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EXCLUSIVE: Mahindra to take fight to small cars


Well known and received as a maker of utility vehicles, Mahindra is keen to make a strike at the small car market in a bid to garner volumes and strengthen its position and become part of India's big three passenger vehicle manufacturers. In the next two to three years, it plans a multi-model onslaught that is designed to take the fight beyond Tata Motors and on to Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, India's largest and second largest car manufacturers respectively.

Their biggest secret is a car or a pair of cars that will utilize the same platform and are designed to take on the entry B-segment offerings from the pair. One of the cars is likely to be a tall-boy car that will take on the likes of the Hyundai i10 and Maruti Suzuki Wagon R and Ritz. Likely to be priced in the range of Rs 4 to 5.5 lakh, it will utilize monocoque construction techniques and will feature a petrol engine as well. Codenamed C101 (C for Car), Mahindra is known to be designing two cars at the moment, though it's not known yet if both will hit the market or not. To be under 4 metres, the cars will have a slightly raised profile, giving them a more crossover-ish appeal, ala the Maruti Suzuki SX4. Design cues from the XUV5OO apart, expect lots of chrome and embellishments on the outside while good space and features on the inside. A 1.2-litre petrol motor is on its way and is likely to be joined by the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder diesel engine found on the soon-to-be launched Mahindra Quanto.

What isn't sure is if the car utilizes the Verito platform or it is an altogether new platform. Mahindra senior officials did recently hint at the possibility of using the platform to develop more cars, apart from the Verito and the upcoming Verito Compact Sedan that is due for launch in October. Mahindra is also known to be developing a 1.0-litre petrol motor as well and that could spell the possibility of two cars below the Verito compact sedan becoming a reality. Both petrol engines are apparently being co-developed with Ssangyong, though at this point very little is known about their design or the nature of the powertrain.

Mahindra has been looking to invest a sum of $ 1 billion in a new integrated plant and it is highly likely that the small cars could roll out of this plant. While discussions are currently ongoing with several other state governments as well, Tamil Nadu is currently pipped to be in the lead, while other states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand are also possible candidates.

These small cars won't roll out until late-2014 or early-2015, but have been under development for over a year now. Can Mahindra make its mark as a small car manufacturer or will it find the going tough? Watch this space as well tell you more.