Ford Motor Co. and India’s Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. have ended talks intended to establish a joint venture to develop low-cost vehicles for emerging markets.
The two companies failed to come up with a workable plan and missed a Dec. 31 “longstop,” or expiration date, for the agreement they had announced 14 months earlier.
“The outcome was driven by fundamental changes in global economic and business conditions — caused, in part, by the global pandemic,” the companies said in a joint statement, adding, “Those changes influenced separate decisions by Ford and Mahindra to reassess their respective capital allocation priorities.”
Neither automaker initially offered financial details on the proposed joint venture, which was unveiled in October 2019. However, Anish Shah, Mahindra’s incoming managing director, told reporters following the breakdown of negotiations that the Indian automaker was prepared to invest 30 billion rupees, or $410.7 million. Half of that would have been in the form of equity.
The collapse of negotiations leaves both companies struggling to figure out what to do next. Ford, in particular, is facing some major challenges in its effort to penetrate third-world markets, the potentially massive automotive market in India, the world’s second-most populous nation.
“The company is actively evaluating its businesses around the world, including in India,” Ford said a statement issued after missing the longstop deadline.
As part of the plan the companies envisioned, Ford would have folded its Indian operations – including two assembly plants – into a joint venture controlled by Mahindra, that market’s second-largest automaker by passenger car sales. Mahindra currently holds a 7.3% market share, behind Indian leader Maruti Suzuki, but ahead of Tata.
If all had gone as planned, the JV would have yielded new models for Ford to sell through its Indian dealer network. Ford and Mahindra also had planned to develop a low-cost electric vehicle for emerging markets.
Ford has faced some of the same challenges that rival General Motors struggled with. GM stopped selling vehicles in India several years ago, at the time announcing it would retain its production network there, but only to supply other markets.
Ford uses its Indian manufacturing base to provide American dealers with its entry-level EcoSport SUV.
For its part, Mahindra said in a statement that the collapse of the talks with Ford won’t have a material impact. “Mahindra is accelerating its efforts to establish leadership in electric SUVs,” it said.
Shah, who will become managing director in April, expanded upon that in comments to Reuters. “We clearly hold the ambition to be a global brand and there again the electric journey is an important one,” he said.
Mahindra already has a foot in the door, though at the upper extremes of electrification. Its Italian-based subsidiary, Pininfarina, offers the Battista, a $2.5-million, battery-powered hypercar.
While Mahindra is a player in India and other emerging markets, the company has ambitions to become more universal. It was forced to scrub plans to enter the U.S. pickup and SUV markets a decade ago but it now sells a small off-road vehicle produced at a plant near Detroit and is said to be looking at other opportunities in the States.