Diesel dynamo

Former Ford powertrain expert leads Mahindra's charge toward clean-burning diesels and hybrid engines for U.S.

Mahindra powertrain specialist Arun Jaura with the Indian version of the Scorpio SUV at the SAE World Congress in Detroit.
A former Ford Motor Co. engineer is playing a key role in an Indian automaker's bid to sell pickups and SUVs in the United States next year.

Arun Jaura, 42, a powertrain specialist, is in charge of getting clean-burning four-cylinder diesel engines certified by U.S. regulators for Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

At the same time, Jaura is guiding Mahindra into a more advanced engine technology: diesel-electric hybrids, which could arrive in the United States in 2010.

John Perez, CEO of Global Vehicles USA Inc., Mahindra's independent U.S. distributor in Alpharetta, Ga., told dealers in February that the diesel hybrid is coming to the United States. But Jaura is more cautious.

“We haven't thought that far ahead,” he says. “We will introduce it in the Indian market first. If we decide to bring it to the U.S. market, it will come later.

“There are also things still to be done on the back end. Our dealers have to have plans in place to be able to service this technology and keep it running.”

Global Vehicles says it has signed up 308 U.S. dealers so far.

Jaura moved back to his native India three years ago after working on Ford's Escape Hybrid in North America.

At Mahindra, Jaura has been working on diesels and hybrids with key powertrain suppliers including FEV Inc., Robert Bosch GmbH and AVL Powertrain Engineering Inc. They are working at a Mahindra technical center 100 miles from Mumbai, as well as at locations in Europe and in Michigan.

Jochem Wolschendorf, FEV vice president for vehicle and drivetrain engineering at the company's suburban Detroit technical center, says he is confident that Mahindra's hybrid diesel will be developed. But he declines to discuss Mahindra's U.S. product timetable.

Jaura says he was recruited by senior Mahindra executives who had a vision for advanced technology. Next year Mahindra will spend $160 million on a new r&d center in India.

“I have a young family,” says Jaura, who was in Detroit recently to be inducted as an SAE Fellow into the North American engineering community. “I wanted my family to experience India as they grow up.” 

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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