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Back To Diesel Products> Yet another foreign car is coming
By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service

You've probably never heard of a Mahindra. But if you're past a certain age, there was a time in your life where you'd never heard of Toyota, either.

Mahindra is a big deal in India, where its trucks hold 64 percent of the market and its SUVs 80 percent. Although it sells vehicles elsewhere around the world, it is unknown in the U.S. The company hopes to change that by the end of the year when it begins selling its compact diesel pickup here.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the company hopes to get final Environmental Protection Agency certification this summer. The company is soliciting dealers ? it is said to have 300-plus on board ? and the company's website is soliciting Americans to take test drives.

The company will probably just call the truck a Mahindra just to get the name known, although it could save time by buying the rights to the Pontiac and Oldsmobile names. The Jeepy-looking 2.2-liter truck will compete with the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier, but it is the only diesel in the compact pack.

It's possible that the Indians may beat their big economic rival, China, to the U.S. market. Chinese auto manufacturers have been making noises about selling here, possibly in partnership with GM or such nontraditional outlets as Wal-Mart or Costco, but so far no Cherys, Geelys or Great Wall Gwkullas have materialized in American driveways.

The Journal says Mahindra hopes to capture from 5 percent to 7 percent of a market approaching 300,000 vehicles.

A second Indian automaker, Tata, is planning to enter the U.S. market next year with its tiny Nano, a sort of four-door Smart Car. If you really get into Indian cars, you can put the Nano in the bed of your Mahindra and drive around that way as a conversation starter.

Dale McFeatters is a Scripps Howard columnist.
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