Mahindra’s plans to sell the Thar in Australia have been stymied after Jeep raised a legal objection. The Indian company was earlier planning to introduce the off-roader in the Australian market and had also opened expressions of interest on its Australian website. A single unit of the Thar was imported in Australia and was also spotted there.
Earlier this month, Stellantis, the parent company that owns Jeep, moved court over Mahindra's intention of launching the Thar in Australia. It said the Thar's design is quite similar to the Wrangler, which is already on sale there.
According to CarAdvice, in addition to Stellantis (Jeep) commencing Australian Consumer Law proceedings against Mahindra for alleged “misleading and deceptive conduct”, “passing off”, and “infringement of registered designs”, the brand had also asked for an undertaking that Mahindra will not launch the Thar in Australia, and provide, at least, a 90 days written notice if ever there was an intention to do so.
Mahindra also released a statement saying “We’re seeing very strong demand for the all-new Thar 2020 in India, therefore have no immediate plans for launch of the current variant of the Thar in markets outside India. As a result, it was pointless to engage in a litigation at this stage. When we decide to launch any new variant of the Thar in Australia, we will provide 90 days’ notice to FCA and take all steps to protect our rights to market and sell the product. This has no bearing on our future plans in Australia as we continue to pursue expansion of our business across a number of vehicle categories.”
Mahindra had previously applied to give a 45-day notice to Jeep of an intention to certify and import the Mahindra Thar into Australia, however it has agreed now to provide a 90-day notice.
Stellantis, the parent company of the Jeep brand also issued a statement. “FCA is pleased that Mahindra has conceded and undertaken that they will not import, market or sell the current Thar vehicle in Australia, and will provide prior notice to FCA before bringing any future model or variant of the Thar into Australia. This outcome illustrates our commitment to protect the iconic trade dress and trademarks of the Jeep brand here and overseas, and continue to engage the passion our customers and loyal Jeep community in Australia have for these iconic vehicles.”
The design of the Thar is not quite simply a straightforward copycat case, Mahindra and Jeep have a shared design heritage, with Mahindra having made licensed versions of the CJ Jeep in the past in India and it even carried the ‘Jeep’ moniker on its vehicles. However, this shared heritage is only relevant in India, and to international customers, the design would not have any resonance and consumers there would likely see this as a Jeep design.
Thus, in addition to focusing on the strong Indian demand, rather than tangle itself in legal battles over a matter that may not cut ice with local consumers, Mahindra haselected to not sell the current Thar in Australia. This development will certainly put a dent in Mahindra’s overall export plans for the Thar, as it’s likely to face a similar situation in other markets. Thus, expect the company to develop a differentiated design, as it has done so in the case of the Roxor off-roader.
With a unique design, Mahindra would be free to sell the SUV in other markets and this would also strengthen and develop Mahindra’s own brand identity, something that will serve it well as it expands operations globally.