Mahindra dares to be different

2017-08-30 06:02
PHOTO: suppliedArtisans swear by their Mahindra Bolero bakkies, but the company is much more than cheap, strong bakkies. It also makes tractors, electric mopeds and it’s currently third in the Formula Electric Grand Prix.

PHOTO: suppliedArtisans swear by their Mahindra Bolero bakkies, but the company is much more than cheap, strong bakkies. It also makes tractors, electric mopeds and it’s currently third in the Formula Electric Grand Prix.

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AS a transporter, I have long been a fan of the Mahindra Bolero for being a bakkie that gives the most Newtons for the lowest price in SA.

There is, however, a lot more to this Indian vehicle builder than strong, cheap bakkies. Mahindra is the world’s best-selling tractor brand; it has been competing – and winning – in the Formula Electric Grand Prix as well as the Motor3 motorbike races; it launched the first 125 cc diesel scooter for India; and in the San Francisco., it has developed an electric moped for the student market.

All Mahindra’s vehicles, from its the big tractors to its tiny moped, form part of the Indian dynasty’s vision to chase “a clean and green future”. Like all car builders, Mahindra proves its models on the race track.

In the Formula E, Mahindra Racing is one of ten teams – and the only Indian team – to compete in the FIA Formula E Championship. The team is currently in third place, behind Renault in first , followed by Audi in second.

Mahindra was the first – and so far only – Indian team to participate in the FIM MotoG World Motorcycle Racing Championship Series since 2011, where South Africa’s world champions Moto3 rider, Brad Binder, got his first break on a Mahindra bike.

The company also competes in the rough, where it’s Thar has a cult following of hard-core 4x4 enthusiast who go bundu and desert bashing in these Jeep-lookalikes, and on farms, it is well known for not just selling tractors, but enabling farmers with services that range from exporting produce to finance.

Artisans swear by the Mahindra bakkies.

We stopped a few of these Mahindra workhorse owners to ask why they seem so happy, and the short answer is “excellent value for money”.

Paul Parsons, who services and repairs garage doors, gates and fences all over KZN, told me, “for their price, these Indian-built workhorses are stunning”.

The entry-level Bolero Scorpio with a dropside load bin with its 2,5 NEF TCI turbo diesel engine has a recommended retail price of just under R164,500, which means a new one will cost R144 733 after the VAT has been claimed back.

New, the long-proven engine makes 74 kW at 3 800 rpm and 238 Newtons from 1 800 rpm. On India’s slow roads, the Bolero pickup is built to carry 1 250 kg but in SA it is licensed to load 1 025 kg.

Parsons admitted the power can be more for the 1 025 kg payload, which he often uses to the maximum, but when empty, his Bolero drives in the fast lane.

“It is simply my best workhorse bakkie ever, and I’ve had them all,” he said.

He is now onto his third Bolero and his current one has 250 000 on the odo. “I’ve replaced the clutch for five and half, done the brakes and a silicone house which cost about R300.”

Electrical contractor Quintin Hodge, who operates Elecquick in Msunduzi, had fitted a canopy and a roof rack to his nine-year-old Bolero, which still has the same Peugeot engine with its after market turbo fitted to it for South African buyers. He said he only operates in Msunduzi and would have liked a little more “oomph” up the steeper hills going to Howick, but he has made peace with the mulish pace from his workhorse.

Hodge said the only problems in his Bolero after almost a decade of hard use are door handles that don’t handle, a broken brake cable a while back and broken water pump about six months ago.

His secret for such longevity from an intercooled-turbo known for melting the aluminium heads?

“I go out each morning, reach through the window to start it, then go back in and have a cuppa while the engine warms up for a few minutes. You can’t just start and rev an old diesel the way some okes do.”

Unsung hero of a little car

In South Africa, the cheapest Mahindra is the KUV100, an unsung hero of a little car designed for families with tight budgets on rough roads. Selling for under R150k, the KUV100’s 2-litre engine delivers its 115 Nm of torque at a low of 3500 to 3600 rpm, making it a very easy drive in city traffic or over slow dirt roads, where its 170 mm ground clearance makes short work of stones and holes.

Its interior is as hard and plasticky as one can expect in this price range, but the standard air conditioning is designed to cool even India’s hot humid weather, and its 3 Year / 100,000km warrantee and three year of 50k service plan are as good as that of, say, Toyota.

The design lines of all Mahindra’s dare to be different, imitating the crouch of a leopard about to pounce, down to the lights that resemble the tear ducts of the spotted cat. These lines look radical on the big XUV 500, an SUV that adds to the local value for money reputation started by the Scorpio.

Mahindra&Mahindra has been active in South Africa’s automotive market for 12 years, and it quietly sells around 4000 bakkies and sports utility vehicles a year to drivers who know a value for money when they see it.

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