Reduced ground clearance on Mahindra SUVs may not be a bad thing!

Hold on a minute. Reducing ground clearance on an SUV? How does THAT help? It will sure help with the price tag of Mahindra SUVs. The recent Union Budget has imposed a 3% hike in excise duty on SUVs – defined as vehicles that meet certain criteria of ground clearance, vehicle length and engine size.

According to the Government’s decision – any vehicle with an engine size of over 1,500 cc, body length of over 4 metres and ground clearance of over 170 mm would face a 3% hike in excise duty. This affected not just SUVs, but some cars as well, that met all these three criteria. SUV makers, of course, were the worst hit. Also read: Sub-Rs. 10 lakh SUVs may be spared hike

Mahindra reportedly said that since pleas to roll back the 3% hike in excise duty, which went from 27% to 30%, haven’t been successful it would consider then revising specifications on its SUVs to avoid falling into this tax bracket. Now, since reducing the length of the vehicle to below 4 metres or changing the engine to a lower capacity one below 1.5 litres is expensive and would go against the basic utility of the vehicle, Mahindra is considering a unique solution – reduce the ground clearance to below 170mm. And that brings out an interesting case.

How do you REDUCE ground clearance?

Technically the ground clearance on the vehicle is measured from the lowest point of the vehicle. Let’s take the Mahindra Scorpio for instance. It has a ground clearance of 180 mm (just 10 mm more than the cut-off, qualifying it for the SUV tax). This ground clearance on the Scorpio is measured from the rear differential, which is the lowest point on the vehicle. The rest of the vehicle (side steps etc) is actually at a height of 200 mm from the ground. Mahindra could consider smaller wheels and tyres, but that would alter a lot of other characteristics of the vehicle. Also read:Budget Impact 2013: SUVs to face higher excise duty

A simple solution therefore is to lower the lowest point on the vehicle. No, not the differential, but the company may consider longer mudflaps or a bumper skirt / airdam that is at 169 mm from the ground, which will then take it out of the reckoning for the hike in excise duty.

Of course, to you the buyer, this would be a bit inconvenient as it would clip speedbreakers or the curb and get ripped off off-road. But that’s the brighter side – this airdam / skirt / mudflap extension would be removable – just like saree guards on sports bikes. All you need to do is buy the vehicle and then remove this dangly bit!