By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
Three or four years ago, Mahindra and Mahindra of India announced plans to enter the U.S market with their small diesel pick-up. The news was greeted happily by a segment of truck owners here who think that most trucks sold today are way too big and that something about the size of the old Ford Ranger was just about right.
Mahindra did a deal with a company called Global Vehicles (GV) to handle U.S distribution. Global Vehicles began lining up dealers, taking franchise deposits and so forth. A nice low-volume industry buzz was developing around the new trucklets. But after a year and half the deal went sour. Mahindra had not provided vehicles for any federal testing or dealer inspections, and GV was beginning to hear from impatient franchisees who were anticipating the new products.
Lawsuits followed, and it got uglier from there. Now, Mahindra has said it has decided “not to proceed further with the project due to changes in the U.S. regulatory and market situation.” Anybody waiting for an small, rugged and inexpensive diesel pick-up is still waiting.
● You need to be up on your British car history to recognize the name TVR. The company began in the 1950s and never really made it much beyond a cottage coachworks, but their products spoke for themselves. TVR cars – the Vixen, Tuscan V6, 3000M Turbo, Griffith and Taimar among others – were noted for being exceptionally light (fiberglass or aluminum bodies), agile as a wet cat and powered by a variety of 4-, 6- or 8-cylinder engines. Many of their engines were developed in-house although they also used engines purchased from Ford, Triumph, Rover and others. TVR products developed a reputation as a small but mighty performance car.
The company changed hands several times, and in 2004 was bought by Nikolai Smolenski, a young Russian billionaire who moved the company from England to Austria. Over the last two years, the company had issued vague plans to produce at least one new car, perhaps powered by a Corvette engine…or a BMW diesel…or electric drive…or whatever took his fancy at the moment.
Either way, a new TVR ain’t gonna’ happen. Smolenski recently told an interviewer that “the production possibilities don’t make financial sense anymore” and that TVR is now out of the vehicle manufacturing business completely. Additionally, he said he will re-purpose the brand into “a new venture building portable wind turbines.”
● Stylish women in England simply must be seen at Ascot, wealthy automotive collectors must appear at Monterrey and Amelia Island, and every car maker with any sporting intentions simply must test their product at the German Nurburgring race track.
Nicknamed “the green hell” by world champion Jackie Stewart, the popular Nordschleife or North Course at the ‘Ring presents more than 150 corners in 12.9 narrow miles with plenty of elevation change to challenge any driver. Virtually every high performance automobile available to the public has made at least some testing laps there, and many advertise their lap times. (The best production car times hover around seven minutes and no street car has come close to the absolute track record of 6:11:13, set by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956.)
Now, Nurburgring is bankrupt and possibly without a future. The track went deeply into debt a few years ago when it developed a shopping center with hotels and a small amusement park on the property in an attempt to draw more attendance. Management now says the operation needs an injection of 13 million Euros to stay in business, but both the local governments and banks have declined to participate. Officials say the 2012 racing season will continue as scheduled but next year’s plans are in serious doubt.