On October 2, 2020, on its 75th anniversary, Mahindra & Mahindra launched the new Thar, which is now more of a mainstream vehicle with broader appeal and targeted at a bigger market. Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra spoke to Hormazd Sorabjee about the Thar’s DNA and why the next-gen model is a 'lighthouse' product.
How important is the legacy of the Thar?
Legacy is the most appropriate word for the Thar because if you look back, the Thar owes its origins really to the Willys CJ3A, which is the first automotive product we ever made. What is absolutely unique is that this legacy is unbroken for over 70 years.
From the first Jeep, to the MM540 to the Classic and now the Thar, I can’t think of any vehicle in India with such lineage. So everything that the original Jeep connoted for the world and for us particularly is embedded in the DNA of the new Thar.
The DNA of the Mahindra Jeep back then was that of an explorer, of something that went where nobody else would go, where no man dared to go, so to speak. And in India, it opened up areas that were either too unexplored or undeveloped. Our first products simultaneously appealed to the explorer spirit in the individual and to the development of the country. In fact, the original Jeep allowed the nation, which had just ceded to the Union and didn’t exist in its present form before, to sort of get joined together. Hence, the Jeep in its humble way almost connected various parts of a new country.
To put the Thar’s legacy in another context, is to look at it as the source code for all our vehicles. We are SUV specialists and there is a bit of that source code in every vehicle we build. But apart from just being a source code of our vehicles, it’s also the source code for what Mahindra likes to see itself as today.
Even our own tagline of ‘Rise’ is all about building the nation, helping communities to grow stronger, helping individuals to explore themselves and their capabilities. All of that comes back to this humble vehicle. So to cut a long story short, the Thar’s legacy is not just the source code to our vehicles, but it’s also the source code to Mahindra’s purpose as a company.
Is the Thar now more mainstream? Or will it still be a niche, lifestyle product?
The question that then comes up is, what is mainstream? If you are defining mainstream purely by volumes, then that’s something we are not projecting as we don’t give forward-looking statements on what we expect with sales. Let’s put it this way: we are definitely expecting the Thar to be much more appealing than to the very niche crowd that it serves now, purely because of its ability to be as comfortable on paved roads as well as off-road. So that definitely increases the scope of its appeal and to that extent, the Thar will break out of its very focused niche right now.
What volumes it does eventually, whether that justifies the label of mainstream, I don’t know. I would say that rather than quibble over the word mainstream, I think more and more people are looking for ‘lighthouse’ products.
These are products that have been around for a long time. They connote reputability, trustworthiness, safety and protection. When they are refreshed and upgraded they become even more aspirational. In these fast-moving, volatile and unpredictable times, customers will want the reassurance of lighthouse products to help them navigate the stormy world we live in. We believe the Thar is a lighthouse product.
The way the Thar has been conceived, it can definitely break out of its current niche for sure and therefore we are confident of it returning its investment in all the state-of-the-art technology we’ve thrown into it, a lot of which will also be shared in future Mahindra products.
Will there be a focus on building an even stronger Thar community which is the core of its customer base?
In fact, the promotional activities of the Thar will be centered around community and in fact when we started Great Escapes and eventually the Mahindra Adventure division, the entire objective was to rally the community of people who loved this vehicle and what Mahindra’s good for. That commitment to community remains as strong as before. And we are now going to dedicate ourselves to make the tribe, the size of that community grow even further with the new Thar.
Our Igatpuri off-road track (near Nashik, Maharashtra) has been built to serve the off-road community and I would like to see further investment in that facility to make the experience even better. In a post-COVID-19 world, people are going to want these kinds of outings, they won’t want to go into closed areas like theatres and malls. So I think any recreational vehicle like the Thar will have a newfound appeal in a post-COVID-19 world.
2020 Mahindra Thar review, test drive
2020 Mahindra Thar first look video
2020 Mahindra Thar image gallery