with John Perez, CEO of Global Vehicles U.S.A.
Some might say that importing a small, four cylinder, diesel-powered, six-speed automatic pickup of Indian origin into the United States in hopes of finding sales success would be a foolish venture, at best. After all, what buyer would gamble spending hard earned dollars on a pickup from a country more renowned for Bollywood instead of building trucks capable of hauling wood?
John Perez is a man willing to take that bet.
Mr. Perez is the CEO of Global Vehicles U.S.A. (GV-USA), an Alpharetta, Georgia-based automotive import company that Indian farm equipment and vehicle manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. has partnered with to bring Mahindra's new pickups to these shores - a regular cab and two crew cab models.
Don't laugh. Mr. Perez has history on his side.
By the time Mahindra's haulers go on sale in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2009, we'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the birth of the import compact truck in America. In 1959 another small, Asian-based company started selling a few Japanese-sourced 37-horsepower pickups with the funny name 'Datsun 1000'. Today that company sells tens of thousands of midsize and full size pickups, not to mention every other type of vehicle, under the Nissan brand.
Will Mahindra repeat Nissan's success? Only time will tell but based on our recent interview with Mr. Perez, they certainly seem to be off to a good start targeting this truck for U.S. buyers.
Mr. Perez spoke with PUTC, setting the record straight on a few items and highlighting the value future Mahindra owners can expect to find in their trucks.
PickupTruck.com (PUTC): In other news reports we've read, it's been written that (at least one) of Mahindra's trucks will be priced as low as the lowest-priced, entry-level compact and midsize trucks currently available in the U.S., like the Ford Ranger or Chevrolet Colorado. Is that information correct?
John Perez (JP): I know what you're saying but I don't know where that information came from. We are not going to going to be the lowest truck in the market. We're coming in with a truck that has a lot of the latest technology. For example, we're going to have the latest technology in diesel engines. The same technology you're going to find coming out by the end of this year and next year in Mercedes Benz, BMW, and other high-end cars. And our automatic transmission is going to be a six-speed 'tiptronic' [manually shiftable] transmission. So, we're not going to be the cheapest in the market, but we're going to be very reasonably priced.
PUTC: What price point do you expect these trucks to start at?
JP: The trucks will be priced starting somewhere in the low-twenties.
PUTC: Going back to the latest technology - can you tell us more about the diesel technology you're using? Is it going to be fully Tier 2 Bin 5 (T2B5) compliant?
JP: Our green diesels - yes, they are going to be fully T2B5 compliant.
PUTC: For both particulates and NOX?
JP: That's correct. Yes.
PUTC: For nitrogen-oxides (NOX), how are you meeting T2B5? Are you using a urea selective catalytic reduction (SCR) solution or an adsorber catalyst [like Cummins uses for the 6.7-liter I6 in the Dodge Ram]?
JP: We're using urea.
PUTC: And the urea [NOX scrubbing] system will be ready by the time the trucks go on sale in 2009?
PUTC: Do you have a service interval that you'll be recommending to owners to refill the urea tank?
JP: We're still working on that right now. I can't give you all the details on it, but yes, there will be a service interval. We're working on the urea refill interval to be at the same time as the normal service interval. And, we're also working for consumers to have free maintenance during the lifetime of the truck's warranty too.
PUTC: The mileage warranty mentioned on your website says it will last 60,000-miles, but we didn't see the time duration. For what time period will the factory warranty be available?
JP: It will be for four-years, 60,000-miles, bumper-to-bumper. And we're working on the same time period to also include free maintenance and urea (refills) too. It's not a certainty yet, but it's 90%.
PUTC: Can you talk about where the truck is going to be serviced? Is it going to be at the same dealer where the truck was sold? It's our understanding that Mahindra will start off with approximately 300 dealers nationwide.
JP: Yes, they'll be serviced at the same dealer where the truck was bought. Right now we're at 240 (signed) dealers and our target is to go to 400 (by the time the truck goes on sale).
PUTC: And will these dealers be both regular vehicle dealers and Mahindra tractor dealers? [Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd currently sell farm tractors in the United States]. Some combination of the two?
JP: No, the trucks will only be sold from existing automobile dealers. No tractor dealers. That's a completely separate unit.
PUTC: Do you have numbers for the payload and towing capacity of the truck?
JP: We don't have towing yet but we do have payload. We expect payload capacity to be a little over a ton.
PUTC: What about locking differentials? Will the truck also come with a locking diff?
JP: Yes, the truck will also come with a locking differential.
PUTC: Since all the trucks will be coming from India, what about the buyer who wants to place a special order? Will there be an opportunity to do that or will the trucks only come as delivered?
JP: Buyers are going to be able to special order trucks, just like you would any other car from another car company. Our turnaround time for our orders will be around 3 to 4 months, and we're expecting the same amount of time for a special order to be delivered.
PUTC: Do you have any volume targets yet for 2009?
JP: That question has been asked a lot. We have our own volume targets and we have our dealers' targets too. Our (internal) targets are lower than our dealers' right now. We've targeted to sell an initial 45,000 units in the first year - for both trucks and SUVs [Mahindra will also import two SUVs to sell in the U.S., starting in 2009]. The dealers' numbers are much higher than this and we're going to let the retailers drive what we bring into the country. We're not going to build vehicles and then sell them. The retailers will drive production.
PUTC: What do you expect the mix to be between crew cab and regular cab pickups?
JP: We're looking at the (initial) mix to be 65% / 35%, with 65% being crew cab and 35% regular cab. When we listen to some of our larger, commercial dealers, we hear them saying they can do a great job with a two-door pickup that has a (payload) capacity of over a ton and a diesel engine. So, we don't know where the commercial two door pickups might be as opposed to the four door pickup, which is more of a family type truck.
PUTC: What about accessories? Are you also planning to sell a line of Mahindra accessories for these trucks too?
JP: Yes. Definitely yes. Mahindra already has a line of accessories available for the trucks in India now, so all of those accessories are going to be available here, too. Like brush guards, roll bars, fiberglass caps, bed liners. All of that will be available.
PUTC: One important question we've heard from our readers - how many cupholders is the truck going to have?
JP: (Laughing) It's going to have a lot! I'm laughing about this because our service people we're just in India and they took cups from Starbucks, McDonalds, (and other places). Every cup you could imagine was taken to India to make sure they could hold the 'Big Gulp' cups and stuff that we use here in the states. I don't know what the final number will be but it will have enough cupholders. This is a great question because JD Power just did a study of our trucks and SUVs and one of the items they looked at was cupholders. It's a big thing with Americans - having the right cupholders, and I can see that.
PUTC: And one last question - is the front suspension going to be a solid front axle or independent?
JP: It's going to be an independent front suspension. Again, this truck has been built using the latest technology. It's not an old truck, like some other manufacturers are trying to bring into the country from overseas. This truck was developed two years ago and it was developed to come into this market. The engine was developed by Mahindra but with the assistance of (leading diesel component suppliers) Bosch and (Michigan-based) AVL.
PUTC: That's sounds great. Thanks so much for your time today. We can't wait to get behind the wheel of your new trucks.
JP: Thank you.