Mahindra & Mahindra has announced it is developing 26 new vehicles, all of which will be launched by 2025-26. Of these, nine are SUVs for the passenger segment and others are small commercial vehicles and those catering to last-mile mobility. Veejay Nakra, CEO, automotive division, tells FE’s Vikram Chaudhary that of these nine, two will be born-electric vehicles. He said that going forward, the company will focus solely on SUVs. Excerpts:
Mahindra is focusing a lot on SUVs. Does this imply that you may not be developing any new sedans or hatchbacks?
We want to be true to our core, our legacy, and expand that core of making differentiated, adventure-ready, authentic SUVs. That’s the space we will focus on.
As and when you launch electric vehicles (EVs) for the passenger segment, will those also be SUV body shapes?
I think the categorisation that will evolve with EVs will be different. Today, if you turn an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle into an EV, you fit the battery, motor and control units in the body shape already created. But in the case of born-electric vehicles, the battery becomes the platform or the architecture, around which the body shape is developed. So, it’s difficult to say what body shape such EVs will take, but I’d add that our EVs will also be differentiated products and will be true to our core.
I think after the pandemic a lot of people are travelling together with their families in personal vehicles (and this is leading to a surge in sales of five-/seven-seater SUVs). Some of the things they want are comfort, space, high-end connectivity features and safety, and the XUV700 is a package that offers all of these, besides outstanding vehicle performance, at a great price. Another thing people want is features on the dashboard because they are spending a lot of time inside the vehicle.
Is Mahindra the biggest diesel engine player in India?
Yes, but we are also making inroads into the petrol-engine space. For example, more than 50% of sales of the XUV300 (consistent 6,000 units per month) are now petrol. Even in the Thar, 25% sales are of the petrol variant.
Globally companies are setting a deadline for the end of ICE vehicles, but that’s not the case with Indian OEMs. Why?
There is no clear direction or policy roadmap from the government. Now, besides ICE and electric, ethanol as a subject has also opened up. We need a clear direction from the government; as of now, it’s kind of a crystal-ball gazing for the next few years. Let’s say the government says that go electric by so and so a year and provides a clear roadmap till that year and beyond, the industry will start taking steps and making investments towards that goal.
But, for now, we have to be technology-agnostic; at Mahindra, we are looking at ICE, electrification of ICE, and born-electric.
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