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For Anand Mahindra, Marazzo marks a new leap of faith

Murali Gopalan | Updated on September 06, 2018

Looking towards the future Anand Mahindra, Executive Chairman, Mahindra & Mahindra   -  PAUL NORONHA

The Mahindra & Mahindra chairman believes that the latest offering is a triumph of global cooperation

From Anand Mahindra’s point of view, the Marazzo is more than just another vehicle offering from his company.

“As I have always said earlier, the challenge is not about technology but the quality of the technology coming in, collaboration, dialogue, communication and so on. Those are the things that usually end up in a sense subverting a project,” the Executive Chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra told BusinessLine.

The Marazzo marks a triumph of skills and competencies bending successfully across different parts of the world. The people carrier, as M&M terms it, was jointly developed and designed by teams at Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA), Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai and Italian auto design firm, Pininfarina along with counterparts at the Mahindra Design Studio in Mumbai.

Across three continents

As a result, the Marazzo is the first product from the M&M stable that has literally been created across three continents. “What I am very pleased about is that this experiment has worked not only because we see a very fine car but because these three (entities) had equal passion and equal diligence in finishing a product,” added Mahindra.

It is hardly surprising then that the trio is already working on the next product, which should become a reality in the not-so-distant future. Both MANA and Pininfarina are part of the Mahindra group and the Marazzo has shown that diverse groups can come together for a common goal.

“Normally, you get finger-pointing… so and so did not do this or that person did not do it on time. The blame game is what kills global coordination. I am very pleased to say that I think we sorted that problem out, which means that the future is very bright,” said an upbeat Mahindra. The Marazzo will aggressively target prospective buyers in Tier 2/3 regions in addition to the big metros. Beyond a family vehicle, it will also appeal to singles and young couples looking out for long weekend drives.

And while M&M is steering clear of any reference to the Marazzo as a multi-purpose vehicle, it is a fair bet to say that its price tag will make a connect with those aspiring to buy the Toyota Innova Crysta (Maruti Suzuki’s Ertiga is the other option in the MPV space).

“As an object of desire, the Marazzo is what will be a family vehicle or people carrier,” said Mahindra at the launch in Nashik. Sure, the world has seen MPVs like the Renault Espace but they were by and large “cars for soccer moms”. According to him, the MPVs of old really had no personality or passion. “Our challenge was to give the Marazzo a personality.”

Mahindra recalled the time Rick Haas, the President and CEO of MANA, took him for a ride on this vehicle, which was then codenamed u321 to feel the experience. Out there in Detroit while driving on the expressway, Mahindra said he “felt like a little kid with this big rush of blood and a sense of what globalisation is about”.

A transformative product

To that extent, the Marazzo is as transformative perhaps as the Scorpio and XUV500 were to the company earlier. “The Scorpio was transformative because it was a step jump in our ambition and aspiration. The XUV was a leap of faith in design and this one (Marazzo) is a leap of faith that we can take three centres of development and make them co-create a product,” explained Mahindra.

He then recounted the time he first saw the XUV500. Accompanying him was a 25-year-old who exclaimed ‘Wow’ when he saw the prototype. “My jaw dropped too. XUV took us into the realm of high design . People love things of beauty and M&M’s romance with design began then,” said Mahindra.

There is, of course, no question that the company has come a long way since the launch of the Scorpio way back in 2002. During that point in time, the success of this product was critical to M&M’s relevance as an SUV player. It had broken off with Ford to focus solely on this project and all the hard work paid off.

Since then, M&M has spread its wings through acquisitions like SsangYong Motors in 2011 even while making a brief comeback in cars through a joint venture with Renault to make the Logan. It has now joined hands again with former ally, Ford, to explore a host of options in areas like SUVs, electric vehicles and connectivity.

Beyond this, M&M has also articulated its intent to look at other mobility solutions like trucks and buses as well as two-wheelers. While some progress is happening in the former, the same cannot be said for its two-wheeler business. Meanwhile, tractors continue to be a strong growth pillar with new global beachheads like Japan, Finland and Turkey.

Anand Mahindra also knows only too well that there are a host of challenges ahead in the mobility space. It was during the TUV300 launch in 2015 when he spoke of the threat to car ownership from options like Uber.

“Potentially, the bigger threat is from the age of access. We live in an age of the Olas and Ubers and transportation is a commodity that will be given to you,” he had said then.

Things have been changing even more rapidly since then with new frontiers like connected cars, electric mobility and so on. “If you talk to any auto-maker around the world, they will always be scratching their heads. Nobody has a real clue on how this landscape will change. It is a landscape that has an element of uncertainty that it has never seen before in any time,” Mahindra elaborated to this writer after the Marazzo launch.

Disruptions and challenges

So, what was the way out in such a challenging environment? M&M clearly sees no reason to press the panic button. “What most OEMs are doing, I suspect, (as are we) is that you are building scenarios and creating options for all those scenarios,” he said.

These include ride-sharing and how it is going to change the intra-urban commuting space as also electric and autonomous cars. “Who are the players there, we don’t know.. it’s up in the air. Everyday, there is talk about Apple becoming a competitor there, Google and Waymo are coming in too,” said Mahindra.

As he put it, how much more dynamic can a landscape get? The solution, therefore, is to have scenarios where “you can continue to play in that field and we intend to”.

The second opportunity for companies like M&M is the heartland, which is where cars are recreational and lifestyle products. “We have more people for long journeys and there are cars, which are expression of personality for people. We believe SUVs have much more scope in that space than the boring sedan if I may,” added Mahindra. Yet, he made it clear that the company would not focus on market share but on products that are lusted after by customers

The final opportunity is what he referred to as “objects of obsession”, which is the luxury market, the fastest growing in the last five years. “The luxury market has not come down and we intend to get a piece of that pie with the Pininfarina association,” said the M&M Chairman.

Published on September 06, 2018

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