M&M plans dedicated line-up in each utility vehicle segment

Sports utility vehicle (SUV) market leader Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) plans to have a platform in each segment of utility vehicles (UV), ranging from compact vehicles to spacious, feature-rich multi-seaters.

Over the next few years, M&M will invest nearly Rs 5,000 crore to develop three or four new platforms coupled with a new family of engines. These new platforms, products and engines will be developed in syncronisation with its South Korean subsidiary, SsangYong Motor Company.

“We are not going to stay at one price point. Nor are we going to stay at one segment. We have plans of covering the entire segment. We will be creating platforms for almost every segment of the car industry — either directly or through our firm in South Korea,” said Rajan Wadhera, chief executive (technology, product development and sourcing, automotive and farm equipment sectors).

M&M generates 94 per cent of its monthly volumes from utility vehicles (UVs) such as SUVs and MUVs (multi-utility vehicles).

The company is simultaneously developing a new compact SUV in addition to other new products, independently and through association with its South Korean subsidiary. While the sub-four metre mini SUV is expected to compete against Ford's best seller EcoSport, other planned products will plug gaps at other price points. It already has a mini MUV in the form of the Quanto, which is essentially a cut-down version of its former best-seller, Xylo.

Notably, M&M does not have a product which can directly compete against India's largest selling premium MUV, Toyota Innova, in the segment of Rs 9-11 lakh. Similarly, a complementary SUV to the decade-old Scorpio is also missing.

According to senior executives of the company, new products will not hit the market before FY16, around the same time when an all-new Scorpio is expected.

The company is also exploring the possibilities of spinning off new products using existing platforms. For instance, M&M's most premium SUV XUV500, which has a monocoque (single shell) body, carries the capabilities to deliver cross-over, pick-ups and multi-purpose vehicles.

According to the company, with the success of the XUV500 —priced at Rs 12 lakh, which clocked volumes of 77,000 units in two years — it has had several valuable insights in product development, especially in areas of fit and finish. The auto maker promises to upgrade the experience of owing a M&M branded personal vehicle.

"What you will see is much better engineering quality of the vehicle, much better characteristics, namely right handling, fit and finish, which is all a consequence of our engineering, better driveability and ruggedness (which) we always had in our vehicles (and) which will continue,” added Wadhera.

With the infiltration of new products in the areas where M&M operates, its market share has taken a knock. According to data by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), M&M's share in the utility vehicle segment declined to 43 per cent till September this year, compared to 56 per cent reported in September 2011.

At present, the share of hatchback and sedans is 71 per cent while UVs command a share of 20 per cent, according to data by Siam.