Mahindra Promises Diesel Hybrid Pickup by 2010
By: Mike Levine Posted: 02-10-08 18:20 PT
© 2008

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Update #2: 02-11-08 15:35 PT

Sam Abuelsamid over at AutoblogGreen has biographical information about Mahindra's diesel hybrid architect, Dr. Arun Jaura. Before joining Mahindra, Dr. Jaura was the Head of Vehicle Engineering for Ford's Escape Hybrid SUV.

Be sure to check out Sam's take on the Mahindra pickup.

Update #1: 02-11-08 04:15 PT

Several more news items about the Mahindra pickup not included in the original story:

The "Appalachian" will have a U.S. exclusive interior that's been designed to American tastes (and sizes) by Michigan-based supplier Lear Corporation. Leather seats will be optional.

Two-wheel and Four-wheel-drive versions will be available.

Mr. Perez says the truck's size is close to that of the current Toyota Tacoma, instead of being a 'true compact' pickup.

Mahindra and GV-USA are planning a wide range of accessories for the truck, one of which is expected to be a snow plow.

Indian auto manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. has plans to offer a mid-size diesel hybrid pickup to American buyers by 2010, promising even higher fuel economy figures than the diesel-only truck it will start selling next year. Both powertrains will be available for its 'Scorpio' SUV too.

Last year interviewed John Perez, CEO of Global Vehicles U.S.A. (GV-USA), an Alpharetta, Georgia-based automotive import company, who's leading the effort to bring the Indian pickup (and Scorpio SUV) to these shores.

Mr. Perez just provided an update to about the truck's status.

"I was just advised that by 2010 we'll have a diesel hybrid pickup (for sale in the US market). It will be available for the two-door and four-door pickups, and the SUV," says Mr. Perez. "Nobody is going to have a truck close to this."

This is the first time a diesel hybrid powertrain has been announced by a truck manufacturer for the U.S. market. Gasoline hybrids have recently been introduced by General Motors for its full size 2009 Chevrolet Silverado and 2009 GMC Sierra pickups, and Toyota recently showed its A-BAT compact pickup concept using a hybrid powertrain.

"We're not able to announce pricing yet (for the diesel hybrid) but we're not expecting it to be, say, $10,000 more (than the diesel-only pickup). Probably several thousand more," says Mr. Perez.

Mr. Perez has previously stated the diesel-only pickup would start at $22,000.

The diesel-only truck will use a slightly modified version of Mahindra's recently introduced 'mHawk' 2.2-liter inline four cylinder diesel engine, that debuted in India in the Scorpio SUV.

Mr. Perez estimates the U.S. version of the mHawk will have power ratings in the range of 145-horsepower to 150-horsepower and approximately 300 pound-feet of torque, though the numbers haven't been finalized. The mHawk was designed in cooperation with diesel engineering firms Bosch and AVL specifically with the American pickup market in mind.

The American mHawk will be paired with a standard six-speed automatic transmission, a floor mounted console shifter, and steering wheel mounted paddles to manually shift the gearbox.

"I'm really happy about this diesel," says Mr. Perez. "This is a market that nobody is going to be in for at least three of four years. We're going to be able to give small businesses a truck that can get 30 to 35 miles-per-gallon, and with a diesel engine that's durable. It's a $40,000 truck that we're going to sell in the mid-$20,000s. This is not Chinese junk."

And it will be able to haul too. Mahindra promises the truck will be able to carry a very sizeable 1.3-ton (2,600-lb) payload in its 7.5-foot cargo box. By comparison, the 2008 Toyota Tacoma has a max payload rating of 1,685-lbs and the 2008 Dodge Dakota has a max payload of 1,720-lbs.

The trucks will come with a 60,000-mile, four year bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Three hundred dealers have signed up to sell the Mahindra pickup, which Mr. Perez thinks will be called the 'Appalachian', after the Appalachian mountain range in the eastern U.S., by the time it goes on sale in mid-2009. Most dealerships will be store-in-a-store, paired with existing auto franchises, but 24 stand-alone Mahindra stores are planned. One is already under construction in the midwest.

Mr. Perez is being very specific with dealers that sign on about how they treat customers.

"They have been told to treat our customers like they are buying a Land Rover. If they don't, they won't be a dealer. We don't want our buyers to be jerked around," says Mr. Perez.

Mahindra has spent almost $80-million getting the pickup and SUVs ready to meet U.S. federal vehicle regulations, like diesel emissions and crash tests.

"Mahindra is being three-times cautious about entering the U.S. market so there won't be any issues with the truck (by the time its tested for U.S. certification)," says Mr. Perez.

Production starts March 15, 2009 in India but final assembly of the pickup will take place at an unannounced location in Ohio. This way Mahindra will be able to avoid the 25% federal import tariff (aka 'Chicken tax') levied on foreign-built pickups. Mr. Perez says the amount will be only 4%. The first trucks should be on sale by summer 2009.

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