5 Big Challenges for Mahindra & Mahindra

Snapshot – Mahindra’s last big success was not an all-new vehicle, but instead was the re-skinned Scorpio SUV. The Indian automaker, known best for its range of utility vehicles, is under attack. A slew of compact SUVs will make a foray into India, and will gun straight for the jugulars of Mahindra’s best sellers such as the Scorpio and the XUV500. Apart from the Bolero MUV, which isn’t likely to see any major new competition, the rest of Mahindra’s UV range needs critical care to sustain the volumes amid rising competition. Here’s a wrap on the five challenges that Mahindra will soon have to face.

Will the buyer dig a ladder framed compact SUV?

Mahindra U301 Bolero MUV Render
CarToq’s speculative render of the U301 Mahindra Bolero Compact SUV, which is due for late 2015 launch

The upcoming, U301 Mahindra Bolero is a compact, sub-4 meter offering with a crucial difference. Thge SUV uses a ladder frame chassis while the rest of the compact SUV market digs monocoque bodies. While Mahindra will attempt to sell the U301 as a more rugged alternate to the likes of the Ford Ecosport and the Renault Duster, is the market for such a vehicle large enough to bring home 5,000 units a month?

Well, the buyers of the Bolero, the de-facto semi urban and rural king, aren’t expected to shift to the U301 enmasse as the new UV is smaller, and seems designed to attract compact SUV buyers from urban India. Will the U301 Bolero become another Quanto, or will Mahindra undercut pricing to make the SUV very attractive to buyers? This is one challenge that the automaker will have to face head on.

A 1.5 liter twin turbo diesel engine could give the U301 Bolero enough juice for decent performance while an AMT option could make it the darling of city SUV buyers. Mahindra is likely to stuff the new offering with plenty of features and creature comforts. A 5+2 seating layout will also be offered, while rear wheel drive layout would be standard. If Mahindra offers a four wheel drive system, this SUV could attract the road trippers too.

Electric vehicles not taking off, but hybrids aren’t on the horizon yet

Mahindra Reva E2O Electric Car

Mahindra showed the XUV500 Diesel Hybrid concept way back in early 2014, at the Auto Expo of that year. However, a production version of this concept is yet to materialize. Electric cars, subsidies notwithstanding, aren’t working for Mahindra & Mahindra, but hybrids could be the next big thing.

Mahindra XUV500 Diesel Hybrid

Maruti Suzuki is keen on building India’s most fuel efficient car – the 48.2 Kmpl Swift Hybrid. Tata Motors is also said to be working on hybrid cars. Amid all this, Mahindra will stand to lose its first mover advantage if it doesn’t bring forward hybrid versions of its cars. Only pure electric will not do.

Where are the Ssangyongs?

Ssangyong Tivoli

Mahindra’s range of SUvs such as the Scorpio and XUV500 are quite rugged but not as refined as say a Ford Ecosport or a Renault Duster. The arrival of the Hyundai Creta and the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross may further put pressure on the Scorpio and the XUV500.

2014 Ssangyong Korando C SUV Facelift 7

Mahindra does have a bunch of refined SUVs that can take on the likes of the Ford Ecosport and the Hyundai Creta. One is the Ssangyong Tivoli and the other is the Korando. However, the automaker hasn’t yet announced the new Ssangyongs for India. This delay could hurt the company until it takes the premium route in the compact SUV space.

Where are the automatics?

scorpio-bw_mini

The pre-facelifted Mahindra Scorpio used to be available with an automatic gearbox. The facelifted version doesn’t get one. The XUV500 Automatic will be in India only in mid 2016. These moves simply are opportunities lost for Mahindra, especially when the Hyundai Creta Diesel will get a 6 speed automatic gearbox.

Mahindra S101 Compact SUV Render 2

Instead, Mahindra is planning to go on an automatic SUV blitz in the sub-10 lakh rupee segments. The S101 Micro SUV, the Quanto Facelift and the U301 Bolero are all likely to be equipped with automated manual transmissions. This is one way in which Mahindra could make its new compact SUVs more attractive to buyers.

The automaker is already late to the AMT party and needs to get its act together quickly. If you remember, the first Mahindra AMT vehicle – the Quanto – was showcased at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo, and it’s been a year and a half already.

Why keep the flops?

Mahindra Verito with Brand Ambassador Jimmy Shergill

The Verito sedan is a poor seller. The Verito Vibe is forgotten. Nobody is interested in the Quanto, and even the facelift may not do much, what with the U301 Bolero being a fresher product. The Xylo has lost the battle to the Toyota Innova and the Renault Lodgy is now here to cause further pain.

Mahindra Xylo MPV

Mahindra would do well to cull all these non-performers and retain the likes of the Bolero, Scorpio, XUV500 and Thar. This will make for lesser clutter in the showroom and lesser confusion in the mind of the buyer. The Quanto Facelift may not be required once the U301 Bolero is in.

Similarly, by pulling out of sedans completely, Mahindra can completely focus on the S101 Micro SUV, a vehicle that is likely to be packed with features and a very competitive price tag. To challenge Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai hatchbacks with a Micro SUV, Mahindra needs all the energy it can manage.