Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Value Indian Take-Away

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Value Indian Take-Away

Article excerpt

Cash-strapped families being romanced by the SUV phenomenon are suitors for Indian brand Mahindra and its new seven-seater.

Priced from $25,990 drive-away, the turbo petrol model sets a price benchmark for the segment that can carry a netball team.

Mahindra is using the XUV500 as the platform to launch into the hearts of budget-conscious Aussies, but it must first gain brand recognition.

There are plans to double its dealership spread from 40 to 80 by 2020, with a compact SUV to launch within 18 months - which the Indian brand forecasts will help deliver between 3000-5000 annual combined SUV sales.

The XUV500 will be joined by an updated pick-up, Scorpio large SUV and a Jeep Wrangler-style Thar off-roader within three years. About five new or updated models are scheduled to bolster the Mahindra nameplate.

"We have enough stuff in the pipeline over the next three years to expand the portfolio," Mahindra international operations chief Arvind Mathew said.

"The aspiration...we are driven by being a recognised brand. We are not chasing numbers.

"We have been building vehicles for 70 years, so as long as we stick to our core we have dealt with competition around the world. We compete with the Chinese, with the Europeans, with everyone globally."

For now, Mahindra is focusing on its prized seven-seater range that tops out at $32,990 drive-away for the all-wheel drive W8. The XUV500 sits between medium-size rivals like the Honda HR-V ($38,990) and Nissan X-Trail ($32,490) and large competitors including the Toyota Kluger ($44,500), Kia Sorento ($42,990), Hyundai Santa Fe ($40,990), Mazda CX-9 ($43,830) and Haval H9 ($40,990).

Helping raise the brand profile is former Australian batsman Matthew Hayden. The marque's ambassador is regularly stopped and asked: "What is that?". While the company's research shows brand recognition is

building, the hierarchy recognises a lot of work is still required.

DRIVING

Surprisingly swift off the line, the turbo petrol is a zesty unit. …

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