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Mahindra sales to multiply

Just the beginning: The facelifted Mahindra XUV500 and its new automatic transmission option will help the brand triple sales by the end of this year, when more new variants and models will start being rolled out.

Auto transmissions, new models to blast Mahindra sales from 500 to 5000 a year in Oz

Mahindra logo10 May 2016

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

INDIAN SUV and ute specialist Mahindra Automotive is on a mission to dramatically increase its Australian sales over the next three years, from the 400-500 per year it has achieved since arriving here in 2007 to between 4500 and 5000 units by the end of the decade.

Key to these ambitious expansion plans is the debut of an automatic transmission in the updated XUV500 mid-size SUV – launched last week ahead of dealership sales from June 1 – followed by an overhauled Pik-Up one-tonne ute, also with automatic transmission option.

Mahindra expects the automatic XUV500 to help it triple sales by the end of this year, to 1500 units, while additional XUV500 variants including luxury, entry-level and petrol are also on the cards, along with a refreshed Genio ute to serve the farm and mining sectors.

A completely new addition to the Australian range is also being weighed up in the form of a still-unseen city crossover based on the tiny KUV100 that was recently launched in South Africa. That car is just 3675mm long, making it substantially smaller than even the diminutive Renault Captur (4122mm).

The final piece of the puzzle will be a dealership expansion program that is hoped to increase the number of Australian Mahindra outlets from 36 to 50 by the end of this year, with more focus on metropolitan and large regional centres compared with the previous strategy of focusing on rural communities.

At a media preview of the automatic XUV500 in Brisbane last week, Mahindra executives admitted that the lack of automatic transmission options had turned away 90 in 100 potential Australian customers.

In an exclusive interview, Mahindra Automotive CEO Pravin Shah, who travelled from Mumbai to attend the event, told GoAuto that dealership feedback to him was that “people would like the shape, the space and the specs of the vehicles, but the moment they recognised that it is not an automatic transmission, we would lose the customers”.

“If that happens to your brand or product offerings 90 out of 100 times, surely you have to do something,” he said.

 center imageLeft: Mahindra Automotive CEO Pravin Shah.Asked whether all new Mahindra products for the Australian market will include an automatic transmission option, Mr Shah said: “It’s a very costly understanding we had, do you expect us to continue making mistakes?“With today’s launch of the XUV500 automatic we are going to address that question. I can also share with you the future products, including the new (Pik-Up) ute, which will have the option of an automatic, so we will have the right start.”

Mahindra Ag and Auto Australia national manager Mahesh Kaskar told GoAuto the brand had survived in this country due to repeat purchases, strong brand loyalty and customers who became strong advocates of the product.

He said the company had not invested heavily in marketing due to the lack of automatic transmissions and that even people who had moved from India to Australia and had strong recognition of the brand – due to its 42 per cent market share dominance of the Indian SUV market and 70 per cent of the ute market – were disinterested due to the lack of an auto option.

“We lost a lot of potential sales because most of the Indian buyers, when they moved to Australia they strongly believed in the automatic transmission,” he said.

“Obviously we will specially emphasise to go back to that Indian community to show them this product and make some easy sales. Having said that, the product is not only for the Indian community, the product is for Australia. It is made for those demanding requirements.”

From launch, the updated XUV500 will be offered in one ‘W8’ trim level with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and front- or all-wheel-drive options available with either six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, priced from $29,900 driveaway.

Mr Kaskar said the up-spec W10 should arrive in the fourth quarter of this year priced between $36,000 and $39,000, along with a petrol variant arriving next year, also available with an automatic transmission.

“We may also think about W6, a thinned-down version without leather seats and some other features,” he added. “This would enable us to go less than $30,000.”

In addition to the extra XUV500 variants and comprehensively revised Pik-Up that will arrive with an automatic transmission next year, Mr Kaskar revealed that the company is looking at importing a “more global version” of the pint-sized KUV100 crossover sold in some overseas markets.

“We will test it in Australia and make that call,” he said. “It’s on the cards, definitely not in 2016 but will consider it for 2017.”

Mr Kaskar’s personal wish was to also bring in the rugged Willys Jeep based Thar and Scorpio four-wheel-drive wagons – the Scorpio being based on the Pik-Up – but said he understood that these models may not meet Australian Design Rule requirements and that the company “prefer to use the XUV platform as our SUV in Australia”.

What’s coming from Mahindra:
XUV500 W8 auto: June 2016
XUV500 W10 auto: Q4 2016
Pik-Up facelift auto: Q2 2017
XUV500 W8/W10 petrol: 2017
Genio facelift: 2017
XUV500 W6: 2017
KUV100: 2018

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