Mahindra & Mahindra Scorpio leads SUV race, beats Renault Duster

Written by Roudra Bhattacharya | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 6 2014, 17:50pm hrs
Car model lifecycles may be going down across segments as companies look to retain excitement through quicker new launches. However, even as an all-new model is scheduled to debut in the Auto Expo next month, Mahindra & Mahindra's 11-year-old Scorpio has managed to hold on to its crown in the mid-size SUV market despite strong competition, largely from Renaults successful new entrant Duster.

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What has worked to Mahindra & Mahindras advantage is a strong presence in rural and semi-urban markets, which accounts for up to 40% of Scorpio sales and 30% of its overall volumes, and where demand is up almost 20% today. Scorpio sold 36,428 units in April to December 2013 compared with 35,955 units of the nearest competitor Duster.

Pravin Shah, chief executive of Mahindra & Mahindras automotive business told FE, We have been listening to what consumer wants. A strong volumes for the Scorpio are a combination of many factors and it has proved that model lifecycles have not gone down for everybody. Over the time, we have taken the Scorpio from urban to semi-urban and now to rural markets.

While Duster has seen monthly volumes gradually falling to about 3,500 units after initially leading with 5,500 units average monthly sales during the start of the year, the Scorpio has maintained steady volumes of 4,000 units a month with the high in October (5,230 units) turning out to be the highest-ever monthly sales for the models since its inception. Other rivals like Tata Safari sell a few hundred units a month.

The success of the Scorpio is hugely significant for Mahindra & Mahindra because of the prominent position the brand holds in Mahindras history. A brainchild of group chairman and MD Anand Mahindra, Scorpio when launched in 2002 had heralded a new era for Mahindra. It had marked a shift for the company from being a vehicle assembler to a complete developer of new models. Later, it single-handedly introduced Mahindra as a carmaker to overseas markets in Europe, Africa and South America.

What gives us an edge is that we have many more variants and engines on offer to appeal to each customer. Plus, the ownership cost is 20% lower than rivals, said Shah. Across six trim levels, Scorpio offers both a 4X4 variant and a 6-speed automatic version, in comparison Duster currently offers neither, while Safari offers a 4X4 option, but no automatic transmission. Since its launch 11 years ago, Scorpio has since one major refresh in 2006 while new engines and other technology bits like a start/stop system (saves fuel by shutting engine when at standstill) have also been introduced periodically.

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Puneet Gupta, the principal analyst at IHS Automotibe said, Scorpio would have also received some boost in volumes because of the elections where many candidates buy new vehicles for campaigning in rural areas. Duster volumes have gone down after Nissans Terrano launch. Most consumers are prepared to spend around R10 lakh and that price point has helped Mahindra because other SUVs, like the companys own XUV500, have become more expensive recently.