The latest bad news from the Mahindra pickup franchise venture -- that the truck's fuel economy is nowhere near what the manufacturer promised -- is not turning dealers off.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. of India has been promoting its four-cylinder diesel pickup to potential U.S. dealers for three years as a truck that would deliver about 30 mpg, while boasting the cargo and towing capacity of a full-sized pickup.
But the EPA now has officially rated the pickup at 19 mpg city/21 highway -- similar to a gasoline Ford F series.
Mahindra in India did not respond to requests to explain the difference. But as far as many of Mahindra's 350 prospective U.S. dealers are concerned, it doesn't kill the deal.
"It's obviously disappointing and I'd like to know why it's different from what they promised," said Joseph Yergeau, a Manchester, N.H., Buick, Cadillac and Mercedes dealer who is waiting to begin selling Mahindra. "But I'm not going to drop the franchise. It's still a very viable product and I'm looking forward to selling it."
Yergeau and other dealers contacted by Automotive News said the small truck's diesel-powered towing and 1-ton hauling capacity will set it apart from other U.S.-market pickups.
"We expect the fuel economy numbers to get better in time," said Bud Robke, who owns Robke Automotive in Fort Wright, Ky., and plans to operate the Mahindra franchise for northern Kentucky. "I was taken aback, but it's not as bad as it looks. Those are the worst-case mileage numbers, for the king cab version of the pickup."
Since last summer, Mahindra's retail plans have been locked up in a legal disagreement between the manufacturer and its independent U.S. distributor, Global Vehicles U.S.A. of Alpharetta, Ga. Mahindra is seeking to drop the distributor.
Global Vehicles CEO John Perez said the Indian company has been responsible for U.S. regulatory matters, and referred questions about the EPA results to the manufacturer.