The rivalry between the Tata Safari and the Mahindra Scorpio is legendary, with both Indian SUVs having dedicated hordes of fans fighting on each of their behalves. This rivalry will now spill onto a new battleground, in this case a procurement order put out by the Indian Army.
The Indian Army, one of the largest such fighting forces in the world, will replace its ageing fleet of Maruti Suzuki Gypsys and Hindustan Ambassadors meant for commissioned officers, with either the Scorpio or the Safari Storme. One of these Indian SUVs, after selection, will be inducted into the General Service (GS) 800 fleet, which mandates a hard top, air conditioning and a 800 kilogram payload. Notably, over 15 automakers including global majors such as Ford, Honda and Toyota participated in the initial discussion phase, following which only Tata and Mahindra entered their vehicles into the second round.
The second round saw the Indian Army putting the Scorpio and Storme to tough tests across multiple terrains and weather conditions. Both SUVs have passed these tests and are now engaged in a bid war. About 3,200 units of one of the two SUVs will be procured by the Indian army in the first phase of inducting the GS800 vehicles, after which the order could be boosted to include an additional 1,600 units.
This is quite a sizeable order for both Tata Motors and Mahindra, more so for the former. Tata Motors is struggling to sell the Safari and the Storme SUVs, even as Mahindra is dominating the hustings with the facelifted Scorpio. While a refreshed Storme is on its way for a launch in the next couple of months, the facelifted Scorpio will receive an automatic variant soon.
Whichever of the SUVs makes it to the Indian Army as a GS800 vehicle, it will be modified accordingly to suit the force’s requirements. It remains to be seen if mechanical changes are made to these vehicles, both of them currently equipped with 2.2 liter turbo diesel engines. Four wheel drive options are optional equipment on both SUVs and there is a high likelihood of the Indian Army choosing the 4WD equipped variants.
Apart from boosting sales numbers, the large Army order is expected to serve as branding coup of sorts for the Indian manufacturer that bags the GS800 order. In case of the Tata Safari Storme, winning this bid will give marketeers at Tata Motors a new slogan, one that has the potential to inject new life into the SUV. Watch this space.