EVs to lead global charge at Mahindra

M&M is all set to shake up the domestic and overseas markets with a fresh vision, a dynamic design focus and a new-found energy. Their new cutting-edge products say it all.

By Hormazd Sorabjee calendar 11 Sep 2023 Views icon11762 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Top Mahindra officials with the Thar.e concept during the Cape Town reveal in August 2023. Its design marked a departure from the current Thar.

Top Mahindra officials with the Thar.e concept during the Cape Town reveal in August 2023. Its design marked a departure from the current Thar.

When the stunning looking Mahindra Thar.e concept was revealed by the company during its annual Independence Day presentation in Cape Town, it was a shock departure from the current Thar, which is the last remnant of Mahindra’s ties to its Jeep origins. The Thar.e is a deliberate and decisive move by a company in a hurry to leave its past behind and race into the future to forge its own unique brand identity on the global stage where the SUV maker is relatively unknown.

The Thar.e represents the new face of Mahindra which has come of age. An age of electrification which unlocks exciting new possibilities, especially in prize markets like Europe where the company sees a huge opportunity in the affordable EV segments where Chinese automakers are having a field day.

For a legacy brand like Mahindra, accustomed to progressing at a relaxed pace, the last three years have been the most tumultuous in the company’s 75 year history. Ever since Rajesh Jejurikar, executive director and CEO (Auto and Farm Sector), took charge of Mahindra’s auto division in 2020, he has brought in fresh vision, laser focus and a new-found energy to redefine the Mahindra brand. Sure, he was handed winners like the Thar, XUV700 and Scorpio N which were already in the oven before he took over but their success is in no small measure due to marketing wizardry he spun around these models.

This new range of hero SUVs has struck a chord with Indian buyers resulting in long waiting lists that ran into months, even years. But more importantly they gave Mahindra the confidence to compete against global brands many of which are feeling the heat from Mahindra-badged products. That car buyers are willing to pay over Rs 20 lakh for a Mahindra and choose one over a Toyota or a Hyundai is the biggest testimony to the new-found strength and desirability of India’s oldest SUV brand. “Our home market is very large and we are competing with all the global players here. If we are succeeding, it is because we are doing something right and that is giving products with global levels of quality that can compete with the best in the world, at prices which are affordable. Our products have reached a stage of maturity where we can go and start competing around the world,” says Jejurikar.

However, Mahindra understands how brutally competitive international markets can be where customer expectations and the regulatory environment are different. Hence, the plan is to take a more measured approach and pick the low hanging fruits or countries where there is a good product fit.

This first wave is spearheaded by the XUV700 and new Scorpio N which are fast finding favour in South Africa and Australia.

Truly global
However, it’s the unveiling of the Global Pik Up concept in Cape Town which is of true global significance as the production version of this Scorpio N based pick up (code: Z121) has been conceived and developed for primarily for international markets and South Africa in particular where pick-ups or bakkies as they are locally called are quite popular.

The production pick-up truck will be based on the bulletproof mechanicals of the Scorpio N. the Australian market holds a huge potential for the Z121. 

In Australia too there is huge potential for the Z121 where pick-up trucks or ‘utes’ account for 18 percent of the total market. In fact, Mahindra has been selling the Scorpio Pik-up in Australia since 2009.

The pick-up truck will come with Mahindra’s fourth generation ladder-and-frame chassis with an extended wheelbase of 2,850mm which is 100mm more than the existing Scorpio N wheelbase.

The Pik up will be powered by Gen-2 mHawk 175 hp diesel engine to produce upto 200 hp. It will come with Aisin sourced six-speed automatic as in Scorpio N and it will come with 4x4 capability with four drive modes.

Mahindra is also exploring the ASEAN region where it could potentially launch the Pik-up with the existing two-litre mStallion TGDi turbo-petrol. 

The domestic market will take priority and Mahindra is in no rush to take the international route. The plan is to consolidate its brand in its key export markets with the fresh and capable XUV700 and Scorpio N in addition to the current Pik-up.

Strong EV push
Electrification is inevitable and Mahindra has embraced the future by diving headlong with its incredibly ambitious and aggressive ‘Born Electric’ project that will see multiple body styles spun off its INGLO platform dedicated for EVs.

With its new EV range, It has its sights set on Europe. “Our second wave of products are Born Electrics with global focus,” says Jejurikar, also confirming plans to enter the European market.  “When we think of Europe, we think of it in two phases. The first is the UK because that’s right-hand drive and we want to get to the right-hand drive markets first. The left-hand drive Europe market is the second phase which we will enter once we’ve stabilised on all the right-hand drive markets.”

But can an unknown brand like M&M compete with top brands? “I think in the EV world, brands are viewed in a different context. You don’t have to be a 30 year brand for the consumers to accept you. The acceptance for a new brand in the EV world is going to be totally different,” he says. However, irrespective of the brand what consumers will not accept is anything less than a world class product.

Does Mahindra have the goods to deliver on this front? That is exactly what the Cape Town event showcased.

Though there is no confirmed timeline for the production version of the Thar.e, you need to take just one look at the concept to see the huge global potential it has. This reimagination of Mahindra’s iconic 4x4 is essentially to showcase the homegrown SUV maker’s design maturity and cutting-edge tech that is up there with the world’s best off-roaders.

A more tangible demonstration of Mahindra’s new found capability is the production-spec version of the BE.05, which was a big surprise. The BE.05 was first revealed on Independence Day last year, along with the rest of the BE range of SUVs. Camouflaged pre-production test mules have been seen all over India but what Mahindra showed privately to the media and off camera was the production-ready version and it looked absolutely stunning both inside and out. The BE.05 is the genius of both Pratap Bose, chief design officer at Mahindra, and R Velusamy, chief of global product development, both working in tandem to design and develop what promises to be a truly world class product, one that can give global OEMs a run for their money — in Europe.

R Velusamy, President – Automotive Product Development, Mahindra & Mahindra

Mahindra has thrown everything it possibly can into the BE.05 which gets a futuristic interior with a wrap-around, halo-like effect for the driver, three screens and the latest on-board tech. The hardware Velusamy has packed into the BE.05 promises to be the best in class with goodies like semi-active suspension, double glazed windows to ensure top-notch refinement and low noise (important for Europe), the best in battery technology and the latest generation of electric motors from Volkswagen to give class leading performance.The BE.05 will come with two and four-wheel-drive options. The rear mounted two-wheel-drive motor produces a solid 210kW (286hp) and 535 Nm of torque. The 4WD models will get a second motor on the front axle producing 80kW (109hp) and 135 Nm of torque.

Supplier surprise
Mahindra's standout advantage lies with its sourcing approach, having established strong partnerships with the finest global suppliers for its pivotal components: the battery and the motors. The BE.05 model will be available with a choice of two battery capacities: 79kWh and 60kWh, varying based on the specific variant. The larger 79kWh battery option will incorporate LFP blade cells sourced from the renowned Chinese battery manufacturer, BYD. This employment of blade cell technology, renowned for its advantages in terms of packaging, weight, and cost, outshines conventional battery designs such as prism, cylindrical, and pouch constructions.

The smaller 60kWh battery will use conventional LFP prism cells from BYD and the latest ‘unified’ cell from Volkswagen once production starts at a spanking new plant by 2026-27.

In fact, the tie-up with Volkswagen for components from the German automaker’s MEB platform is its trump card as it gets access to the latest technology to be future ready. In fact, the same APP550 rear-wheel-drive motor which Mahindra has been using will be the next generation electric drive for Volkswagen’s EV range. This brand new motor will only be launched by the end of this year with the ID family followed by the India launch of the BE.05 in October 2025. It's not clear when Mahindra will launch the BE.05 Europe but it’s likely to be in the 2027-2028 time frame to take advantage of the Continent’s shift to full electrification by 2030.

This decade will be the defining one for Mahindra whose aspirations to play on the global stage have never been stronger. The BE.05 and subsequent models on the INGLO platform is one of Mahindra’s many tickets to ensure it becomes a truly global SUV brand.

 

This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's September 1, 2023 issue.

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