The U.S. distributor for India-based Mahindra’s midsize diesel pickups says the first trucks its sells domestically will be assembled and exported from Mahindra’s overseas facilities instead of assembled from knockdown kits in Ohio, as had been originally expected. The change will subject the trucks to a 25 percent federal import tariff levied on foreign-built pickups but it’s also expected to expedite the truck’s arrival in America.
“We’ll be six weeks ahead of the curve getting into dealer showrooms by importing fully assembled trucks, though we’ll have to pay the import tax,” said Xavier Beguiristain, vice president of marketing for Global Vehicles U.S.A. Inc. “We’re doing this because we want to get the flow (of trucks) coming in to make sure dealers have trucks available when we’re launching. And when you look at the tax and assembly costs, we don’t think the spread is that huge. We’re not going to change MSRP – though, that hasn’t been determined yet – as far as the consumer goes.”
Beguiristain said Global Vehicles hasn’t determined how long it will import fully built vehicles from India into the U.S. before it partners with a still-to-be-determined domestic assembler that would allow the company to avoid the so-called “chicken tax.”
The term "chicken tax" originated in the early sixties during a trade dispute between the U.S. and Europe over U.S.-imported chickens, which were slapped with a special tax to protect West German farmers. The U.S. responded by slapping a 25 percent tariff on trucks imported from Europe.
Two cab configurations will be offered: a two-door regular cab and a four-door crew cab. Beguiristain expects the two-door model will be more popular than Global Vehicles and Mahindra had originally forecast.
“We think there’s going to be a big attraction to the two-door model,” said Beguiristain. “In the midsize segment there’s nothing else like it. It’s innovative. It’s much more like a two-door F-150 or Silverado because it has such high capacity for payload – 1.3-tons – but we expect to have 30 mpg combined. We originally thought our split would be 20 percent two-door, 80 percent four-door but we think it will be much higher for the two-door.”
Beguiristain said Global Vehicles and Mahindra expect the trucks will appeal to U.S. farmers who already own Mahindra tractors and are familiar with the Mahindra brand and active outdoor enthusiasts, like motocross riders – whom the company hopes to market to as it builds awareness among consumers by potentially sponsoring motocross events.
“The two-door has a 7-and-a-half-foot bed. A motocross bike is 7-feet 2-inches, so you can put it in the bed, close the gate and go. There’s nothing else you can do that with,” said Beguiristain.
Beguiristain says Mahindra could use motocross events across the country to market the truck; this would be similar to how Toyota launched the current Tundra in 2007.
The diesel-only truck will use a slightly modified version of Mahindra's "mHawk"' 2.2-liter inline four cylinder diesel engine. Final U.S. pricing for the pickup is expected in September, coinciding with the truck’s Sept. 1, 2009 scheduled start of production in India. The first trucks will arrive at U.S. dealers by December.
“Our goal is to be 10 to 15 percent less (in price) than a comparable model, like a Toyota Tacoma,” said Beguiristain.