Remember Crosslander? The Romanian SUV that was scheduled to be imported to the US. The value priced vehicle never made it here, but the dream lives on for its would-be importer. Read on to find out what he’s up to now.
There were 148 American dealers who were eager to sell the Crosslander, but plans crumbled when the relationship between the Romanian officials and the USA importer soured. I naturally assumed that when the deal fell through that all of those dealers were out their franchise fee. However, it would seem that the US importer behind the Crosslander plan, John Perez, is a pretty stand up guy. Perez promised his dealers to either refund the franchise fee or find an equivalent vehicle. A few dealers did ask for their money back and a number of others sued. Perez says that he refunded the fees and settled with each of those dealers.
So what would be the equivalent of a Romanian built SUV? How about an Indian built SUV! Perez claims to have lined up 288 dealers to sell three Mahindra & Mahindra trucks: two and four-door pickups and one SUV, starting in March 2009. If things go well, there will be a diesel crossover in 2011, a diesel pickup in 2012 and another diesel SUV in 2013. The diesel pickup and SUV will be on a different platform from the first pickups and SUV. To meet the new EPA regulations for diesels, Mahindra engineers in Michigan and India will be getting support from German engine component supplier Robert Bosch GmbH and Austrian powertrain developer AVL Powertrain Engineering Inc. Yah think they like diesels much?
Will Perez’s attempt to import something new and different prove successful? Pickups and SUV have been taking a sales hit lately. The diesel offerings sound more appealing to me. Perez is quoted as saying that unlike his Crosslander venture, Mahindra’s vehicles are “Not trying to come in at the bottom of the market.” However, pricing is going to play a huge factor, at least at first. Mahindra’s should also be packing substantial warranty coverage to allay any concerns that buyers might have.
Along with the Chinese, Indian carmakers are coming to our shores sooner rather than later. In addition to selling their own nameplates here, there is the indirect route: Tata looks to be the winning bidder for Jaguar/Land Rover, Mahindra as also recently signed on to build vehicles for Nissan (of which Nissan may elect to sell here), Chery will be manufacturing small cars for Chrysler and SAIC/Nanjing may still put the Rover/MG nameplates into play.
While more competition almost always improves the breed, no one wants to buy the next Yugo. I’m sure that Mr. Perez is very aware of that fact.
photo credit: iva mcgraw