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M&M rolls out petrol version of Scorpio

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Mr Anand Mahindra, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, at the launch of Scorpio petrol engine utility vehicle in Mumbai.

MUMBAI, Oct. 25

MAHINDRA & Mahindra Ltd (M&M) rolled out the petrol version of its new sports utility vehicle (SUV) - the `Scorpio' - here on Thursday. The model, christened `Rev 116', is fitted with a 2-litre, 116 bhp, MPFI engine sourced from the French automobile major, Renault.

Depending on volumes, efforts would be made to localise the engine, which made its debut on Renault's passenger cars two years ago and is being introduced abroad on a LCV platform.

The Scorpio petrol version (Bharat Stage II) is priced at Rs 7.13 lakh ex-Navi Mumbai.

"This is the first substantial presence of Renault in India,'' Mr Yves Boccadoro, Vice-President, Powertrain Business Development, Renault, said at a press briefing. Asked whether the partnership could spawn any future interest in passenger cars, Mr Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, M&M, said, "Right now we are focussed on using this engine and making the vehicle the best petrol SUV.''

Though Peugeot of France held a small equity stake in M&M until a few years ago for similar collaboration on the engine front, the same is not the case with Renault. "They are quite flexible on that,'' Mr Alan Durante, Executive Director, M&M, said.

According to Mr Boccadoro, Renault has a "long-term interest'' in India. The French company has a 30-year tradition of supplying powertrains and will look for opportunities in that direction.

"But Renault has more ambition than that,'' he said, conceding alongside that the cited ambition "must somehow mean'' resident manufacture of vehicles.

Renault has not yet found the right opportunity here and is also constrained by commitments it has elsewhere in its global business. "We have to digest all that. We can't be active everywhere,'' he said. Renault is the world's fourth biggest automobile manufacturer.

M&M, which targets an export share of 25 per cent in the Scorpio's total volumes, has done dip-stick studies in Russia and Indonesia and completed a detailed market study in South Africa. An entry into China is being considered. While local assembly is likely in these markets, a possibility closer at hand is CBU export to West Asia.

Having a petrol version is critical for exports. In the domestic market, desire to own a petrol SUV is limited to the rich clientele. The same goes for the Scorpio's planned 4 wheel-drive version; it has limited appeal in India, but good prospects abroad.

In September 2002, M&M sold 1,250 units of the Scorpio, starting October with bookings for 3,500 on hand. "This is the only vehicle in India that has a booking of four months,'' Mr Durante said. Currently, M&M makes 1,500 Scorpios every month.

Mr Rajesh Jejurikar, Vice-President (Marketing), M&M, pointed out that after the Scorpio's entry into the domestic premium utility vehicle market in July, the segment's growth rate over the July-September period was 37 per cent higher than in the preceding April-June period. Surveys show that 72 per cent of Scorpio customers are car owners, of whom 50 per cent own cars belonging to the C and D segments.

Crash testing of the Scorpio is planned over the next few months, Mr Durante said. M&M has scaled up its dealerships selling the SUV, to around 40.

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