M&M looks at Europe or US for advanced engineering centre

N. Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on April 11, 2012

automobile centre

May set up a vehicle-testing centre in Tamil Nadu

It is a high security area and the vehicle we are in is flagged in after a routine check. The drive-way is long and well paved, and the lawns on either side neat and manicured. The glass and steel building designed by architect Mr Charles Correa is bustling with people.

This is the Mahindra Research Valley, inside the Mahindra World City, a special economic zone, about 50 km south of Chennai along the national highway leading to south Tamil Nadu.

We are led through access-controlled doors to the Satyendra Nath Bose meeting room for an interaction with Dr Pawan Goenka, President — Automotive & Farm Equipment Sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

All meeting rooms are named after eminent people. There are rooms named after Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist; Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company; Karl Benz, the German engine designer and car engineer…

“We have no excuses for not producing the best of products,” says Dr Goenka, as he outlines the work that is being done at the Mahindra Research Valley, which will become the hub of the company's research and development activities. “We have well-trained people who have been with the company from the Scorpio days,” he adds.

This centre, along with that belonging to SsangYong in Korea, which is now part of M&M, will be the main centres of research for the company. They will coordinate with smaller R&D activities that happen in Kandivali (Mumbai), Nashik and Chakan, where the company has manufacturing plants, and with the company owned by M&M in Turin, Italy.

The centre here has about 1,400 engineers, which number will go to 2,500 when a majority of the R&D activities are shifted to this location. The XUV500, a premium sport utility vehicle, was developed out of this centre and the next product that will come out is a tractor, which will be in the market by the year-end, says Dr Goenka.

M&M, he says, is looking to set up an advanced engineering centre, either in Europe or in the US. Right now, it is only an intent and not yet into the planning stage. The company will have to decide, depending on the budget and other issues, he adds.

Picking the best brains

The idea behind the advanced engineering centre is to have people working on technologies at the high end. “While we can hire some Americans, some Europeans to come and work here, that number will be limited. We need to pick the best brains in some of these technologies like electric vehicles, engine development, cutting edge car design and create a mass of people,” explains Dr Goenka.

The company, according to him, is in the process of short-listing locations, looking at the budget, seeing if it can afford it and whether it can justify such an expenditure.

Its R&D spend is not about Rs 750 crore, or 2.5 per cent of revenues. And, with revenues growing 25-30 per cent annually, the R&D spend would only increase, while still remaining at about 2.5 per cent of turnover. Five years back it was about 1.5 per cent of revenues.

The centre has three foreigners — head of product development for automotive (ex-Ford), head of testing (ex-Lotus), and head of body and trim engineering (ex-Chrysler).

M&M, says Dr Goenka, would use the wind tunnel and crash facility of the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP), and hoped to set up a vehicle-testing centre in Tamil Nadu, once land was made available to it.

The research centre would only focus on automotive and tractor business and not work on the two-wheeler and trucks businesses of the company. At a later date, it may take up these and also do research work for Mahindra Defence Systems and Mahindra Engineering Services, two M&M group companies.


Published on April 11, 2012
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