Indian Automaker Mahindra Entering U.S. Market

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. will start selling a line of SUVs and trucks in the U.S. in 2009.

ATLANTA (AP) - Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. unveiled Thursday a line of sport utility vehicles and trucks that it plans to start selling in the United States in 2009.

The roughly 50,000 vehicles Mahindra is expected to manufacture in India and sell in the U.S. the first year will enter a crowded market.

But Mahindra and its U.S. importer, Global Vehicles USA Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., say the Mahindra vehicles will be set apart by their sleek design, affordability and fuel efficiency.

''The consumers are really looking for something like this, particularly with the prices at the pump,'' William Goetze, president of Global Vehicles, told reporters at a gathering at an Atlanta airport hotel to display the Mahindra line.

Final pricing has not been determined, but Mahindra's 2-door single-cab pickup truck will be offered in the low $20,000 range and its 4-door truck and 5-door SUV, which seats seven, will be in the mid-$20,000 range. A high-end version of the 4-door truck will be in the high $20,000 range, Goetze said.

All U.S. vehicles will feature common rail diesel engines, six-speed automatic transmissions with two or four wheel drive depending on the model and 4-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranties.

Each is expected to get between 28 miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon, officials said.

Model names for the trucks are still being determined, but the SUV that will be sold in the U.S. is Mahindra's popular Scorpio model.

More than 200 dealers have been appointed to distribute Mahindra vehicles across the U.S.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Mahindra's warranty and pricing are in line with other vehicles in their category, but the diesel engines could help them achieve the fuel efficiency they are promising.

''There's no reason that a company like Mahindra cannot be successful here in the right market niche, but the competition is very tough,'' Cole said.

Cole said the labor cost savings Mahindra may enjoy by producing its vehicles in India are not as valuable today as they were in the past because of increased productivity in the industry.

''But I'm never going to say it can't be done,'' Cole said. ''They're a solid company. Other companies have come and been very successful here, but it is a challenge.''

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., which also makes jeeps and tractors, is known for aggressively pricing its vehicles.

It has tractor manufacturing plants in Calhoun, Ga., and Red Bluff, Calif. Its U.S. trucks and SUVs will be made in Mumbai and imported to the United States.


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