Re: Next-gen 2020 Force Gurkha spied
This is my first post on T-BHP after my membership was approved a few months back. So kindly point out the mistakes. I have been a regular frequenter of this website for at least 12-13 years now and, an avid reader of most things posted here.
Now coming to the topic, the vehicle of interest here, the Gurkha. This vehicle has been around for an exceptionally long time now and off the bat, I cannot name another car in our scene which has been around for so long and yet has not made any progress.
If I may say so, there seems to be some confusion regarding the product placement itself in the minds of the product team. For example, the Thar, which was probably introduced later in the market as a lifestyle vehicle out of the growing demand, in our country for such a vehicle, still sold in decent numbers despite its glaring shortcomings. It was a utilitarian vehicle that wanted to fulfil the rather newfound Indian lifestyle needs. It sold partly because of Mahindra brand recall and partly due to a lack of better options. Its real rival Gypsy was from the mid-1980s with not even power steering and AC. It was sold as a utilitarian vehicle and was kept relevant due to bulk government orders and a few private buyers who were enthusiasts. But it was priced likewise. People knew what they would get for their money. Though everyone kept wishing it was upgraded with at least the most basic creature comforts (or maybe 3rd or the 4th gen Jimny launch), no one complained. People got what they paid for and managed.
Coming to the Thar now. While the gen 1 has been described multiple times to be a project born from the parts basket of M&M, one must remember M&M had a decent sized parts basket due to their nearly 70 years of experience with “jeeps”. They realized the Thar in that form wouldn’t make the cut in 2020-2021 at that price point. To really be a lifestyle vehicle, major changes were required, and major changes indeed were done in the second-gen of the car. The car has frankly transformed into a completely new vehicle. Good powertrains with both petrol and diesel, options of manual and auto GB, more than decent level of kit all have come in this present generation car. Add to it an incredibly good safety rating in the crash tests. The result is for everyone to see. One of the longest waiting lists of any car sold in our country. One can even take a pause and begin to wonder who these people are and where they were all this while and are queuing up now at Mahindra showrooms. A demand was and is clearly there for such a vehicle. With such few numbers of cars per 1000 population in our country, demand is there for pretty much all kinds of vehicles. Mahindra is charging a premium, true. The car still has niggles as pointed out by many senior members, but it is now at least worthy of being called a “lifestyle” vehicle and not a farm cruiser. The product is fresh and very early in its life cycle and the niggles can be sorted out.
Shifting our focus to the Gurkha now, the student which all teachers said had a lot of potential, but never did well. The old Gurkha could not compete with the old Thar. In terms of sales at least. It might have been a better off-roader on paper but that engine let it down on most occasions. It is so rare on the roads, one can’t imagine. Members on this forum have rightly joked about it being a Unicorn, more difficult to spot than a Lambo on our roads, a car that is found only on T-BHP discussions and not on roads, so on and so forth.
Force Motors in my limited common sense just does not have the technical know-how to make a good vehicle in this category. They are the kings in the people-mover segment and probably the ambulance segment (most ambulances I see in my hospital at least, are Travellers). The tachometer on the centre console, seriously? 85 odd bhp/ 240 odd N-m engine powering a very heavy vehicle was never going to be a runaway success. They plonked in the better 2.2L 140 bhp/320N-m a good 3 to 4 years later than the T-BHP members started speculating and discussing it. I used to be a silent reader of the Gurkha forum back then too. That’s how horribly late they were. The result was obvious. Sold even less. That version of the vehicle (Extreme) did not get a long run in the market and BS6 norms came in and was discontinued. It came and went and very few people ever knew. Now the well-informed people, like all the members here obviously knew but then as of now, there are only about 68, XXX members on this forum. That’s a small number when we look at the big picture. Then came the price. IIRC, it was 16.xx lacks on road. That is a lot of money. That is the money a “lifestyle” vehicle should command. But then it can’t just command, it has to provide too. There failed Gurkha again. People generally don’t complain when they get what they pay for (our Gypsy example). People complain when they feel they are not getting their money worth. Nobody, even a hardcore enthusiast, or a well-off guy who has 5 other cars for daily duties, who wants a weekend toy will plonk 16 big ones for what that car offered. (Referring to the 2.2L version, and the 2.6L explorer and expedition weren’t exactly cheap either)
This is the problem. And the problem should have a logical solution. Many people like the Gurkha for its looks and capabilities. Many of those might even go ahead and buy one provided the car is at least a little bit sorted if not a complete package. IMHO, people should stop comparing the Gurkha to the Thar. Thar has passed that class and is in a class of its own now. It’s a proper hit.
Force should also stop promoting (they hardly promote it and that’s a story for a different rant) the Gurkha as a” lifestyle vehicle” and place it as a utilitarian go-anywhere vehicle. They don’t have the resources to upgrade that 2.2L oil burner to BS6 norms and that is still acceptable. They should just give the vehicle a live front axle. A 4X4 system with rear/rear+front/none (optional) diff locks, 3 and 5 door options, a working AC and two airbags and the other bare minimum safety/pollution norms essentials to make it road legal. Much like the Bolero does. The 2.6L engine’s power figures will then start to make sense when looked upon in the right light (a utilitarian go-anywhere vehicle and not a weekend getaway 4X4X4 EOV which every office guy is drooling for). In entire honesty, no one ever complained about the power figures of the Bolero 2.6 m2DiCR 70-75bhp/190-200N-m, or the Tata Sumo with its 3.0 CR4 making 85 odd Bhp/250N-m, because they were targeted at the right audience at the right price.
After all this is done (Which frankly isn’t much at all,), the car should be priced right. They should not even attempt to put a touchscreen and automatic climate control and the works and start charging for it (the display BS6 car at the Auto Expo had a touchscreen infotainment system IIRC, and it looked after-market). The Thar shouldn’t be a part of the frame of reference either price or feature-wise. Give the people a bare-bones vehicle and charge them accordingly, maybe somewhere between 11-12L OTR price band (and not 14-16L OTR). That version will find a few takers. Learn from the Bolero. A Short wheelbase, hardtop rugged car with abuse friendliness and go-anywhere capability, is wanted by a lot of people (me included). Some might be able to justify the need and some won’t. That probably doesn’t matter. With the SUMO gone and the current Bolero probably in its final few years of production, very soon, there won’t be any left. That would be sad. (Hope people remember the thread on SUMO Victa by a senior BHPian and the thread on the white SUMO gold with the travelogue name “Jurassic Prak”, which was noticed and commented upon by Late BD Sir himself, and the multiples thread on the Bolero). The point being, such vehicles have takers who understand their requirements, people who value a rugged reliable vehicle and use it to travel far and wide.
Mods, kindly let me know if I must make any changes or if I have failed to follow any forum rules. One of the forum rules said, I think about the “introduce yourself” section, that it is not mandatory. I like that rule and hence did not bother! No emoticons/smileys used. I have not fact-checked the post and cannot reference the “facts” in the post, but the post was more a “point-of-view” one and the numbers quoted won’t be much off the actual numbers. After following the Gurkha thread for so long, had to jump in, just could not resist.
Postscript: I have read the well-written ownership experience of the 2.6L white Gurkha (the photos with the kids are adorable and would make someone sitting on the fence contemplating buying the Gurkha, just jump and buy one), and the owner’s review of the 2.2L Gurkha multiple times each and honestly I mean no offence to them or any other current or prospective owners. I am a bit of a Gurkha fanboy myself and am eagerly awaiting the launch as a prospective buyer.