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Logan rides on debut stunt
Mahindra Renault bets on metaphor

Mumbai, April 3: An overlay of metaphors and a pre-planned, stuttered start marked the launch of the Logan, the new mid-sized sedan from the Mahindra Renault stable, in India today.

The Logan — which the iconic Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn described as a blend of India’s sense of frugality and Europe’s skill in product innovation — will be launched in 10 Indian cities, including the three metros of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, in the first stage.

Bookings at the 31 dealerships in the 10 cities will open on April 9. Deliveries will start four weeks after booking. In the second phase, it will be taken to 15 cities where the bookings will start in May.

Calcutta launch

The new sedan will hit the roads of Calcutta on April 28, said Mahindra Renault chief executive Rajesh Jejurikar.

The Logan will be available in both petrol and diesel versions. The base model of the petrol version will carry a sticker price of Rs 4.28 lakh and Jejurikar expects the sedan to take the competition to all the B and C category cars, which account for 78 per cent of the Indian car market.

Wide and tall

But to come back to the metaphors: the company first shepherded reporters into a cramped ballroom at a city hotel and 10 minutes into the routine, a company official appeared on cue and said they needed to move to another spacious venue as people were suffocating in the small room that had poor air conditioning.

Venue II was a massive, specially-designed structure where the focus was clearly on space and comfort — a metaphor for the Logan which is being touted as the first wide-bodied car to hit the Indian roads. It is both wider and taller than the Mercedes C-class sedan with a width of 1,740 mm and a height of 1,534 mm.

A 30-minute percussion and saxophone fusion music routine followed — a medley of Indian rhythms and European jazz — perhaps to underscore the collaborative process that went into the making of the Logan.

World car

Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra, said he had a bad throat — a curious condition that he seems to pick up every time he launches a car. The last time it happened was when he rolled out the Scorpio. Given the success of that SUV, he hoped that the sore throat meant that the Logan would make an equally auspicious start.

Mahindra said a number of carmakers had pursued that elusive concept of a world car but believed that Renault had come closest to that dream with the Logan.

Carlos Ghosn said the fact that the car is being launched a month ahead of schedule signified how successful the collaborative process between Renault and Mahindra engineers had been.

He described the Logan as a “roomy and reliable car that will offer unmatched value”. The Logan will roll out of Mahindra’s Nashik facility, which has been upgraded with an installed capacity to produce 50,000 units a year.

It will be available in six colours: Toreador red, fiery black, Sahara beige, mist silver, turf green and diamond white.

The price (ex-Mumbai) for the petrol 1.4 litre and 1.6 litre versions will range between Rs 4.28 lakh and Rs 5.69 lakh. The price of the diesel 1.5 version will range from Rs 5.47 lakh to Rs 6.44 lakh.

Made for India

The Logan has been tweaked for the Indian road conditions: the interiors have been redesigned and it has been fitted with a new airconditioning system to suit India’s hot and humid conditions. The car has a localisation content of 50 per cent. This will go up to 60 per cent in a year’s time, Jejurikar said. The engines are being imported from Spain and Romania but there are plans to make the engine here.

Fast-moving

The company expects to be inundated with orders and that explains the two-phase rollout. “We started production a few weeks ago and we already have built up a small inventory,” said Jejurikar. “We intend to slowly ramp up the capacity. We will reach the maximum capacity in July.”

Company officials said they had not tied up any special credit arrangements to finance the purchases though it would be backed by Mahindra Finance. There are, however, plans to look at business opportunities with Renault Bank, which finances customers of the French carmaker in its European markets. Jejurikar feels the latest round of interest rate hike, which has made car loans dearer, won’t affect Logan sales.

Renault has grand plans for India. It plans to establish a powertrain factory but the site has not been finalised. Production will begin in mid-2009.

Chennai plant

It also plans to make several Logan derivatives at a new plant in Chennai, which will involve an investment of Rs 4,000 crore over a period of 2008 to 2014.

Patrick Pelata, executive vice-president (plan, product planning and programs) of Renault, said the next stop for the Logan would be Iran and then Brazil. But there are no plans to start export production from India for these markets.

Pelata said the company was considering several models for launch in India but categorically ruled out the Clio and the Modus which, he felt, would not be in sync with the price sensitivities of the Indian market. He said Renault was looking closely at India’s bio-fuels policy and its launch of new vehicles in the country would take this into account.

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