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Automaker Mahindra cuts over half of North America workforce: Sources

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CHENNAI/NEW DELHI/DETROIT: Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has cut more than half of the workforce at its North American unit, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing legal tussle.

The sources did not give a figure for the number of jobs lost at the business, which had over 500 employees in early 2020, according to its website.

However, one of the sources said “hundreds of workers” had been laid off since mid-2020 as part of a restructuring, and that the cuts were as high as two-thirds of Mahindra Automotive North America‘s (MANA) total staffing.

Positions include engineers and manufacturing jobs at its plant in Detroit that produces the off-road vehicle Roxor, as well as sales executives.

The cuts come as Mahindra reviews its businesses in a drive to conserve capital and retain only those that make money or have the potential to be profitable.

MANA said in a statement it had furloughed some staff and laid off others due to the pandemic and an International Trade Commission lawsuit which led to an August “cease and desist” order for the Roxor business. It did not provide figures.

Mahindra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are in a protracted legal battle over an intellectual property infringement case which has prevented the Indian automaker from selling its Roxor vehicle in the United States.

“This forced us to halt production and furlough our manufacturing team and some additional people across several functions, including the Roxor sales team,” the company said.

However, last month, the company won a favourable ruling in its lawsuit against FCA, paving the way for it to begin selling the Roxor again.

It now expects to recall a large group of employees, it said in the statement.

As part of its review which began last year, Mahindra has pulled the plug on its U.S. electric scooter business GenZe; it is in talks to sell its stake in South Korean automaker Ssangyong Motor; and it has called off a joint venture with Ford Motor Co.

Mahindra’s shares have surged over 60% since it announced the review in June last year, valuing the company at over $12.6 billion.

The automaker plans to focus on manufacturing large sport-utility vehicles and electric models for its core India market, where it has lost ground to competitors such as Tata Motors and Kia Motors.


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Mercedes-Benz expects ‘substantial’ growth in India this year: Martin Schwenk

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German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz expects ‘substantial’ growth in India this year driven by a line-up of 15 products and sustained demand recovery being witnessed from the fourth quarter of last year, according to a top company official.

The company, however, sees reaching its peak level of 2018 in India, only in 2022, due to supply-chain constraints especially in Europe.

“Overall, I think we can really assume that the momentum which we have seen in the fourth quarter is continuing… With the reduction of COVID cases a lot of normalcy has happened. We have seen very strong demand in all our range.

“I would think the festive season plus new products have triggered that, and would continue in 2021,” Mercedes-Benz India Managing Director and CEO Martin Schwenk told PTI.

He was responding to a query on the company’s outlook for the ongoing calendar year.

Schwenk further said, “We have 15 products in our pipeline. With (the ongoing) demand we should have a good chance for recovery and substantial growth in 2021.”

In 2020, the company had reported 43 per cent decline in sales at 7,893 units in India, as compared to 13,786 units sold in 2019.

Giving a perspective of how the demand recovery has been steady and strong in the second half of 2020, he said, “We have seen in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 40 per cent increase compared to the third quarter.”

In the first quarter of 2020, the company had sold 2,386 units and it plummeted to just 563 units in Q2 due to the lockdown. It sold 2,058 units in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter clocked 2,886 units, a growth of 40 per cent as compared to the preceding quarter.

When asked how long it would take for Mercedes-Benz India to reach its highest ever sales of 15,538 units in 2018, Schwenk said, “2018 was our best year which we had and I don’t think that we will achieve it in 2021. I think we will achieve that in 2022.”

Giving reasons, he said, “What limits us at the moment is more of the actual production start. We have requirements for support from Europe and there are still some concerns with travels… At the moment there are some constraints…”.

Stating that global demand has picked up better than expected, he said some of the company’s high sellers such GLE and GLS SUVs are facing constraints.

“We have order banks on these vehicles and we have one to three months waiting period on GLS. That is caused by multiple constraints in the system itself,” Schwenk said adding the company is hoping that after the first quarter of 2021 these things would be resolved.

Commenting on demand sustainability, he said India’s key economic indicators are looking good which is helping in creating positive consumer sentiments, specially the business people who are key customers of the company.

“At the moment we have stable demand, a positive development on the demand side. I can clearly see that new products and improving customer sentiments created the demand… I think we will see continued demand,” Schwenk said.


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Xpeng rolls out autonomous driving features in challenge to Tesla

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Xpeng CEO He Xiaopeng stands next to the company’s P7 electric sedan as he addresses media at the 2020 Beijing auto show.

Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

GUANGZHOU, China — Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng Motors has started rolling out its new autonomous highway driving features to eligible customers as it looks to ramp up its challenge to Tesla in the world’s largest auto market.

The electric vehicle start-up announced the Navigation Guided Pilot or NGP this month. The feature allows drivers to automatically change lanes, speed up or slow down, overtake cars as well as enter and exit highways.

It is part of the next generation of Xpeng’s XPILOT 3.0 “advanced driver-assistance system” (ADAS). Customers who have purchased the option on the premium version of Xpeng’s P7 sedan will be able to download NGP over WiFi.

The features are part of a broader so-called over-the-air update that allows customers to download new software via WiFi. It is similar to upgrading the operating system on a phone.

XPeng’s operating system, Xmart OS 2.5.0, will be available to all P7 customers, the company said. It includes an upgraded voice assistant and certain in-car apps.

The company, which is headquartered in Guangzhou, is trying to highlight its software and autonomous driving capabilities as a way to differentiate from domestic rivals like Nio and Li Auto as well as challenge Tesla.

The U.S. electric carmaker has its own autonomous ADAS called Autopilot.

China’s electric vehicle companies are looking to add more autonomous features to their cars. Nio has its own system called NIO Pilot.


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Hero MotoCorp may launch electric car as part of new future forward lineup

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(This story originally appeared in on Jan 26, 2021)

NEW DELHI: Hero MotoCorp, the leader in the Indian two-wheeler market, is fuelling up for the next leap in mobility. On the canvas could be connected, autonomous and shared commercial as well as personal platforms and products, which may include an electric car.

The company has already prototyped a high-utility, modular electric three-wheeler (Quark 1) that can be intelligently converted into a two-wheeler, based on requirements of the user.

The product, which has been already showcased, can be used for personal and commercial purposes, including ecommerce deliveries and other such applications.

Similar innovations and solutions — beyond its traditional two-wheeler business — will form the new line-up that the company is working on as part of a vision of future of mobility, Pawan Munjal, chairman of Hero Moto, said after the automaker rolled out a record 100 million two-wheelers since its inception in the early ’80s. “… the next 100 million line-up in all likelihood will not only be a motorcycle or a scooter, or a three-wheeler,” Munjal told TOI, as he gave out hints about the company’s ‘vision’ on mobility.

“The seriousness about this vision is huge, among all of us. The vision is to become the future of mobility. This is a vast canvas,” he said, adding that investments in research and development as well as innovations and partnerships will be scaled up.

Asked whether the new products would include an electric car, he said there are many options in front of the company. Munjal said Hero Moto has been working out numerous simulations and possibilities in the mobility space, and will craft strategies accordingly. “… the way the world is heading in various directions, the possibilities are immense. We can be working in many different areas, (and) follow a certain direction which we believe is doable and workable and makes sense.”

He said collaborations and partnerships may happen as part of this outreach, though there are no confirmed talks with any company at present.

Asked whether the company is taking a risk by looking at avenues beyond its stronghold of two-wheelers, Munjal said the transition is guided by mobility trends.


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