The COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing legal battle have combined to force Mahindra & Mahindra to cut its North American workforce in half, an estimated 250-plus employees.
According to Reuters, the layoffs have been occurring since the middle of 2020, and sources speculated it could be as high as two-thirds of the Indian automaker’s staffers in North America.
Most of the job losses are coming in the form of engineers and production workers at its plant in Detroit that builds the company’s Roxor off-roader, which bears a striking resemblance to the Jeep Wrangler. However, its sales team has also been hit by the moves.
The cuts are designed to save money while the company reviews its business in North America, Reuters reported, adding those keeping their jobs are in profitable roles or have the potential to be so.
In a statement, the company confirmed it furloughed some staff while laying 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, Reuters reported.
Mahindra’s been in a long battle with Fiat Chrysler about its Roxor off-roader. As previously mentioned, it looked very similar to the Jeep Wrangler when it first hit North America. Part of the company’s plan for its automotive operations in North America, it redesigned the little 4×4 hoping to assuage the ITC and FCA.
That move apparently worked as in December, the federal trade agency ruled in favor of Mahindra in the “Jeep Trade Dress” claimed by FCA. It was the final piece in the battle as the ITC as well as federal court rules said Mahindra did not infringe on any of FCA’s registered trademarks.
The ruling validates Mahindra’s redesign of the highly popular Roxor off-road vehicle which remains true to its spirit for hard work and adventure. Mahindra is now permitted to manufacture and distribute the redesigned 2021 Roxor.
“Roxor was a success from the beginning with off-road enthusiasts and people with active outdoor lifestyles,” said Rick Haas, president and CEO of Mahindra Automotive North America, in a statement in late December.
“The vehicle has also proved extremely popular with people who want to work with it – they like that it can withstand the rigors of rugged everyday use. This ‘ruggedness’ was at the heart of the redesign as we wanted an aggressive look that reflected just how tough and capable Roxor is.”
Despite this win, the company still needed to cut back. It’s reorganizing the business, deciding it no longer wanted to bid on a contract to build trucks for the United States Post Office and it shut down its electric scooter business, called GenZe, that kicked off its arrival on the continent.
Outside of that, the company’s been engaged in other moves, such as ending talks to create a joint venture with Ford to build and distribute vehicles in India. It is also in talks to sell majority stake in its South Korean subsidiary SsangYong Motor.