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M&M to set date on US launch in 2-3 wks

Mahindra & Mahindra, India's largest utility vehicle and tractor maker, hopes to announce in 2-3 weeks a timeframe for the launch of its pick-up trucks in the United States, a top official said on Thursday.

The US market is crucial for Mahindra to achieve its objective of becoming a global player. The launch, originally expected late last year or early 2010, has been delayed due to emission certification.

"The process is taking a bit longer than what we anticipated," Pawan Goenka, president and member of the management board, said in an interview.

He said an application would be made to the US Environment Protection Agency as soon as the vehicle completed the tests required, which should be known in about two to three weeks.

Goenka said the agency usually takes a month to process applications.

"Since our long-term aspiration is to be known as the premier SUV and pick-up manufacturer in the world, it is but natural that we must sell and be successful in the US," he said.

"Without that we cannot call ourselves a premier player in that segment."

Mahindra's pick-up will be competing with Ford Motor's 2010 Ford Ranger and Toyota's Tacoma models in the United States, the world's largest market for SUVs and pick-ups.

In India, Mahindra has a 65 percent share in the domestic utility vehicles segment with models such as Scorpio, Bolero and the Xylo and competes with Tata Motors, Toyota and General Motors.

Pawan said Mahindra would start selling the Xylo in Europe in 2010/11, and aimed to double total company sales in India and quadruple exports.

Shares in Mahindra, valued at $6.8 billion, have dipped marginally in 2010 while the main index has lost 6.7 percent.