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Mahindra to take on Jeep?

by Chris Vander Doelen on

Mahindra and Mahindra, the big truck and tractor company from India, says it intends to build an assembly plant in the Detroit area to build “off-road utility vehicles.”

Everybody seems to be assuming this means the assembly of trucks. The company hasn’t announced which of its many trucks and SUVs it intends to assemble just down the road from Jeep’s massive Toledo complex. But given the look of many of its vehicles and the former relationship between the two companies — M&M used to be a Jeep licensee assembler – it seems pretty clear whose market share they would be going after with a full-sized vehicle. If that’s what they intend to build.

 

According to reports Friday, Mahindra says it plans to build a facility of about 400,000 square feet. Last week U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dropped hints about a potential U.S. plant while in New Delhi.

Thing is, a plant of that size is nowhere near large enough to house a full assembly plant. But it could be enough to house a knock-down kit plant assembly operation, bolstered with some locally-produced content – say, seats and a few other module assemblies.

Mahindra has been lusting for a piece of the lucrative North American market for more than a decade, although its last attempt to open a string of truck dealerships here ended in litigation disaster in 2010. It is not clear if that lawsuit was ever cleared up – which could pose a problem for Mahindra as it tries to re-enter the market.

Unless they don’t plan to build Jeep-sized trucks here, yet. Mahindra North America already sells tractors in Canada and the U.S. which are proving popular in select markets. Wisconsin, for one. They also sell this kind of off-road utility vehicle:

Building the smaller off-roader on U.S. soil might give Mahindra the legal work-around it needs to push its nose further into the market while it continues to sort out its legal issues and regroup from its former dealer network issues.

Reports of the Detroit plant have been floating around since at least July. And they are all vague on what kind of “off-road” vehicle Mahindra intends to assemble there. But according to this story they will be a new vehicle “which will designed at the company’s North American Technical Centre (sic)” – which is already located in Detroit.

Why go to all the trouble of locating in Detroit when you could build small off-roaders anywhere? Unless they are just the first step in a larger plan.

 

Chris Vander Doelen was Opinion Editor and columnist of The Windsor Star until December, 2016; He was the Star's automotive reporter and columnist for seven years, and had also covered the political and gambling beats. With his wife, Veronique Mandal, he wrote the book Chasing Lightning (1999). Chris won a National Newspaper Award in 1997 and more than a dozen provincial news awards. There is a Chrysler 300 in his driveway.

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