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M&M to develop Special Limousine for Indian President, PM: Anand Mahindra

By Deepak Arora

FARIDABAD (HARYANA), March 17: Mahindra Group Vice Chairman and Managing Director Anand Mahindra has said the company could develop a vehicle on the lines of US President Barack Obama's official car nicknamed “The Beast” for the country's political leadership.

"I saw the diagram (of the car) and it had complete details of President Obama's Cadillac limousine. I have given the diagram to my team. If given an opportunity we would be proud to make such vehicle for the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs," Anand Mahindra said in response to question from TheTribuneOnline after inaugurating the Mahindra Special Military Vehicles (MSMV) plant at Prithla in Faridabad, 50 km from the national Capital.

Mahindra Defence Systems Chief Executive Brigadier (retd) Khutub Hai said the company has experience in manufacturing armoured Scorpios for VVIPs.

"Eight Chief Ministers in this country travel in armoured Scorpios. These armoured Scorpios are vehicles of first choice as far as VVIPs are concerned," said Brig Hai.

He said the company has already sold over 100 armoured Scorpios and exported five armoured Scorpios to Sri Lanka as part of the Presidential fleet there.

President Obama's brand-new Cadillac limousine, referred as a fortress on wheels, is one of the safest modes of transportation on the planet.

This all-new 2009 Cadillac presidential limousine nicknamed the Beast was specially crafted for the 44th president. The brand's association with the nation's highest office dates back to William Howard Taft and his 1907 Cadillac Model G. Woodrow Wilson also rode aboard a Cadillac limo, as did Presidents Coolidge, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes.

Mark McNabb, the brand's North American vice president, said Cadillac is honored to again provide a new presidential limousine. This is a great American tradition that we're delighted to renew.

While the commander in chief's Caddy pays styling homage to the brand's current lineup, including the CTS' dual-texture front grille and side and rear profiles borrowed from the STS and DTS luxury sedans, it otherwise bears little resemblance to any mere production model.

For starters, it rides a bit higher than a standard Caddy and features a raised-roof design that affords both added interior space and better outward visibility via its heavily tinted windows. While General Motors won't provide specifics, other than the limo is a unique vehicle, auto industry insiders suggest it's built on a heavy-duty commercial truck platform, rather than a car's comparatively wimpy unibody construction.

That's all the better to be able to handle the vehicle's heavy-duty armored exterior, which is painted black as tradition serves. With doors that are said to be eight inches thick and the weight of a cabin door on a Boeing 757 jetliner, the presidential limousine is able to withstand substantial armament.

To further protect its precious cargo, the vehicle is also equipped with bulletproof glass that measures a full five inches thick (only the driver's window can be opened, and at that only partially, presumably for passing papers or paying tolls) and it rides on ultra-durable run-flat tires.

This is obviously a far cry from the simple open-topped limos that once transported presidents up to and including John F. Kennedy, which were little more than glorified luxury convertible sedans. Clearly, we live in different times.

Cadillac says the Presidential Limousine's passenger compartment offers ample accommodations for Obama and his aides and includes myriad mobile office features. It's also completely sealed with an auxiliary air supply to ward off the effects of any possible chemical attacks the president and his entourage might encounter while en route.

According to the automaker, the car was designed, developed and tested by specialists who adhered to an extensive set of specifications, most of which remain shrouded in secrecy for obvious reasons. Cadillac subjected the vehicle in development to an intense testing regimen using what it calls extreme security procedures to ensure the car's functional capabilities are preserved and confidential. Still, this didn't keep at least one automotive publication's spy photographer from snapping photos of a disguised version of the limo undergoing such tests on the open road last fall.

A host of advanced electronics likely includes various cell-phone and signal jammers, an infrared night vision display, ultra-precise GPS navigation and every bell, whistle and safety feature in General Motors' engineering bag of tricks. Outside, LED spotlights illuminate the American Flag and the presidential standard, which are mounted on the right and left front fenders, respectively.

Cadillac is saying little else about what's under the Obama-mobile's thick skin other than it's fitted with a 10-disc CD changer for entertainment purposes. We can safely assume, however, there's also a satellite-TV system and/or DVD player installed somewhere in the cabin, should seven-year-old Sasha and/or ten-year-old Malia want to take Hanna Montana or SpongeBob SquarePants along for the ride on any of the First Family's excursions.

And though the automaker won't disclose details like size, cylinders or horsepower for what must be a massive engine that resides under the limo's long hood, at least one thing is a safe bet: President Obama's Cadillac limo most likely goes far fewer miles on a gallon of fuel than did candidate Obama's 28 mpg Ford Escape Hybrid.

Mahindra sets up first private defence auto facility in India

Report & Photographs By Deepak Arora

FARIDABAD (HARYANA), March 17: Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS), a Mahindra group company that provides special light military vehicles, on Tuesday inaugurated the Mahindra Special Military Vehicles (MSMV) facility at Prithla in Faridabad, 50 km from the national Capital, which has facilities for specific military manufacturing applications.

“This state-of-the-art facility, the first of its kind in the private sector, will help MDS harness the potential in the defence space,” according to Anand Mahindra, Group’s Vice-Chairman and Managing Director.

Speaking to newsmen after inaugurating the facility, Anand Mahindra said “the MSMV facility will manufacture specialised vehicles for the armed forces, paramilitary forces and police and is also designed to undertake vehicle development, armouring and conversions. Different lines have been established for different products, ensuring the highest level of quality control and processes.”

“MSMV also has an advanced facility for research and design, product development, design and prototyping of special vehicles to meet specific customer requirements, which is another first in the private sector,” said MDS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brig Khutub Hai.

Brig Khutub Hai said the new Faridabad facility is spread across six acres. In the first phase, we have spent invested Rs 25 crore. It will assemble around 200 specialized vehicles for the Armed Forces, paramilitary forces and police for the current fiscal. It will take the number to 350 in the next year.

He said the plant will have a capacity of 500 vehicles annually and roll out up-armoured vehicles like bullet-proof Scorpios, Boleros, the Rakshak, the bulletproof Tourister bus, Riot Intervention Vehicles and Marksman light armoured vehicle.

The second phase of operations will see production of AXE high mobility vehicle and the mine protected vehicle.

Brig Khutub Hai said the company may look at expanding a similar venture to Africa depending on demand. He did not specify a time frame.

Mahindra is spinning off its defence business into two wholly-owned units, focusing on land systems and naval systems.

The land systems business has government approval for a joint venture with BAE Systems that will start by April.

Later speaking informally with the newsmen, Anand Mahindra said we are currently working with National Aerospace Laboratories NAL) in their project to design a turboprop plane

“We are currently working with National Aerospace Laboratories in their project to design a turboprop plane and at the right time we will assess whether or not to go into the manufacturing,” he said.

He also said that the company is also open to collaboration with the DRDO, a public sector defence company.

Three years ago, the group acquired an 88.41 per cent stake in Bangalore-based Plexion Technologies, which offers design aerospace and high-end engineering services. Plexion was then merged with Mahindra Engineering Services.

“If you look at the group, we tend to go into any area first through engineering and make sure we have product know-how,” said the Managing Director. He said that the Plexion acquisition has given it the “expertise in aerospace engineering” capability.

Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS) is a division of the US $ 6.7 billion Mahindra Group, one of India's leading business houses.

Mahindra's new ‘Green’ Scorpio @ 7.21 lakhs

By Deepak Arora

General Manager Gaurav Saxena (Left) and Senior Vice President Arun Malhotra at the launch of new Scorpio in New DelhiNEW DELHI, March 6: Mahindra and Mahindra Limited (M&M), the market leader in utility vehicles, on Friday unveiled the new Scorpio that looks mightier and muscular with enhanced sporty and adventurous image. It is the first vehicle in India that is BS-IV compliant.

The new Scorpio, powered by the advanced mHawk engine and also incorporating Mahindra's revolutionary Micro Hybrid technology, starts at an attractive price of Rs 7.21 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and going up to Rs 9.20 lakh, according to Arun Malhotra, Senior Vice President, Sales and Customer Care, Automotive Sector, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd.

Arun Malhotra said the advanced 2.2 litre mHawk engine will be now available on all variants – LX, SLE and VLX -- of the fourth generation Scorpio. It replaces its 2.6-litre CRDe engine SUV.

Dr Pawan Goenka, President, Automotive Sector, Mahindra &Mahindra, said "We are re-positioning Scorpio to maintain the brand. The mHawk engine, which was earlier used only in VLX model, will now be used across the board."

The new Scorpio has a new signature front grille, multi-reflector headlights, provocative new bonnet scoop, sporty fog lamps, road armour bumpers, embossed side cladding, chunky door handles, rear integrated footstep, seats, upholstery, powered ORVMs, 2-Din audio system, parking brake and digital immobiliser.

The new Scorpio’s signature front grill now boasts a glint of silver in the middle, while the ‘gladiator’-like wrap around bumpers provide the Scroprio with enough armour to take on any other vehicle in its path.

The striking, new bonnet scoop adds teeth to the Scorpio’s aggressive bearing, while chunky, easy to grip door handles provide extra muscle.

The new, dual tone ORVMs are electrically powered and obey your command at the touch of a button. The Scorpio’s rear footstep is now seamlessly integrated with the rear bumper, allowing you to enter and exit with ease.

Powerful, multi-focal headlights with a unique ‘Sunrays’ reflector design, give the Scorpio hawk like vision, even on the darkest of nights. These are complemented by sporty, new fog lamps. New side cladding embossed with the ‘SCORPIO’ logo adds a dash of style to India’s most loved SUV.

Arun Malhotra said the new, ergonomically designed seats have been designed after meticulous ‘Body Pressure Mapping’ and will literally ‘hug you’ with their new foam contours.

The plush interior cabin is draped in rich fabric which is available in two seductive colour themes – black allure and a new tan and beige combination.

He said the swanky 2 Din audio system is featured packed and enables playback from MP3s and CDs, SD cards and USB devices, keeping you entertained while on the road.

Mahindra has introduced Bharat Stage 4 emission norms -- an emission standard that aims at bringing norms close to those in European countries -- nearly 13 months before they are enforced. BS IV makes the vehicle less polluting.

Moreover, Mahindra’s radical Micor Hybrid technology allows the engine to intelligently switch into standby mode when not required, thus conserving fuel. The engine starts seamlessly as soon as the driver depresses the clutch.

The vehicle, this, burns less fuel, reducing pollution and conserving the environment. The system also monitors health of the battery, safety requirements, engine temperature, etc for a trouble-free performance.

“Mahindra’s ingenious approach to driving efficiencies and costs have enabled us to offer new prices that have come after the significant price reductions ranging from Rs 34,000 to Rs 70,000,” according to Rajesh Jejurikar, Chief of Operations, Automotive Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

The recent launch and the success of the Xylo have got the management riding the recession. Now Mahindra want to put out their best car forward, but given a good bargain.

Rajesh Jejurikar said, "There was lots of learning that we got from Xylo. In terms of way we look at cost and cost management more than that it was about economies, which come out of communalizing the assembly line, common supply base and definitely positive out of falling commodity prices."

Xylo is priced between Rs 6.35 lakh and Rs 7.84 lakh.

The positive effects of softening raw material prices and easing interest rates is starting to be seen in the system and the automakers on their part, are launching new products at attractive prices. They are also of the hope that sales momentum for the month of January and February, sustains in the near future.

Pawan Goenka said, "This change to me, is not something that is incidental. It has happened because of fundamental changes like the financing rate going down, which is a very boost to the sales."

He said the SUV market in India was only 20 per cent against 40 per cent in Southeast Asia. "We hope that with the new launch, we will be able to increase our share in this segment substantially."

Goenka said M&M’s strategy is to scale up the sale of its utility vehicles in general, not any particular product, and the company is now better-equipped to achieve the goal with the new Scorpio. M&M sold around 84,000 utility vehicles this financial year, till end-February against last year’s 85,000.

M&M controls a 55 per cent share of the domestic utility vehicle market. The auto major hopes to close this year with 8 to 10 per cent growth over the past year.

M&M’s utility vehicle range at the bottom-end includes soft-tops, Commander (recently renamed Major) and Max, which retails in the taxi segment. Bolero contributes the maximum to M&M sales. Bolero, including Camper, sells around 5,000 units a month, followed by Scorpio which sells around 2,200 units a month. For April to February, M&M has sold 49,660 Boleros, 27,000 Scorpios, 4,000 Xylos and 3,000 units of Max.

Meanwhile, the company says that the sales in the rural areas has been encouraging and feels the increasing role of PSU banks and softening stance of private bankers would help keep the momentum going.

Maruti Swift sales touch 1-lakh mark

NEW DELHI, March 12: Maruti Suzuki’s premium hatchback Swift has reached yet another milestone by clocking the 1-lakh sales figure this fiscal (2008-09), while it recently crossed 3-lakh sales mark since its launch in 2005, the fastest by any model in the highest-selling A-2 segment.

In the A-2 segment that includes Maruti’s Alto, WagonR and Zen Estilo; Hyundai’s Santro and i10; and Tata Motors’ Indica, Swift will be the new entrant in the 1-lakh club, that so far included Alto, Wagon R, Santro and Indica. Swift has seen good growth since its launch in 2005, from over 53,000 units in the launch year to 1-lakh in the current fiscal.

And this is not all. To cash in on the growing popularity of Swift, Maruti Suzuki launched its sedan version Swift Dzire in March 2008, which has also been doing exceptionally well. So much so that it still has a waiting period of over three months.

By the end of the current fiscal, there would be around 60,000 units of Dzire on the roads (both petrol and diesel variants), while Maruti Suzuki also hopes to bring this car into the 1-lakh club next fiscal. But in the current fiscal, there will be five models (Alto, WagonR, Swift, Santro and Indica) that would cross the 1-lakh club.

Maruti Suzuki’s closest competitor Hyundai Motors has also managed to surprise auto enthusiasts this year by the growing popularity of its new premium hatchback i10 which is likely to cross the 1-lakh figure this year, though sales of its entry-level Santro have declined a bit this year along with Maruti’s Alto and WagonR.

Similarly, Tata Motors, which will launch the world’s cheapest car, Nano, on March 23, has also seen sales of Indica taking a hit compared to previous year. Overall, barring Swift and i10, sales of all other cars of the A2 segment have taken a hit. However, despite the economic slowdown that has severely hit the Indian car market, the A-2 segment has so far managed to show some resistance in the current fiscal registering a growth of 2.1 per cent at 7.88-lakh units between April and February 2008-09.



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