Indian carmaker Tata recently made a splash with its Nano, 'the world's most affordable car.' Then, yesterday, we reported that Tara, another Indian auto manufacturer, is coming out with the Tiny, a car even less expensive than the Nano, and it's an EV, to boot. Both of these small, light and affordable vehicles have the potential to revolutionize the Indian auto market. But now, yet another Indian auto maker, Mahindra & Mahindra, "plans to introduce a diesel-hybrid pickup truck for sale in the U.S. by 2010," encroaching on the very territory--and market--that has been Detroit's bread and butter for years. (Read more after the fold)Named the Appalachian (undoubtedly to create an image of American ruggedness), the truck "would become the first diesel-hybrid to hit the light-duty market in the United States." This is big news for several reasons. For one, diesel-hybrids have been something of a holy grail for a while, due to the desirability of their increased efficiency combined with the difficulty of meeting stringent clean air standards in states like California and Massachusetts. As a case in point, Aptera, the innovative California-based startup, abandoned the idea of using a diesel generator for its plug-in hybrid, for that very reason. In order to meet the clean air standards, and do so cheaply, Mahindra and Mahindra is taking advantage of two things: India's low-cost labor, and it's ever-increasing supply of brilliant engineers. In fact, "the Senior VP of Product Development at Mahindra is Dr. Arun Jaura, former head of vehicle engineering for Ford's Escape Hybrid platform." So not only will this truck potentially eat into the sales of American trucks, the company has also "taken back" some of the Big Three's best engineers to do so. The result is an extremely efficient, clean, diesel pickup that will sell in the $25,00-$30,000 range,
A non-hybrid version of the truck will be available in '09, with an expected fuel economy of 30-35 miles per gallon, and the hybrid model (with an estimated cost premium of $5,000) will be unveiled in 2010, with an impressive fuel economy of 40+ MPG. So while GM and others continue to complain that they can't meet the new CAFE standards, foreign competition is going to show them how it's done, and they will do it for less money, too.
See Also: ::Quote of the Day: Thomas Friedman on Indian Transportation, ::Microcab: An Urban Zero-Emissions Taxi Cab, ::India to Get Homegrown Electric Motorbike, and ::Car-makers plan to launch $3,000 Automobile in India