Senior executives from Tata Motors, Renault design team quit, join Mahindra
Design is always the port of call for a car buyer, experts say. The UV major known for its very ‘ boxy ‘ designs has been losing significant market share in its bread -and- butter segments not only to the new age players like Kia and Hyundai, but even to
Mahindra & Mahindra has been trying to retrieve its pole position as a UV maker which it lost to Maruti Suzuki three years ago.
At this time, it needs to go back to the drawing board to keep pace with both technology and design. Although the UV major’s strengths continue to be in the powertrain and in the traditional fuel technology, it needs to be part of the big transformation taking place globally to electric vehicles, say experts.
Mahindra till recently has been very India-centric, with a smaller team of designers. The fact it has set up a design house in the UK indicates that it wants to be seen as more “international” through its design language, a person part of the development said.
Mahindra very much wanted to have a centrally located European design centre which serves as a hub to network for talent, technology and the latest designs.
Bose, who is given a free reign to hire, is understood to be revamping the India design team too. After the hiring of Sharma from Tata Motors and Dhamane from Renault, Bose is looking at expanding the team in the UK and is understood to be taking engineers from Mahindra’s Chennai R&D unit to the UK .
Meanwhile the existing 60-odd India design team is waiting to get some kind of clarity from Bose on the way forward.
Another issue being sorted out is that Ramkripa Ananthan, the outgoing Mahindra head designer, was wearing all the hats looking at an end-to -end solution heading all support functions related to design. Now Bose feels the role of a creative designer and design director needs to be clearly demarcated.
Sources say that among the Indian auto majors the design department has been playing a subsidiary role to engineering, in contrast to the practice in Europe. That is changing, as design becomes as important, if not more so, than engineering, says Gautam Sen, an independent auto consultant.
What the Indian auto majors lack is a car (or bike) culture, especially among the designers and engineers. A car/bike culture, and a knowledge of what has been done before, is a necessity for good design, Sen said.
Mahindra so far has been catering to a customer who moved up from the Willys and Commander to Bolero, to Scorpio and then to XUV500. That was a customer who was more rustic and moving up the social ladder, says Avik Chattopadhyay, an independent auto consultant.
For Mahindra to cater to GenZ the current design language will not work. Therefore they will need a definite marked evolution in the design ethos. Will be interesting to see if they decide to move away completely from the present customer base to cater to a new one, or balance both, says Chattopadhyay.
As Mahindra has a very promising future with its lineup of new models over the next 4-5 years , this calls for a refreshed design language that will integrate the new elements of mobility going forward – connectivity, new platforms, electrification strategy to name a few, says Kaushik Madhavan, VP mobility, Frost & Sullivan.
While models like KUV, or the e-verito or the Marazzo failed in terms of design, the newer models like Thar, next-gen XUV5OO, or the yet-to-be-launched XUV7OO all have a contemporary design language, say, experts.
Meanwhile, the Global Design organization will comprise the recently announced Mahindra Advanced Design Europe (M.A.D.E), which is being set up in Coventry in the West Midlands, U.K, and the existing Mahindra India Design Studio (M.I.D.S).
Bose will be responsible for both M.A.D.E and M.I.D.S and will oversee the design of all key business segments such as authentic SUVs including Born Electric Vehicle (BEV), LCV products (under
Mahindra is clearly at an inflection point in its auto and farm sectors’ growth journey. A pipeline of 23 new products will be launched in the next five years which would bring its design and advanced engineering capability across automotive, farm equipment, and two-wheelers to the fore, the company spokesperson said.
Competition in the auto industry has never been more intense, as manufacturers dabble in new technologies, such as autonomous driving and electrified powertrains. And as India becomes a crucial automotive market, with sales of passenger cars crossing the two million mark, onboarding top designers for auto majors is becoming crucial, say experts.
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