Look Out F-150: Mahindra Pickups Earn EPA Certification

By Charles Krome

Well, it appears that the Ford F-150, the best-selling truck in the U.S. since Jimmy Carter was in the Whitehouse, will be getting some interesting competition in the near-term future: Indian OEM Mahindra & Mahindra has finally received EPA certification to sell its pickups here in America.  As we’ve reported several times, most recently here and here, this process has been a long time in coming, to the point that Mahindra’s exclusive US importer sued the parent company.

Mahindra & Mahindra Limited is the automotive arm of a massive Indian business conglomerate, but its roots are about as red, white and blue as you get. The company began life building Jeeps for the Indian market after World War II, leveraging a deal with the folks at Willys, and eventually became sort of a modern-day International Harvester, only more successful. A lot more successful.

In recent years, the company has begun stretching its reach into other segments and other markets, and announced in 2008 that this would include exporting pickups to the U.S. Unfortunately, “soon” has turned into two years and counting. The biggest stumbling block? Figuring out a way to meet appropriate EPA emissions regs with the I4 diesel that will be powering the trucks.

That’s right, we’re talking diesels. And now that the engine has, in fact, passed those pesky emissions tests, everything is set for the M & M trucks to become the only diesel-powered light-duty pickups available for U.S. customers.

The lowdown here: The Mahindra lineup will start with a compact pickup just about 2 inches longer than a Ford Ranger, available with either a standard cab (the TR20) or a four-door crew cab (the TR40). Per M & M, the truck will have a 7.5-foot-long bed, the longest in its class, and have a payload capacity of 2,765 lbs., a number that’s both best in class and higher than any of the standard full-sizers on the market. It also will have a fair number of standard safety features, a decent sound system, a 4-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a standard six-speed automatic.

It looks like slim pickings as far as comfort and convenience features go, but that should be okay because M & M are targeting buyers who are more interested in payloads and whatnot anyway. Besides, it’s that oil burner under the hood that’s the real differentiator. The engine is expected to make 140 hp and a delightfully diesel-based 236 lb.-ft. of torque and, more importantly, get “somewhere around 30 miles per gallon” on the highway, again, according to M & M.  The 2010 Ranger 2WD with the 2.3 liter four cylinder is rated at 22 city/27 highway, with far less capability, power, and torque.

To put that into context, the 2010 F-150 with a 4.6-liter V8 engine puts up an EPA line of 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined. The most fuel-efficient 2011 F-150 will rock a V6 EcoBoost engine and deliver what Ford says will be an “up to 20 percent” boost in fuel efficiency, but this is compared to the 2010 model’s 5.4 V8, which goes 14/20/16 with the EPA. In other words, the least-thirsty 2011 F-150 looks in line to attain 24 mpg on the highway.

This means the Mahindra TR20 will offer a package with smaller dimensions, equal capabilities and much higher fuel efficiency than its Blue Oval competitor, and at much the same starting price. The TR20 will cost “around $22,000,” while the MSRP on the Ford begins at $22,060, so the former is a package that should attract a fair number of buyers.

And if you have any doubts as to how a vehicle made by an Indian automaker will do in the U.S.—I mean, outside of a Jaguar or Land Rover—remember that plenty of people once had doubts about the South Koreans, too.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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3 Comments

  1. This will be an interesting experiment. For the past few years Ford, GM, and Chrysler have shelved plans for small diesels, saying their research showed insufficient demand for diesels in the 1/2 ton market. If Mahindras sell in even modest numbers (40k) it will be despite the styling, unknown brand, and unavailable creature comforts, and will show the viability of diesels in applications outside of the 3/4 ton and higher pickup market. The Americans will be forced to re-start their mothballed small diesel projects.

  2. I wouldn’t buy one of these instead of an F-150. It’s a Ranger/Dakota killer for certain though.

    I’ve owned an I-4 Ranger. It was a good truck, but the mileage nubmers on the sticker are a complete fantasy. I never got better than 20/5 mpg in real world driving.

  3. They should do well enough.

    They look much better (and are far more practical) with a dropside alloy tray rather than the stock tub.

    They aren’t a competitor for the F150 as the Ford is more of a road and play orientated unit than the Mahindra…which is very much function first…comfort a distant second and performance…..well that’s a long way back.

    Given the methusalah status of the US version of the Ranger then the Mahindra has a very good chance. If Ford ponied up for the latest RoW Ranger then M&M would have its work cut out.

    I do wonder how long it will take North Americans to swap the Indian motor for a Cummins…

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