Mahindra & Mahindra revs up to regain UV market share

by Shahkar Abidi 16 Nov 2020


Clockwise (from top left): Next-gen Scorpio launch around Q2 2021; new XUV500 likely to arrive by March 2021; all-electric XUV300 launch planned in second-half 2021; new Thar giving M&M a sales boost.

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is rewiring itself to concentrate on utility vehicles (UVs) – its DNA in the automotive space. The SUV specialist is bringing all its learnings to the fore to revive its market share in the UV segment, which has dipped to about 15.27 percent, from about 28 percent at the start of FY2018 and 21.57 percent a year ago.

At present, M&M is placed third in the UV market share stakes, behind Maruti Suzuki (22.88 percent) and Hyundai Motor India (22.29 percent). And there’s a hard-charging Kia Motors India that has achieved a 14 percent UV market share in a scant 14 months.

2021 Mahindra SUVs launch timeline
The next-gen Mahindra XUV500 (code: W601) is slated to arrive by March 2021, while the next-gen Scorpio (code: Z101) is likely to be launched in the second quarter of 2021. Expect the second-gen Scorpio, which will come with petrol and diesel engine options for the first time, to be seen in Mahindra showrooms sometime around April-June next year.

The first new Mahindra EV in 2021 will be the eKUV100. The all-electric hatchback, revealed at Auto Expo 2020, is powered by a 40kW (54.4hp) electric motor and has a claimed range of 150km.

Next in line will be the electric version of Mahindra's XUV300. Built on the Mahindra Electric Scalable and Modular Architecture (MESMA) platform, which will also underpin future Mahindra EVs, the eXUV300 is expected with a 350V powertrain, though a more powerful 380V version could join the line-up later.

Mahindra is also likely to offer two battery pack options on the eXUV300. The more affordable version with the smaller battery pack will allow Mahindra to price the eXUV300 on par with the Tata Nexon EV, while the longer-range model could be pitched as a rival to the Hyundai Kona Electric and MG ZS EV. A third battery pack option is also being developed, with an even longer range to highlight the potential of its electric vehicle. The electric compact SUV is the first product with battery cells developed exclusively for India applications by LG Chem of Korea. The production-spec Mahindra eXUV300 SUV is slated for launch in the second-half of 2021.

The BS VI-compliant versions of the Mahindra TUV300 and TUV300 Plus are also expected to arrive in the coming months. Both models will get design updates on the outside (to help them comply with newer safety norms) and tweaks to the interior, along with an engine upgrade to meet the emission norms.

New Thar demand exceeds expectations
The recently launched second-generation Thar has given a shot in the arm to the company. Within a month of launch, the SUV has generated over 20,000 bookings. A sub-Rs 10 lakh starting price has helped the new Thar attract a whole new section of customers. The 2020 Mahindra Thar’s price range starts at Rs 980,000 for the base AX petrol-manual and tops out at Rs 13.75 lakh for the fully-loaded LX diesel-automatic (all prices, ex-showroom).

According to M&M, around 55% of these new Thar bookings are from first-time buyers and the automatic variant accounts for 44% of total bookings, thus implying that the demand is also from non-off-roading customers. So, what has M&M done differently this time around? The company believes it’s the mix of multiple variants, aggressive pricing and lower marketing spend amongst other measures have done the trick.

If there is an issue, then it is about the waiting period for the Thar which is currently 4-6 months. It is learnt that the company has put on hold bookings for the entry-level AX variant to clear the existing order backlog. This is being done to clear the backlog of orders of more expensive variants M&M already has. The hardtop and automatic-equipped variants of both petrol and diesel versions are said to be in high demand, with the top-spec LX automatic variants having a waiting period of around seven months. 

Commenting on the development, Rajesh Jejurikar, executive director, Automotive & Farm Sectors, M&M, during a virtual press conference held on November 10, said "Going forward, our focus on core domestic delivering outcomes. Various other things are work in progress. Thar is the first building block towards creating the SUV core brand differentiation."

M&M’s supply chain was impacted substantially in the past few months but the company says the situation is much better now. “With most of the issues now resolved, we are looking to ramp up production after the festive season to build up stocks for meeting the demand,” added Jejurikar. 

M&M, which remains bullish on its renewed strategy, may reduce its annual capex spending, estimated at Rs 3,500 crore by just about 15% during the current fiscal. A key reason is that at least three of its SUV projects are towards the end of their development cycle and it would be unwise to halt the project at this level.

JV with Ford to help reduce product development costs
According to the company management, there has been no further development on its JV with Ford due to delay in government approval due to the Covid-19 pandemic. M&M and Ford are said to be planning to share platforms, apart from manufacturing and distribution networks. The JV with Ford for UV is expected to substantially bring down the product development costs.

The first jointly developed vehicle from the brands will be the next-gen XUV500 and its Ford version. While the new XUV500 will be launched first, its Ford derivative will follow a little later. The two carmakers are also collaborating on a Mahindra Marazzo-based Ford MPV for the Indian market.  Additionally, both brands are also currently working on a new B-segment SUV that is expected to see light of day in FY2022.  These new SUVs from Ford for India will be designed by Mahindra-owned Pininfarina.

Commenting on the demand prospects at the virtual press conference last week, Dr Pawan Goenka, MD, M&M said, "For Mahindra, there are 3-4 products in the passenger vehicle (PV) segment that have fairly good forward bookings right now."

Overall, the rollout of a clutch of new SUVs will help the M&M improve its sales traction but it will also have to contend with considerable competition in the market, what with most OEMs racing to ride on the surging wave of demand for SUVs. It’s going to be the SUV-ival of the fittest once again in 2021.