Mahindra working on small petrol engines


Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), the country’s biggest sport utility vehicle (SUV) maker, is working on smaller fuel-efficient petrol engines to power its future growth, likely to be driven by overseas markets.

M&M wants to reduce its dependence on diesel-enabled engines and offer new engine options, according to a top company official. Now, most passenger vehicles of M&M are diesel-driven.

With the help of AVL of Austria, a consulting and powertrain systems development company, it is developing petrol engines. It sells SUVs like Scorpio, Bolero and Xylo.

“We are working on engines with capacity of less than 2 litre for the petrol range. This is essential as the company is present in overseas markets as well,” said the executive.

Smaller fuel-efficient petrol engines are much sought after in markets like the US, Europe, west Asia and Africa. Tighter global emission norms and high fuel costs have compelled many automotive companies to go for smaller engines and smaller vehicles.

Mahindra is developing new models, including a mini Xylo, which could require petrol engines for particular markets. It has also developed a diesel-driven, pick-up version of the Scorpio for the US market, but may explore a petrol engine for it, too.

Many companies in India like Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motor, Nissan offer diesel variants for their models, but these models carry huge premiums over their petrol variants.

Since petrol variants cost less compared to diesel ones, utility vehicle makers can lower the entry price of their diesel models by over Rs 1 lakh.

Company sources said the strong research and development (R&D) backing of South Korean SUV maker SsangYong Motor Company would boost M&M’s R&D efforts. M&M is in an advanced stage of acquiring the troubled South Korean auto maker.

In line with global average, it spends 2.5-3 per cent of its turnover on R&D every year. Mahindra had earlier converted a 2.2-litre diesel engine into a petrol one for its Scorpio. The model, a turbo-charged variant, however, caters only to the export market and is not sold in India.

Like M&M, Honda Motor Company is working on diversifying into new fuel segments like diesel, as the company is heavily dependent on the petrol engine technology. The company is developing small diesel engines, which can be used in emerging and developed markets such as India.

Tata Motors, predominantly a diesel-driven company, has forged an alliance with Italy’s Fiat for sourcing petrol and diesel engines.

Other international companies such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors, which have set up engine and transmission units in India, have made their lines flexible, which allows them to make both diesel and petrol engines on the same line.