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Mahindra SUVs exhibit the virtues of tough-build quality and go-anywhere attributes, and they manage to stand out with unique design elements that set them apart from the crowd. Add to that tenet, such as reliability and economy, which makes them unbeatable in the Indian context.
'Everything is eventual', they say. If you look at the Mahindra portfolio today, you will see an automobile manufacturer that focuses on SUVs. With its strong lineage as a utility vehicle manufacturer, moving to SUVs was the logical evolution for the company. The transformation was also the result of following a carefully charted path - one model at a time.
In the early '90s, just around the time when Anand Mahindra took over the reins of Mahindra & Mahindra, the automotive scene in the country was not the most inspiring. The winds of change were felt with the Maruti-Suzuki alliance in the small car market and Tata Motors venturing into people mover space with an eye on the passenger car market. At the same time, Mahindra geared up and made the first move into the lifestyle segment. With such models as the Classic, Armada and Armada Grand that offered a host of civilian features, the new Mahindra products stood out from the earlier utilitarian products. Watch the Mahindra Classics Commemorating Our Legacy video, click here.
The first concerted effort to build a Mahindra Sports Utility Vehicle came when the Bolero was launched with a bold new look and an aggressive marketing campaign to support it. Soon a new storm was brewing in the confines of the R&D facility in Nashik under the careful supervision of Pawan Goenka, the then General Manager, R&D, who was given a blank canvas to execute the future of Mahindra. The future plans were to be set on the foundation the company had laid in rural mobility. The idea was that Mahindra had to provide automotive solutions to a country that was rapidly changing in all facets of life while continuing to be relevant to the rural market. In 2002, the project Scorpio took shape and what happened after that can be documented as the history of the new age of SUVs in India.
Despite challenges like a development budget of just INR 550 crore, the Scorpio could claim many firsts. To begin with, the Scorpio sported what Anand Mahindra would term as 'Indianness of design' that made it a rage amongst the customers who embraced the new vehicle. This body on the chassis vehicle also looked different when seen with Mahindra's older models, but the months, years and decades that followed proved that it had the blood-line intact. While it was robust enough to handle varied terrain requirements, the Scorpio was much more refined than anything else rolled out from the Nashik plant. Mahindra has updated the Scorpio regularly, and even almost two decades later, there is a substantial following for this 'urban legend'.
Given the rural connect and utility of Mahindra's products, a conscious decision was taken to build the Scorpio brand in isolation of the company brand - a novel yet risky decision at that time. "With Scorpio, Mahindra dared to make SUVs a mainstream product. Our campaign focused on putting down sedans and elevated the pride of SUV ownership," says Rajesh Jejurikar, Executive Director (Auto & Farm Sectors), who was heading Marketing at the time. "'Upwardly mobile life of the rich and famous' and 'walk into, not crawl into' were just some catch lines reinforced by our aggressive marketing campaign," added Jejurikar.
While the Scorpio ruled the roads in the new millennium, work progressed tirelessly at the rejuvenated R&D centres of Mahindra to go to the next level - a monocoque SUV that would ride and handle like a car and will have all the modern comfort and safety features that the evolving SUV customers were looking for. The cheetah inspired XUV500 was a revolution in every sense of the word and did wonders to establish Mahindra as a contemporary SUV maker. Despite being built to a standard than a price point, the XUV500 represented excellent value with features and overall performance seen only in luxury segment SUVs. Also launched around the same time, the Thar was a niche legacy product that immediately attained cult status among aspiring off-road centric lifestyle products.
Continuous and effective communication exercises like the 'Live young, live free' campaign ensured that Mahindra was a one-stop solution if you were looking for an active lifestyle.
The aspirational lifestyle and corresponding product capabilities of the Scorpio and the XUV500 made other carmakers wake up to the opportunity. Soon every carmaker in the country had one or more SUVs on offer. The host of features available even in base variants of Mahindra SUVs meant that others had to up their game. Like a true game-changer, Mahindra shaped the compelling SUV market in India.
New-found competition in the SUV space meant there was the need for new Mahindra products. A small SUV in the form of the KUV100 and a traditional people mover, the TUV300, followed. What is notable here is that Mahindra did not succumb to the temptation to move away from the focus on SUVs even while attempting smaller products.
The acquisition of SsangYong, the SUV specialists from South Korea, spawned the luxury SUV, the Rexton (to be followed by the Alturas G4) and the XUV300. The XUV300 is a raging success story and has set the industry benchmark when it comes to a host of safety features and a 5-star GNCAP rating. Watch the XUV300 TVC, click here .
The all-new Thar, launched in 2020 amidst a global pandemic, was an immediate success. Its heritage-inspired design, superb build quality, availability of multiple variants, different fuel options and industry-leading 4-star GNCAP safety ratings (considered excellent for a body on frame vehicle), all combined to ensure massive demand. The Thar crossed 50,000 bookings in just six months of its launch. The all-new Thar has proved that Mahindra can straddle its history without compromising its vision to be a truly global SUV powerhouse.
Keeping a tab on consumer preferences, Mahindra has developed a series of state-of-the-art petrol power plants to supplement the diesel engines the company is famous for. These new-age petrol engines under the m-Stallion brand name already power the all-new Thar and will be seen in many new upcoming models. Bringing automatic gearboxes to SUVs is another area Mahindra has been diligently working on. This has prompted the competition to follow suit and launch petrol and automatic power trains. For a true leader, innovation is a continuous process and a way of life. As the world is seriously looking at alternate propulsion ideas, Mahindra is busy readying its electric SUVs, like the XUV300 electric.
"Over the years, Mahindra has moved forward in its businesses, segments and offerings. But what remains Mahindra's DNA, what is unique about Mahindra compared to other OEMs, is its rich legacy and history," says Goenka, former MD and CEO of Mahindra & Mahindra, "Products like the all-new Thar reinforce that legacy and aims to grow not only the off-roading tribe but create a new generation of die-hard SUV followers." Watch the amazing all-new Thar TVC, click here .
The future holds exciting new possibilities for Mahindra as it reiterates its commitment to bring to its customers globally sophisticated and authentic SUVs with an unmissable presence. Its EV strategy is also aligned to design and develop 'Born EV SUVs' that will broaden its base of SUV loyalists.
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