Dealer optimistic about Indian trucks



After receiving news about the legal battle between India's Mahindra & Mahindra and its U.S. distributor, Global Vehicles USA Inc., Andy Jones is remaining "cautiously optimistic" about selling the trucks at his dealership.

The owner of Gerald Jones Auto Group was one of 347 auto dealers nationwide scheduled to begin selling Mahindra's midsize diesel pickups in December.

Jones had placed an initial order of 20 trucks and a second order of 35 trucks, he said.

Mahindra's managing director, Anand Mahindra, said Friday that the company now has "no date" for the U.S. launch. Regulatory delays pushed back earlier deadlines.

"We're still interested in getting into the U.S.," Mahindra said, declining further comment because of the legal case.

Global Vehicles maintains that Mahindra improperly terminated its contract in June after a failed takeover offer.

"The bottom line here is, Mahindra now believes this is a huge project. They want us out of the way so they can go direct and save the money we were going to make," Global Vehicles CEO John Perez said by phone Friday.

Global Vehicles filed a case in U.S. Federal District Court in Georgia on June 14, claiming that Mahindra had violated its contractual obligations and urging the court to block any other U.S. distribution of Mahindra products. It initiated arbitration proceedings June 11.

Mahindra maintains the lawsuit is without merit because the contract with Global Vehicles expired June 11.

"The contract with Global Vehicles has expired. In light of this fact, Mahindra will be contacting U.S. dealers to make other arrangements for distribution," the company said in a statement. It also said Global Vehicles is trying to "manipulate the press to damage Mahindra's reputation."

"We certainly still want to sell them," Jones said. "I don't have any insight into what's really going on. ... Mahindra is not talking to us at all.

"My opinion would be that Mahindra will honor the agreements with the dealers that paid."

In Augusta, Jones said that he is one of many auto dealers already set up to sell the trucks and that it makes sense for Mahindra & Mahindra to move forward with these dealers.

"I've renovated the building, bought their furniture and bought their heritage wall. I have the initial parts ordered. We could sell cars tomorrow if they shipped us the parts and the cars," he said.

Mahindra & Mahindra, India's largest utility vehicle maker, has been eager to expand overseas in an effort to transform itself into a top global SUV player.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.