See the USA in a Mahindra? Indian Automaker to Open Detroit-area Plant, Report Says [UPDATE]
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.)
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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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.
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.