A Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. Verito electric vehicle is charged at the Auto Expo 2012 in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Graham Crouch/Bloomberg)

Ford's India Partner Mahindra Open to Teaming Up for EV Line

(Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. and its Indian partner Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. could create their own electric car line in the country to help battle pollution from the vehicles clogging India’s roads, Chairman Anand Mahindra said.

Mahindra & Mahindra, which already sells the e2o micro electric car, would be open to creating a new electric vehicle line in India with Ford, Mahindra said following the opening of a factory in Auburn Hills, Michigan, to produce an off-road vehicle for the U.S. market. Ford said earlier this month it will create a new electric car line in China with its partner there, Anhui Zotye Automobile Co.

“India could be the other location for doing that,” Mahindra said Monday when asked if Ford’s plan to create an EV lineup with its Chinese partner could be replicated in India. “In India, it may just happen because of a crisis of congestion and pollution, which is why the government there said we want every car to be electric by 2030, which is outrageously ambitious.”

Partners Again

Ford and Mahindra rekindled a partnership in September to work together on electric cars, connected vehicles and distribution in India, where the U.S. automaker struggles to make money. India is set to become the world’s third-largest auto market and both companies have strengths in sport utility vehicles. As part of a three-year alliance, the two automakers are looking for ways to cut costs and boost profits by jointly purchasing parts and developing new models.

The partners are still studying what to collaborate on, but Mahindra said electric cars have been central to the conversation since he negotiated the alliance with Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

“When I talked to Bill, I proposed that, ‘Look, Mahindra knows electric and we have technology,’" Mahindra said. “Indian technology could be very frugal technology for a variety of things, like telematics and autonomous cars, and we have agreement we should look at those areas.”

Ford is “exploring all opportunities offered by a strategic cooperation with Mahindra,” Said Deep, a company spokesman, said in an email. “This could include the possibility of electric vehicles, but we are still studying potential areas of cooperation.”

Leading Market

The partnership was an about-face for Ford after previous Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields put the business in India under review last year. Jim Hackett, who became CEO after Ford’s board ousted Fields in May, found a way to stay in India while sharing costs with an automaker that Ford has worked with before.

Mahindra said he believes India could become a leading market for electric vehicles because of the government’s push to eliminate gasoline-powered internal combustion engines by 2030.

“At least we are talking about ambitious goals for once in India,” Mahindra said. “And if the technology suddenly converges, it may happen sooner.”

Ford shares rose 0.7 percent to $12.21 at 9:46 a.m. in New York and are up less than 1 percent this year. Shares of Mahindra & Mahindra advanced 0.6 percent to 1,416 rupees at the close in Mumbai. They have gained nearly 20 percent this year, compared with a 26 percent advance in the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index.

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