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Mahindra Eyes The US Aerospace

Updated: May 5, 2012 10:32 am

The Mahindras might have failed to launch their utility vehicle Scorpio in the US market, but they are growing the footprint of their light utility aircraft business in the US, a key market for small and medium planes. The US $14.4 billion (Rs 75,000 crore) Mahindra Group led by its dynamic and visionary deputy chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra is rapidly ramping up capabilities in the aerospace domain, the only Indian company in the private sector striving to conquer the skies.

Mahindra Aerospace’s aircraft manufacturing division GippsAERO based in Australian is making major strides to penetrate into the US market and has appointment Flightline Group, Inc. as its authorized dealer for the south eastern US. More dealers are to be appointed soon.

To begin with Flightline Group will sell and service GippsAERO’s only product GA8 Airvan, a seven seater plane that has been flying in 34 countries. 200 such planes are currently in operation across the globe mainly in Australia and West Asia.

Later it will also look after the sales and service of GA10, a slightly bigger aircraft from GippsAERO, scheduled to come into commercial production in 2013.

Flightline will represent GippsAERO products across nine states in the south-eastern US.

Mahindra Aerospace believes that Flightline and the other North American dealers to be coming on board would help it to grow market awareness and visibility in North America while providing an additional level of value to its current GA8 and GA10 owners and future customers.

GippsAERO is working to introduce additional North American dealers and is confident that its new distribution network will increase its responsiveness to the US market.

The GA8 Airvan is a single-engine, piston powered aircraft, available in turbocharged version. The GA8 has seven individual forward-facing passenger seats and has a comfortable cabin with center aisle.

The aircraft can be used in passenger transport, freight transportation, special missions, law enforcement, humanitarian aid, search & rescue, ambulance among others, the company said.

Currently GippsAERO’ GA10 single-engine turbo-prop 10-seat aircraft is in the flight testing phase and would hit the market next year.

In 2009 The Mahindras had acquired two Australia-based aviation companies, Aerostaff Australia, producer of aerospace components for OEMs and GippsAero, a manufacturer of Airvan family of utility aircraft to enhance their capabilities and the strategy seems to be paying off.

Mahindra Aerospace is also currently developing an ultra light aircraft in India in collaboration with Public Sector Undertaking, National Aerospace Laboratories and this aircraft code named C-NM5 has been successfully test flown last year.

The five-seat all-metal aircraft is expected to cost around Rs 2 crore. Mahindra Areospace plans to sell around 100 planes each year after five years of launch.

The company is spending around Rs 70 crore towards development cost of this aircraft from its facility in Bangalore.

In the next few years, Mahindras are eyeing to become a major player in the global market for aerospace components, assemblies, and completed aircraft considering their lower cost manufacturing bases in India and Australia as compared to Western European and North American-based companies.

Within five years of starting the aerospace division, the Mahindras are currently supplying assembly lines for Boeing 737, Gulfstream G150 and Lockheed-Martin F-35 joint strike fighter.

The company is also developing a component manufacturing facility in Bangalore to focus on component and aero-structure assembly expertise.

The group’s flagship Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (M&M) which was virtually dying after the onslaught of Maruti in the 80s, has now emerged as a premier automobile company in the Asian region through a change in mindset and high emphasis on research and development. The iconic vehicle Scorpio and the recently launched much sold out XUV 500 are the testimony.

Not to remain complacent and to counter the mighty global auto companies, deeply penetrating into the Indian market, M&M has set up a world class engineering and research and development center in Chennai called the Mahindra Research Valley (MRV). This facility was recently inaugurated by former president of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

A testimony to the Mahindra Group’s commitment to technology-driven innovation, the MRV will house the company’s engineering research and product development wings for automobiles and tractors under one roof.

Perhaps the only R&D facility of its kind in the world for automobiles and tractors alike, MRV is spread over 125 acres in Mahindra World City, Chennai and was created at an investment of over Rs 650 crore.

The facility houses over 1500 employees and it has experts who are leading various technology and product development projects. In future, this number is expected to double.

MRV is designed by the world renowned architect Charles Correa and has engineering offices situated directly above a podium housing the technical workshops. The complex also sports several green spaces, with approximately 6500 trees on the premises, adding an element of nature to encourage fresh, creative thought.

MRV is expected to provide the Mahindra Group with the tangible benefit of indigenous design at lower costs and shortened product development cycles. All of which when aligned with the latest technological advancement in the field of automotive research would translate into a dramatic increase in Intellectual Property for the company, resulting in global recognition, said Pawan Goenka, president, M&M, some one who was chosen by Anand Mahindra over a decade ago to give M&M a new direction.

The very successful Mahindra XUV500 was the first product to be designed and developed at MRV.

MRV is also expected to place Chennai on the global automotive design and development map and provide a huge impetus to the domestic automotive product development capabilities in the region.

This is another step in Mahindra’s determined bid to RISE.

By Jully Acharya from Mumbai

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