It was the time when India took a decisive step in liberalising the economy. The Narasimha Rao-led government with Manmohan Singh as the finance minister opened India's doors to foreign investment. Post-1991 when India was coming of age, existing car makers like Premier Automobiles, Hindustan Motors, and Tata Engineering & Locomotive Company (now Tata Motors) had started to sew up alliances with Peugeot, GM and Mitsubishi.
Till the project IDAM (Integrated Design and Manufacture) laid the foundation for the for Scorpio at a cost of Rs600 crore, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) was struggling with its car portfolio for many years with dated models like the Armada and Commander models. M&M was desperately scouting for a new vehicle to replace its aging fleet.
The group was once known for making rickety jeeps and tractors joined hands with Ford Motors to roll out the Ford Escort sedan from its Nashik Plant. Before joining hands with Ford, M&M was briefly engaged with Chrysler for its Jeep brand and Renault for some of its models. However, the proposal to bring their cars to India didn’t go beyond the discussions stage.
With the Scorpio, M&M was staking its future on a project that could determine its very survival in the long term. And while it may seem an insignificant sum today, Rs 600 crore was a lot of money then that was poured into the Scorpio project.
At the time, it was not the easiest of tasks to put in place a brand-new SUV starting from scratch for an Indian automaker.
However, the Ford JV came in handy with the learnings that Project IDAM's own team of engineers worked on the vehicle as if there wasn't any tomorrow.
The first-generation Scorpio made its debut on the 50th anniversary of the company in the year 2002. The production-ready Scorpio SUV was driven out of the Nashik plant. Its design and styling and introductory price of Rs5.5 lakh made waves not just in India but also in several global markets. M&M Engineering led by its then R&D Head Pawan Goenka celebrated not just the success of the car, but the fact that it was manufactured at a fraction of the cost that any auto major would have spent for developing a brand-new vehicle.
The Scorpio was designed and developed in-house with some assistance from AVL Austria, consultants from Japan, and UK design and engineering consultant Hawtal Whiting. For the first time in history, a chequered brand was overshadowed its parental lineage by a product. Scorpio became the bigger brand and the parent Mahindra was relegated in smaller letters -Scorpio from Mahindra!
The success of the Scorpio gave M&M is firm footing in automotive history to dare and think much ahead. The Scorpio footprint also got extended to Latin America, South East Asia, and Africa.
The brand tasted its success when much before BS6 was introduced as the 2.2-litre modern mHawk engine became its most successful mill producing 118hp@4,000rpm of power and about 280Nm of peak torque. Over the years, Scorpio has enjoyed several facelifts and feature upgrade packages.
The incoming all-new 2022 Scorpio -N is built on a new platform with global production with a diesel motor. The Scorpio’s 2.2-litre mHawk turbocharged diesel engine was offered with an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Even today, the Mahindra Scorpio is one of the few 4×4 ladder-on-frame SUVs priced under Rs20 lakh to offer an automatic transmission.
The Scorpio SUV is also made in South America and is hugely popular in Egypt and Uruguay and in many parts of the world.