Mahindra Delay: No News

Automotive News this week reported that Indian auto/truck maker Mahindra and Mahindra is delaying launch by six months to the fourth quarter of 2009. This, in fact, was known months ago, which is why Mahindra dealers haven’t begun building showrooms.

Since anything can happen to further delay a launch, dealers will wait until the last possible time to erect showrooms.

Mahindra, which said months ago it was delaying launch from mid 2009 to the end of the year, right now has a handful of pickup trucks being durability tested in Wisconsin. This Fall, the test will be expanded to 25 vehicles. The company plans to launch with a pickup truck in late 2009, and follow with an SUV a year or 18 months later.

According to sources, the chief concern of the company is to make sure that trucks are spot-on in terms of fit and finish and won’t be prone to early recalls for quality issues. Mahindra is anxious to avoid the Hyundai syndrome (quality problems that set in shortly after launch sunk the brand for a decade.

If there is a concern among executives at Mahindra, and U.S. distributor Global Vehicles, it is the continuing high price of diesel in the U.S. All of Mahindra’s vehicles are diesels, and expected to get around 30 mpg. Diesel today, nationally, is about $4.15 per gallon on average, compared with $3.69 for gasoline.

Mahindra is developing a “cost-per-mile” marketing and education campaign to support the case for buying diesel vehicles. The other concern is convincing pickup truck buyers to trade down to a smaller size truck. To that end, the Indian company is focusing on making sure the pickup (as yet un-named but previously called the Appalachia) can tow a typical bass boat, with total towing weight perhaps reaching 3,500 pounds.

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