Mahindra Pickup Future Remains in Limbo

Mahindra crew cab
By Douglas McColloch 

Ever wonder what happened to the Mahindra T20/T40 pickup truck that was supposed to find its way onto our shores in 2009, then in 2010? You’re not alone. We haven’t heard any recent news about the truck, either, so we dug around online and placed a bunch of phone calls to try to shake some information out of the automotive ether.

What we learned was not promising if you’ve been waiting to test-drive one of these trucks. Long story short: The truck’s future in the U.S. is still bogged down in legal disputes, and it may be years before it goes on sale here, if it ever does at all.  

When last we turned our attention to the legal donnybrook that had erupted between Mahindra and its licensed U.S. distributor, Global Vehicles USA, litigation came to a halt after an arbitration panel in the U.K. claimed sole jurisdiction to resolve any and all disputes between them as per the original terms of their U.S. distribution contract.

GV USA then dropped its lawsuit against Mahindra and agreed to take its case before the arbiters. Arguments were heard in London in August, and a ruling was expected by the end of November. No decision has been announced yet. 

In the meantime, Ward’s Auto reported in September that GV USA had ceased operations. Our attempts to contact the company this week were unsuccessful.

Mahindra reg cab
Some jilted dealers have taken matters into their own hands. In April, Jerry Ackerman, a St. Louis-based Hyundai dealer, filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of 40 other would-be Mahindra dealers against GV USA and Mahindra. The lawsuit alleges that the network of nearly 350 prospective U.S. dealers had spent upward of $60 million on dealership rights and capital improvements, and the dealers are seeking compensation for breach of contract, unlawful enrichment and five other counts.  A pretrial discovery period wrapped up in late November; the plaintiffs have demanded a jury trial, so this case is likely to remain unsettled for months.

All the while, there has been no news coming out of Mumbai about the future of the T-series truck. What might have caused Mahindra to abruptly reconsider its plans to bring the vehicle to the U.S.? Most likely, two or three things are working in concert.


Disappointing Mileage

The first occurred in February. After a long and costly effort to win emissions certification from the EPA for the four-cylinder 2.2L mHawk diesel engine, the truck’s gas mileage figures ended up, shall we say, disappointing at 19/21 mpg city/highway, falling short of Mahindra’s promise that the company would bring a pickup truck to the U.S. that delivered around 30 mpg.

There could be a number of reasons for this discrepancy (mandated U.S.-spec exhaust gas recirculation systems come to mind), but one that stands out is the fact that the test vehicle the EPA evaluated was Mahindra’s biggest and heaviest truck: a four-door four-wheel-drive T40 with an automatic transmission.

While prospective buyer reaction seemed mixed online,  one wonders if such mediocre mileage didn’t convince some Mahindra executives that a truck of unproven reliability in the North American market would be a hard sell compared to, say, the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma, which delivers better highway mileage with a V-6 gas engine and has a proven track record with consumers.

Mahindra reg cab frontThe Chicken Tax 

There’s also the matter of the longstanding 25 percent “chicken tax” tariff the federal government levies on imported pickup trucks. U.S.-built Tacomas and Nissan Frontiers are no longer affected by this, but such a high import tax would have put Mahindra at a huge pricing disadvantage. The company announced in 2009 that it planned to import the truck as a complete knockdown kit — as crated parts to be assembled domestically to circumvent the tariff — but this would have obviously required either leasing an assembly plant from another manufacturer or building a new plant from scratch. Either way, this would have added appreciably to the vehicle’s initial cost and hurt its competitiveness from a price point perspective.

Korean Acquisition

The third, and possibly most relevant, reason might be Mahindra’s acquisition of a 70-percent stake, late in 2010, in Korean automaker Ssangyong, Korea’s third-largest manufacturer of utility vehicles, with the intention of transforming Mahindra into “India’s first global cult brand.” With more than 1,000 dealerships in 91 countries, Ssangyong would seem to have the necessary worldwide distribution and supplier infrastructure Mahindra needs as a first step toward globalizing its operations.

Ssangyong executives stated their intent last April to break into the North American market by 2016, and with Korean automakers having now secured a firm foothold here, you could easily imagine Mahindra leveraging the consumer outreach afforded by a future Sssangyong dealer network to bring its vehicles to the U.S.

So while we may very well see a Mahindra truck or SUV in a dealer showroom someday, it will probably happen because the company took advantage of the more cost-efficient unit-amortization and brand-building synergies offered by its partnership with Ssangyong rather than relying on a patchwork of independent dealerships and saddling itself with considerable startup costs to break into a fledgling market. 

Mahindra-XUV500
New Utility Vehicle
 

Waiting a few more years would give Mahindra a little more time to refine and diversify its automotive product line (as well as its powertrains) to suit the tastes of a more demanding American truck-buying public. The company recently launched a new utility vehicle in India, the XUV500, that on first glance appears to be big leap forward in that regard, with sleeker sheet metal and styling, and upgraded interior trim and components. By contrast, the T20’s design aesthetic was, to put it charitably, idiosyncratic. It’s also the company’s first-ever foray into monocoque chassis architecture, with a transverse-engine/front-drive layout that would seem to be aimed at consumer markets beyond the Far East. It also suggests the platform for a future Ridgeline-like sport utility truck that could avoid the chicken tax.

Recertification for 2012?

The final nail in the T-truck’s coffin, at least for now, is news that Mahindra has still not applied for federal emissions recertification for 2012; its current certificate expires at the end of this year. EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn confirmed this week that the company has not yet submitted the necessary applications for the 2012 model year. If Mahindra fails to meet the Dec. 31 deadline, it will need to submit the vehicle for federal emissions and safety testing all over again.

One can certainly understand the possible business considerations that may have gone into Mahindra’s decision to delay launching the T-truck in the U.S. On the other hand, one wonders if the company won’t eventually rue the day it failed to take advantage of fortuitous timing to establish some kind of presence in the U.S. truck market before Toyota, GM and Dodge had the chance to roll out brand-new versions of their midsize trucks, all scheduled for next year -- and certainly before Jeep launches its highly anticipated Wrangler-based J-truck. But we’ll all find out in the years to come.

Mahindra reg cab action

Comments

Thanks for keeping us up to date. What a disaster that was for all unfortunate victims. In hindsight it's hard to imagine how anyone could believe any of the nonsense Mahindra and Perez were spouting.

I wouldn't drive one of these unless you don't care about your life.

Forget about it Mahindrance! Nobody wants the piece of crap anyways so keep your $#!++% turds!

@Ken, Mahindra and Sssangyong joining together you could get two totally dud companies joining together, or maybe something like a Fiat/Chrysler combination that surprises everyone? I am for the former at this point.

Not sure about the truck, but I have a Mahindra 4110 4x4 tractor with loader that I bought new almost 5 years ago now. The only problem I have had was a sticky throttle cable after it sat unused all year. It has been very reliable, and was a great deal when i put it side by side with other comparable tractors. If the trucks are built with comparable quality I think they could have a chance, especially with people who are familiar with the brand. I I was to ever consider a less than full size truck and it was available I would definitely give it serious consideration.

*meant: when it sat unused all winter last year.

Is something procrastinated this long even worth waiting for/considering? if Mahindra was serious about the States they would have been selling here by now.

Thanks for keeping us up to date, I was fairly excited when I heard about this option coming to the NA market. I am still waiting for a mid-size truck that is tough, 4x4, and good on gas (or diesel option) to come on to the market.

Mahindra has botched this up bad. This truck sounded promising but after distributorship problems, litigation, the failure to pass certification tests, and the not so great fuel economy this truck has lost any luster it had. The Koreans could come up with a better looking truck that is more fuel efficient. This truck will soon be forgotten. I know of a local dealership that has been in business for over 90 years that lost their Chevrolet franchise and was considering a Mahindra franchise (they have now lost their interest). I would be very cautious about Mahindra if they do get this to the US and Canadian market. This could be worse than the Yugo.

@Jeff Not wrong. I have seen all up about FOUR Mahindra's on the road here.

"U.S.-spec exhaust gas recirculation systems"

"U.S.-spec exhaust gas recirculation systems"

"U.S.-spec exhaust gas recirculation systems"

Should read:
"Oil Industry spec ..."

Emissions my @ss.

This truck is a loser. If they forced it and it turned out to
be a p.o.s. it would takes years of steller products to
overcome the bad reputation. Think about the GM 350
diesel. They were the firstest with the mostest when it
came to diesels yet it wasn't until the DMAX that they
finally started getting a good reputation. The 6.2 diesel
wasn't the greatest but if that was the initial product,
they would've owned the diesel market all of these years.
Mahindra needs to get it right the first time.

That's too bad I was hoping with this pickup coming to the u.s. It would force the big 3 to come out with a mid-size diesel pickup.

I wanted one initially, but that was almost four years ago. Since then, I bout a Colorado and have been quite pleased by the performance, mileage, and leg checking height.

It is too bad that Mahindra has made a mess of this. From the comments it appears that there is a market for a efficient compact diesel truck. I am not personally interested in one but with many of the comments made over the last couple of years there appears enough of a demand for someone to introduce a clean diesel compact 4 wheel drive truck. Maybe the new diesel motor that Nissan is working on will make it into either a compact Nissan or some competitor's truck.

Stick a fork in it, all done. Beside when they do need repair it will be costly. Most likely such a small number sold, where would you go for parts, Autozone? NOT. With no reliability data and parts/repairs $$$, all done.

Even though there is a market for these little trucks it is highly unlikely that they will ever come to the US. You can bet that Ford and GM are heavily lobbying Congress against more foreign competition on these shores.

Take, for instance, the successful small cars made in Europe and Asia. They all sell like hot cakes over there and would likely sell a ton of them in the US if they are only allowed to sell them here.

Getting DOT approved foreign cars is unlikely to ever happen unless Ford or GM is part-owner in such a venture. But that would be like shooting yourself in the foot for Ford or GM. More like cutting off your nose to spite your face by losing sales to better foreign-made products. Aveo, anyone?

Were Ford or GM to ever approve of importing more and better competition for the money into the US it would go at the expense of their sales and UAW jobs.

That's what happened when Toyota, Honda and Datsun first came to these shores and helped speed up the demise of GM and Chrysler, with Ford just barely hanging on for dear life.

It is unlikely that we'll ever see Mahindra, Tata, Proton or any of the excellent Asian brands in the US. Even less chance for the smaller European car makers. The deck is stacked against them by the domestic auto manufacturers.

But we'll see a lot of Fiat products come here since Fiatsler gained ready access to the US market when it absorbed defunct Chrysler into the Fiat fold.

@Highdesertcat-GM, Ford, and Chrysler could possible bring in a compact truck from China, but they might assemble it here to get around the Chicken Tax and the Unions. It will be hard for a smaller player to enter the North American market with the regulations and the Congressional lobby efforts of the Big Three, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai. The Big Three and Toyota will not want to see this competition against their own products. Even if it did get here it takes a while to build a dealer distribution and parts distribution. So far Mahindra has been sloppy in their approach and after 2 years it is hard to take them serious. Only time will tell for sure.

I can see the Smart trucklet in North America before this truck ever shows up.
I suspect that Tata/Mahindra will abandon the T20 - T40 US truck and go with a Korean Ssangyong truck.

@Highdesertcat--Get your facts straight. Chrysler didn't go bankrupt based upon their own decisions. We have Daimler to thank for that. Daimler wasted money at the rate of GM, then "merged" with Chrysler. Stole is the appropriate word. Daimler stole all of Chrysler's reserve money, cut costs & quality, then dumped it on another company that had no intention of investing in Chrysler. You actually might have a chance of seeing a smaller diesel powered truck with Fiatsler. As for the Mihandra, if it wasn't going to be smooth sailing, it was over right then.

Jeff, I agree. I would like to see a lot more choice on the US new-car market and that includes the offerings from Tata, Mahindra, and other brands, both Asian and European. For instance, Skoda makes a nifty little SUV at a price that would turn the buyers' heads. And Hanomag makes a hell of a truck.

Asian brands would also sell well in the US because they have the price advantage and aren't burdened by the dead-weight overhead of the UAW pay and benefits costs.

Any American who has done a little traveling around the globe would have noticed that there are a whole lot more brands and car makers on this planet than Ford, GM and Fiatsler and the ones allowed to sell in the US.

Many of the other foreign car makers actually make better vehicles than Ford or GM and at a much lower price. For instance, in Australia Holden makes some pretty nifty cars and trucklets that would blow GM's offerings in the US away. It is highly unlikely we'll ever see those hot-rods here.

As long as Ford and GM lobby Congress to throw up these road-blocks to prevent other car makers from selling in the US, we, Americans, will be stuck buying what the government will allow us to buy. And it's not the best that's out there.

If it was, GM and Chrysler would not be defunct auto manufacturers now living large on the tax payer dole. Had they build what the American buyers wanted, they would not have gone bankrupt, and the UAW would not have bargained their members out of their jobs.

The Mahindra pickup would have gone a long way to help fill the niche that the domestics never could fill like the Tacoma did, and the Mahindra would have done it with a diesel and at a much lower price than a Tacoma.

NoStopN, FYI, a couple of weeks ago I bought my wife a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 4X4 V6 to replace her 2008 Toyota Highlander Limited 4X4.

The sales staff and the sales manager went out of their way to reassure us that they would be there for us in spite of Chrysler's bankruptcy and acknowledged that Chrysler was now a much better Italian-owned company assembling in the US, just like Honda, Toyota, Nissan, et al.

One thing that was surprising is how much Daimler did to improve the WK-series Jeep Grand Cherokee during the time they owned Chrysler.

If you ever have the chance to drive a Mercedes ML-class you should know that the JGC shares much of the underpinnings with the ML. A major improvement over the JGC of 2010 and earlier!

Chrysler was in deep doo-doo long before Daimler bought them and there was nothing that Daimler could do to keep Chrysler from going bust all on its own.

There also was nothing that Chrysler could give Daimler except financial heartburn. But Chrysler sure got a lot from Daimler before it went belly-up, the JGC being just one of them.

The new Pentastar V6 is one hell of an engine based on German engineering and design and is as good today as the VW-supplied K-car engine of the 80's and 90's was in its day. Many of those engines are still around today doing duty as generator and pump-engines on farms and ranches.

But as a subdivision of Fiat, there is actually a very good chance that Chrysler may live a little longer, acting as feedstock for Fiat-brand products all over the world. And that would be a good thing because Fiat sells in more places OUTSIDE the US than Chrysler even knew existed.

Hey, and it only cost the US tax payers $1.3B to bribe Fiat to take Chrysler off our hands! Good deal!

Last crash test ratings I saw of this thing appeared to be abysmal.

RIP Mahindara! If you do decide to regain a pulse, A: Make the truck safer. B: Back up the 30 mpg claim. C: Redesign the truck so it is actually attractive!

This pickup is like a reoccurring nightmare!

very upset the this pickup is not come for sale in usa i see one in laredo tx on the freeway tree times and is very nice pickup next time you drive to laredo tx keep on eye and you will see one most of the time are filing up diesel on the unirroyal tire test race track on 1-35 good luck

Glad this POS didn't make it here. As I mentioned in a post a longtime ago I can just see major rust problems in a few of Michigan's hard winters with our road salt. Those bed hooks are a major rust magnet, reminds of the old Toyota and Datsun trucks of the 70's they all rusted like mad. I love the idea if a small diesel engine in a midsize truck but NOWAY would I'd buy this Mahindra, I'd buy a GM or Ford diesel midsize truck first if they ever build one here.

update.

@95toyo - thanks for the link. there were rumors a long time ago about a joint venture with Navistar. I just hope that it works out for Navistar.

@Lou,
Navistar has had a tie up with Mahindra for sometime, but I cannot expect this to be a fruitful one as regards sales in the US. If the pickup came from a major Japanese builder with a small diesel ,not a problem.

@Highdesertcat. You are right there are a a lot of very good vehicles NOT sold in the US. Then again you can some pretty so so ones as well.

@Robert Ryan

The same could have been said about cars from Korea 15 years ago, or even cars from Japan 30 years ago.

I'm not predicting success (for all we know it could become the next Yugo), but I won't discount it just because it doesn't come from Japan either.

Was originally interested in this simply because it was supposed to be a compact/midsize diesel truck. Won't even consider now with all the problems with suppliers and litigations. Now that Chevy has committed to bring the new Colorado; I will wait and purchase that. I am still hoping that it will have a diesel power plant. Ford is stupid as hell for not bringing the "Global" ( everywhere except North America) Ranger to the US. They would rather listen to Bean counters instead of listening to their Customers. I will have me an new Colorado in a couple of years instead of the "Curry Wagon"!!

I really want a new small truck, preferably 4 doors, like the Ranger in Brazil. And a diesel. My first choice would be that Ranger from Brazil. The Mahindra was an option that I was looking forward to.

Ford is messing up by expecting small-truck people to go to the F150. I want a small truck for specific reasons. I take the Sportster to run for a loaf of bread, not the touring bike. I want a small truck for times my 1-ton is not practical.

IT is specially designed for carrying goods. Only one person can sit along with the driver in the front. Its is in good demand in the market.

wait untill gm,ford,dodge toyota and nissan build an economical hybrid diesel thats in the 20's pricerange then beaurocrats will let it in this country, o.k. gm,toy,nissan,ford chrysler, why don't you make one for us? you have the political backing in your wallet pockets, or maybe you just don't know how to hide it yet!

Intrested in mobile refregirated truck for our restaurant and its outlet services.

i find it hard to believe that judgement is being made on a vehicle like the mahindra pikup when none of you have actually driven one.
you just can,t go on hearsay, at least do some home work and be open minded about a product.fyi a lot of the running gear you find in the mahindra you will find in toyota or gm and i know as i have done a lot of homework on the mahindra truck.



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