Pickup trucks made in India could be rolling across southern New Jersey and the rest of the United States sometime next year.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., a large truck, sport utility vehicle and tractor company based in Mumbai, India, is in the process of seeking government permission to sell its two- and four-door pickup trucks in the American market.
If the trucks become available in the U.S., the Chapman Ford Lincoln Mercury and Mazda dealership in Egg Harbor Township will become the first company to sell them in the region including Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.
Chapman Ford owner Bill Kassner said the company finds Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. appealing because the company makes fuel-efficient diesel and hybrid trucks. Kassner said Randy Chapman, the company’s CEO, drove a Mahindra vehicle in Costa Rica last year.
“They’re not quite as big as a Ford F-150. They’re between a Ranger and a F-150 in size, and they’re diesel,” Kassner said. “This was right when the gas crisis came about in 2008. We got the franchise awarded to us in spring, and we’ve been patiently waiting.”
The Mahindra trucks can get about 30 miles per gallon in city driving and more than 30 miles per gallon on highways, according to Mike Geylin, a spokesman for Global Vehicles USA, the Georgia-based company that is Mahindra’s American distributor.
“After that, they’re rugged. They’re built to take on the Third World roads of places like India,” Geylin said in a phone interview Wednesday. “They’re very durable (with a 2,600-pound) load capacity more in line with a full pickup truck than a compact pickup truck.”
The vehicles are being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, and the company expects to get final approval in the first quarter of 2010, Geylin said. The trucks — which will be modified to meet American emission and safety standards — will be built in the company’s factory in Nashik, India, and shipped overseas.
Kassner also said the company was impressed by Mahindra’s tractor division, which already sells equipment in the United States and is second only to John Deere.
The Chapman Ford dealership got approval from the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board on Monday to expand its showroom by 3,000 square feet, most of which will be for Mahindra trucks and about 1,000 square feet will be for selling more Mazda vehicles. Kassner said the building expansion is expected to cost about $1 million and the company expects to hire more workers.
The Mahindra pickup trucks are expected to sell in the $20,000 range. Geylin said their target customers would be small businesses — such as plumbers, lawn-care companies and contractors — that need vehicle fleets, as well as sportsmen and other outdoors people.
Mahindra has future plans to possibly sell Mahindra’s SUV, the Scorpio, a year later and if the demand is high enough, the company might open an assembly factory in the United States, Geylin said.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is a multinational company that started by manufacturing Willys Jeeps in India in 1945, according to the company’s Web site. Forbes magazine listed Mahindra & Mahindra as No. 27 on its list of Asia’s Fab 50 best big public companies in 2009 with $5.5 billion in market value.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is seeking to join another prominent Indian automotive company in breaking into the American market: Tata Motors Ltd. bought Ford Motor Co.’s Jaguar and Land Rover business earlier this year in a reported $2.3 billion deal.
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