Mahindra means diesel powered tractors for most Americans. But the giant industrial manufacturer from India is also keenly interested in the EV market. It already fields a team in Formula E, the international racing series for open wheel cars. Unlike Tesla, which wants to build its electric car company from the top down, Mahindra is more interested in starting at the bottom and working its way up. It will begin selling it no-frills e20 electric car in the London area soon.
The e20 EV is priced between £10,000 and £13,000, which is equivalent to about between $14,500 and $18,500. It has a maximum range of 75 miles. Its price is about half that of a Nissan LEAF in England. While the LEAF is a larger, better equipped car, half price is still a powerful sales tool.
Arvind Mathew, chief executive of Mahindra’s electric vehicle business, tells Enland’s The Standard, “We want to take [electric cars] out of the elitist market and make it more of a run-of-the-mill thing. Our product is really designed for city commuting, not for long distance driving.” He adds, “Our foray into the UK is purely electric, so it’s a big deal for us because as a brand we don’t exist. From the Mahindra group perspective, this is a huge deal.”
The target market for Mahindra’s E20 EV is young families looking to buy their second car. The e20 will only be available online and it will be delivered directly to the customer’s home. Repairs will be done at home by a fleet of mobile service vehicles. After sales begin in London, the company plans to expand sales to other British cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, and Milton Keynes.
Mahindra’s entry into the UK market started badly when it bought a company called Reva in 2010. Reva manufactured an EV known as the G-Wiz. A perfectly dreadful little car, it was the butt of numerous jokes on Top Gear. Mahindra will be swimming upstream against a tide of negative publicity for a while before customers begin to accept the e20 as something other than a rebadged G-Wiz.
Small urban commuter cars are part of an enormous market worldwide. They are much in demand in China, especially in rural areas where luxury motor cars are less important than basic transportation. By starting at the bottom of the market, Mahindra is following in the footsteps of some other manufacturers who have gone on to modest commercial success — companies like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia.
Note to Elon Musk: He who laughs last, laughs best. Don’t be too quick to dismiss Mahindra and its diminutive EV. At least not yet.