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M&M set to throw down the gauntlet with KUV100

| Updated on: Jan 07, 2016
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SUV maker prepares to take on rivals in premium hatchback arena

Over the years, Pawan Goenka has steered Mahindra & Mahindra in its different avatars as a mobility solutions provider.

The first big one was 15 years ago with the Scorpio, which was the make-or-break product for the company and marked its authority in the SUV space. This was the time M&M had called it a day on manufacturing cars with Ford Motor Company and had decided to focus on SUVs instead. It hit the bull’s-eye with the Scorpio and has not looked back since.

A lot has happened over the years and Goenka is now looking forward to another big launch in the form of the KUV100 next week. “It is for the first time we are launching a vehicle in the mass market. With its price positioning, it will be a volume play,” the Executive Director of M&M said in a phone interview.

The KUV 100 will be pitched against premium hatchbacks, which also explains why it will be offered with petrol engine options, another first for M&M. As Goenka explains, diesel is “a part of legacy while petrol is an imperative” in this space.

The engines are part of the same family used in the recently launched Tivoli from SsangYong Motor. M&M had acquired the South Korean automaker some years ago as part of its effort to grow its global presence in SUVs. The two have been collaborating on a host of initiatives since then.

Robust brand Also known as the ‘Father of the Scorpio’, Goenka says the SUV space in India has seen a slew of changes over the years. The Scorpio was in, more ways than one, a new segment creator which drew its unique category of buyers.

Since then, M&M has had other significant launches like the XUV500 and, more recently, the TUV300. The best piece of news, though, is that its first flagship, the Scorpio, continues to be a robust brand even while it has been through its share of facelifts to stay relevant in a competitive market.

Perhaps, the only time M&M was relatively late reacting to market demands was in the compact SUV space, where rivals were the first to move in with models like the Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport. However, the TUV300 is expected to fill this void and is today clocking sales of over 4,000 units each month.

The KUV100, however, is a completely different play and could even be termed the most important launch after the Scorpio. In a segment where hatchbacks are the conventional solutions provider, M&M is attempting to change the rules of the game with its petite offering expected to be priced in the ₹4 lakh range. Clearly, a lot of market research has gone into making the KUV100 a reality and one of the biggest inputs has been the changing face of the Indian family in terms of affluence and tastes.

Young market The most significant transition has also happened in age demographics, where India is today one of the youngest markets in the world. Keeping this in mind, the KUV100 has been styled keeping youth in mind and, for better effect, presenting a brand ambassador in the form of Bollywood star Varun Dhawan.

In the journey to ready a staggering array of vehicles, right from the entry to premium space, Goenka reiterates that M&M will stay true to its core area of specialisation. In the years following the Scorpio launch, the company has forayed into cars, pickups, two-wheelers and trucks but has not deviated from the prime business of making SUVs.

This also puts in perspective why the acquisition of SsangYong was so critical even while its fragile health posed its own set of challenges.

What also pleases Goenka immensely is that, though the company’s portfolio boasts several SUV brands, customers pretty much know what they want from each of the M&M offerings. “To me, this is truly a marketing achievement and a tribute to the way we are differentiating each of our products,” he says.

This is borne out by the fact that the Bolero is the top selling SUV in the market, at over 7,000 units each month, while the Scorpio, XUV500 and TUV300 have quickly carved a niche for themselves in their respective segments. Synergies with the tractor business in hinterland markets have also helped bolster SUV sales. M&M is betting big on the KUV100 to spearhead this momentum in the New Year.

Down the road Going forward, M&M will pay equal attention to other mobility solutions from its stable. Even while SUVs and tractors are its key growth levers today, the leadership team knows only too well that it will need to look beyond this for its next stage of growth, say 10 years down the line.

In an interview some months ago, Goenka had said: “We need to create other options and, out of five things that we are working on, perhaps two will become part of that core.” Whether these end up being trucks, two-wheelers or electric cars remains to be seen but, for the moment, it is SUVs all the way.

Published on March 12, 2018

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