Pawan Goenka has not given up on the idea of entering the U.S. auto market.
The head of automotive operations for India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, Goenka acknowledges that the company is “still in the middle of it” on the legal fallout from his first attempt at entering.
Mahindra was scheduled to introduce an Indian-built compact pickup with a four-cylinder diesel engine through about 340 American retailers starting in 2010. But its partnership with an independent U.S. distributor collapsed at the last minute, and Mahindra has been fighting court cases over it ever since.
“But we have not given up our aspirations to be in the U.S. market,” says Goenka, who began his career with General Motors in Detroit. “We want to wait until we have the right product and the right timing. But we are still interested.”
Goenka recently came to Miami to oversee Mahindra & Mahindra’s entry into electric-car racing there, at the FIA Formula E Championship.
Mahindra has evolved since it first signed up for a U.S. presence in 2006. At that time, it was primarily a maker of Indian military vehicles -- not globally competitive ones -- and farm tractors. Its proposed U.S. pickup was a throwback to simpler times. Its prospective American dealers were gleeful to get it. But even they asked for a long list of product improvements before its arrival.
Nine years later, Mahindra is selling a range of popular crossovers, cars and trucks in Asia. It has opened a technical center outside Detroit, provides supply-chain consulting, and its U.S. tractor business is thriving. Under Goenka, Mahindra also acquired a controlling interest in South Korean SUV maker SsangYong Motor Co., which Goenka says would help Mahindra enter the U.S.
Mahindra now has more resources and information about how to set up shop in America, he adds.
He declines to put a date on when that might occur, stating, “It certainly won’t happen in the next three to four years.”