someone who once owned a Hyundai, which worked fine besides being boring, spartan, and boring.

      • 0 avatar
        CKNSLS Sierra SLT

        Garrett- I bought my wife a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport XL. The thing stickered at $38,000.00 I paid $31,000.00. It’s anything but spartan inside-and it’s about as sporting (or boring) as the competition. It was thousand less than a Highlander or Pilot.

        Just got back from a long vacation in it. Salt lake City to Monument Valley-to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Grand Canyon through the “Arizona strip” to St.George, Utah and return to the Salt Lake area.

        The vehicle was comfortable, and had zero squeaks or rattles. Very pleased with the purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          That’s a late model. Look how long it took the Koreans to get to that point.

          Between getting a factory up and running, designing cars to meet American standards, and improving the cars enough to impress Americans, it’s going to take years for Mahindra to get established.

          The Koreans are at the end of a very long process of development and acceptance, and they had the industrial base at home and the financial wherewithal to stick it out over more than a decade. Does Mahinda have that?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        This. How many Hyundai Excels are still on the road today compared to say, the wretched J car of the era. Those cars got better but Hyundai was in it for the long game.

  • avatar

    If we can get another car factory in Detroit AND a Bolero for sale in the U.S. (62 HP diesel, manual, pickup truck, please), then I will welcome our Indian friends with a moderately-sized stack of cash.

  • avatar
    sgtjmack

    What an ugly,… Curly box on wheels. The hood looks like a Sidekick from back in the day. The doors look like some sort of safari vehicle.

    Good luck to them, but I believe the construction company will be the only winners.

    Yes, the Korean vehicles are a big seller now, but they arrived in the late 80’s, when most of the cars on the market were rattle boxes and a little more reliable and fuel efficient than the Hyundai brand. I don’t think this company has a very good reputation around the world when it comes to automobiles. Tractors are a different story. But Hyundai sold their cars at half price, as well as gave away an Excel when you bought another car, we only had to pay the taxes. Hyundai wanted to get their cars on the roads, even though they weren’t that reliable.

    But in today’s climate where there are tons of really great looking cars that are quite reliable, this brand is going to have a long, tough up hill battle trying to enter the market.

    • 0 avatar

      It is actually exactly like a big Sidekick or Samurai. It is one of Mahindra’s oldest models, and it would be impossible to sell in the U.S. The only safety features it has are seatbelts on some, but not all of the seats. Mahindra has several more modern vehicles, but I suspenct even those would require considerable work to be suitable for the U.S. market. But dammit I want a Bolero pickup truck, or a Supro mini truck.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “in today’s climate where there are tons of really great looking cars”

      I disagree with this statement.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    “Is that your car?”

    “No, it’s my hindrance.”

  • avatar

    Did Zastava or Lada also build plants in US and how it ended? One thing I am sure about buyers will line up to buy cheap disposable SUVs. Bring Niva here too.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    If Mahindra sets up shop in the US the vehicles will not be cheap.

    In Australia the Chinese and Indian vehicles are around 60-75% the cost of a mainstream vehicle of similar use.

    You will not get near that if product is US made.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Again, why not?

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Because. Somehow I don’t think the US can produce a basic diesel dual cab 4×4 pickup for $20k or so USD like we pay for an Indian made one.

        Geez, if you did everyone would buy US vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          My Frontier crew cab was 23k and that was with some degree of comforts (AC, CD Player) and it had the 4.0 and was built by Americans. Dropping an agricultural grade diesel in such a truck wouldn’t make it much more and the Mahindras I have driven aren’t even on the same planet refinement wise as even that old Frontier. 20K seems doable and if I am honest, overpriced given the competition unless they have put out a new truck in the past 2 years that is a leap in refinement and assembly quality.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Sierra,
    We have Mahindra products in Australia and they have far from set the auto market on fire.

    Ours are Indian made and dirt cheap, think diesel 4×4 dual cab pickup for a little more than $20k. And Mahindra does not sell many.

    If Mahindra made any of these vehicles in the US, even cheaper than the cheapest equivalent they definitely will not sell.

    I wonder what product Mahindra has for the US market to sell at an overpriced point?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Are you aware that to an American, cars sold in Australia, or UK, or France, or Brazil, or Germany, are horrendously overpriced? We must be spoiled, because our car prices are lower than the rest of the world. We complain about regulations and taxes, but we must be pikers compared to other countries. It’s not just cars, but Americans shop for and buy EVERYTHING on lowest price. If Mahindra can meet the standards and underprice the competition, they’ll sell. Whether they can make money is another question.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Lorenzo,
        I don’t know.

        What I do know is comparable cars that sell in Australia are not that far off the US price and some could be cheaper. A lot has to do with our exchange rate.

        Cars that don’t move are more expensive.

        Also trim levels are different. Also you only see recommended retail pricing.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Isn’t there a plant in Bloomington, IL that Mahindra could buy on the cheap? Tell new employees: “No UAW, 12$ an hour to stat.”

    • 0 avatar

      There is an abandoned Mack truck plant in Winnsboro, SC. They could fill all positions for $7.25 an hour as long as they stay away from drug testing and attendance policies.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The Mitsubishi plant in Bloomington was sold in January to an EV car maker, Rivian. They’ve sold off the equipment and plan to start EV production from scratch.

      A lot of the old, obsolete plants owned by Detroit companies were torn down. The 56 buildings that constituted Dodge Main at Hamtramck were all razed by GM and a single, one story plant was built in its place, expanded into a Detroit neighborhood that was razed for the expansion.

      Modern auto plants need acres of space and proximity to rail, with huge areas for production overflow lots. Chrysler’s Windsor plant covers 3 million square feet, almost 70 acres for just the plant! Any auto company occupying the old plants is stuck with old methods of assembly, so it’s better to find clear acreage elsewhere and built a new plant.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Packard Plant

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Hah. It’s a multi-story, long narrow series of buildings stretched in a line over several blocks, built in 1902, totally unsuited to modern auto assembly and in advanced state of decay. The property was sold to yet another entrepreneur trying to make a go of reuse of the property, because it would cost a fortune to tear it all down.

    • 0 avatar
      nationalminer84

      yeah see people in this country have these pesky things called rights. you can’t tell them they can’t unionize. and good luck getting reliable, drug free autoworkers for $12 an hour. the non union plants pay around $20 to start…..

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        You, and I used to, have a right to unionize. A factory that is started without a union would have to have the UAW voted in. The UAW has failed miserably in the southern states. I live in the western suburbs of D.C. and the US Post Office is almost hiring mail carriers. In small town USA, those mail carrier jobs are coveted. In a lot of rural areas, 12$ jobs would be most welcome. At 20$ Bubba/Sissy would think they hit the blue collar lottery.

  • avatar
    The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

    Mahindra will have many hurdles to overcome. First and foremost is the reluctance of buyers to be the first guinea pigs to spend tens of thousands on an unknown brand. The funny-sounding name is second only to Ssangyong in strangeness to the American ear.
    They will have the challenge of either overcoming their weird designs or embracing them, and having to choose pretending to be upmarket or undercutting the competition. Fortunately for Mahindra, Hyundai has abandoned the role of cheapest in the market.
    Current trends are SUVs now and electric, self-driving cars in the future. Is Mahindra ready for the transition?

    • 0 avatar
      Sceptic

      Some other quite funny names: TOYota, NISSan, FOrd, HyUnDaI, CRYslur
      All of them are funny until you get used to them.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Norm, are you using a new name? “The funny-sounding name is second only to Ssangyong in strangeness to the American ear.” Yeah,there’s a nice little bit of racism on Sunday afternoon. Their “weird designs” will have to meet US safety standards and the market will be the final arbiter on their “weird designs”. Hyundai/Kia (H/K) broke into the US market selling cheap and lamentable cars. See any Excels or Pony’s running around today? H/K is making high-quality vehicles that are competitive in their segments and are usually the lowest price in their segment. That, as a rule, applies across the H/K lineups. Mahindra already makes SUV’s, they just need to meet US safety regulations. Electric just that, a trend. Most of us stop at the mini-mart and fill up. Self-driving cars are still in the experimental stage. Lawyers and lobbyists will get involved when they’re ready for ‘prime time”. The question really is: “Which manufacturer will get most of all of these (electric, self-driving) right.

      • 0 avatar
        2manycars

        How can stating that a name is unfamiliar-sounding possibly be considered to be “racism?” I know that a certain part of the political spectrum sees racists lurking behind every door, inside every closet, and under every bed, but you’re setting the bar ludicrously low.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          It’s all in the semantics. He didn’t say “unfamiliar” he said “funny sounding name”. “Funny sounding name” implies disapproval at some level or that it isn’t in his accepted “norm”. Being able to read and respond coherently is a wonderful thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “Yeah,there’s a nice little bit of racism on Sunday afternoon.”

        Racism is a thing in the US. It used possible to pretend racism was history, but it’s been on naked & erect display for the last year or so.

        Racism is a moral failing, especially for a nation which claims “all men are created equal” as one if its founding principles. But racism is also just something you just have to work around, if you want to market anything to broad swaths of the American public.

        American values are aspirational.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    Just don’t name a model ‘H1B.’

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Let’s hope they’re not as creative as the Japanese, who gave us Corolla, Corona, Cressida, and Camry. Nissan, formerly Datsun, wanted to call its 2.4 Litre sports car “Fair Lady”, because the movie My Fair Lady was very popular in Japan.

      The Americn importer told them to call the displacement 240 and add the letter Z, to make the 240Z a hit. No telling how many people would have bought a sports car named Fair Lady.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        Eh, they got the last laugh since the Fairlady is an iconic marque that’s been around for 40 years now.

        At least all of Toyota’s car names are words, can’t say the same about Aztek, Cruze, Ecosport, or Trax that those American geniuses came up with.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          True. Pickup is a word in English along with a few others. Camry? Not a word in English. bB? xB? FT-86? Celica? Previa? (well, those have Latin origins.

          What was that about geniuses?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Actually they did sell the Fair Lady in the US as that was the name they originally sold their Roadster under. So the dropping of that moniker came before the Z car and the Z car was sold as the Fair Lady Z in Japan.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          A Navy buddy bought the model previous to the 240Z, nameplated as the 2000. He bought it new in Los Angeles and the dealer had just finished taking the Fairlady metal plate off it and replaced it with the 2000 metal tag. They were shipped with the metal Fairlady tag, but the dealers removed them before sale, since they weren’t selling. Dealers did the same thing with an earlier 1.6 litre model, calling it the 1600, and removing the Fairlady tag.

          I worked with a guy who owned a 1967 Pontiac Bonneville he bought new, and it had the LeMans tag on it. He Called it a LEE-mans, but it was the full sized Bonneville. Apparently the dealer changed the model plate. He didn’t realize it until another co-worker parked his ’67 Bonneville next to it. They didn’t make the LeMans in 1967, and the dealer filled the demand for the old model (there was a new platform in 1968) with some nameplate switching.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Slight correction: they didn’t make MANY of the Tempest, GTO and LeMans in 1967, since the next year’s model was a major change and they shut down production early. This one dealer ran out of LeMans models and suckered my co-worker into buying a full sized Bonneville.

            I hope this story didn’t crush anyone’s faith in auto dealers!

  • avatar
    threeer

    All for more manufacturing in America, though not sure this would find many buyers and thus have a short life-span for those that were hired.

  • avatar
    Syke

    If they’re willing to start small, there’s a very easy way to get going in the US: Every one of your tractor dealers gets the franchise for the SUV’s.

    From what I understand, Mahindra tractors have a good reputation. Now start selling the small trucks to those self-same farmers who are already using them. Build from there. Make sure all your first generation trucklets are actually trucks, not butched-up economy cars. Make sure they’re priced right.

    Under those conditions, they’ll sell. A few thousand the first year, but growing every year. Word of mouth from a bunch of happy owners who actually use them like trucks will be great advertising.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Complete Knockdown Kit is the only possibility to manufacture in that small of space. Truly assembly only. Not even a paint shop I’d expect.


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