Mahindra eyes US market for electric vehicles, sets up $230 mn off-highway vehicle plant in Detroit

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, one of India’s oldest vehicle manufacturers, is testing autonomous tractors, trucks and cars, while moving closer to bringing electric vehicles to the United States, Chairman Anand Mahindra said on Monday.

The company, which opened a new North American headquarters north of Detroit on Monday, is considering when to begin U.S. sales of the vehicles, Anand Mahindra said in an interview.

It is also weighing whether the vehicles should carry the Mahindra brand or those of its affiliates Pininfarina, the famed Italian design house; and Ssangyong Motor Co, a Korean manufacturer of utility and crossover vehicles, he added.

 Mahindra eyes US market for electric vehicles, sets up 0 mn off-highway vehicle plant in Detroit

File image of Anand Mahindra. Reuters

Mahindra & Mahindra bought Ssangyong in 2011 and Pininfarina in 2015. The Indian parent is collaborating with both companies on the development of electric vehicles, including premium models for Pininfarina that likely would compete with Tesla Inc (TSLA.O). Anand Mahindra suggested that Ssangyong and Pininfarina electric vehicles might be sold in both the United States and China.

Earlier this year, Autocar India reported that Pininfarina was developing a family of electric vehicles for China’s Hybrid Kinetic Group, as well as its own electric supercar. The magazine also reported that Ssangyong planned to launch an all-electric crossover vehicle in Korea in 2019.

In early November, Ssangyong said it had received approval to begin testing of autonomous vehicles in Korea, but did not say when it planned to produce them.

Anand Mahindra said his company, one of the world’s largest tractor manufacturers, had been testing self-driving models since it bought a minority stake in Japan’s Mitsubishi Agriculture Machinery in 2015. Mahindra & Mahindra operates several U.S. tractor assembly plants.

While work on the self-driving vehicles is still in the early stages, Mahindra & Mahindra has been building electric vehicles in India since the mid-1990s, when it developed a small fleet battery-powered, three-wheeled rickshaws for use in Delhi, the chairman said.

Mahindra & Mahindra bought Reva Electric Car Co, a small Bangalore-based manufacturer, in 2010 and transformed it into Mahindra Electric Mobility Ltd, which designs and builds compact electric vehicles for the Indian market.

New plant in Detroit

The new manufacturing plant in Detroit, the world's car capital, has been set up at an investment of $230 million. With the unit, Detroit got its first automotive production facility in 25 years. The new plant will create 250 new jobs in the US, a report in PTI said.

"It is pretty rare and extraordinary," said Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley at the Mahindra automotive plant launch event in Detroit metropolitan area. "You are an important and vital part of the resurgence of Detroit," he told Mahindra employees and top officials, including Anand Mahindra.

Anand Mahindra said that his company is committed to growing the Mahindra brand in North America and Michigan. "This building opening represents our company's growing presence in North America and locally in the Metro Detroit area where we have tripled our workforce during the past 18 months," he said.

In a few weeks from now, the new facility will produce an off-highway vehicle which will extend Mahindra's current position in this growing segment.

Designed and engineered by Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA), the vehicle promises to be unlike anything currently on the market, he said.

"This expansion represents a milestone for us and for Michigan. We started this operation with seven people four years ago -- to be crossing the 250 mark is a testament to the hard work of our employees and what this region has to offer in terms of top automotive talent," said MANA president and CEO Richard Haas at the inaugural event.

By 2020, additional planned projects will result in 400 more jobs and another $600 million in local investment over that same period.

In addition, MANA will continue to provide Metro Detroit- based engineering support for new vehicle platform development for India and global markets.

"It is a great day for my district and my State as this is the first automotive manufacturing facility in 25 years. This comeback is real and exciting," said Congressman Dave Trott adding that Southeast Michigan is the birthplace of automotive industry.

"This illustrates the strong partnership between the US and India," said Tom Vajda, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia as he welcomed the Mahindra automotive plan in Detroit region.

Mahindra has in total 30 facilities having invested about $1 billion in the US and providing employment to some 30,000 people, Vajda said as he praised the contribution of Mahindra in American economy and strengthening India-US relationship.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2017 10:14:13 IST