Will This Mini Jeep Off-Roader Remain in America?

Somewhere between a 12V children's ride-on truck and a Jeep Wrangler in appearance, the Mahindra Roxor actually functions as more of an off-road sport vehicle like the Polaris ATV or a side-by-side utility vehicle. This little Jeep is gaining a reputation for being loads of fun to drive, featuring excellent control and maneuverability.

However, Mahindra's future in the United States is uncertain. The Wrangler comparison could spell trouble for the CJ Jeep-inspired Roxor. While India-based Mahindra insists that it's well within its rights to produce and sell in America, Fiat Chrysler has a different perspective.

The Mahindra Jeep Roxor

The Mahindra Jeep Roxor could be described as a mini Jeep Wrangler, although you won't find Mahindra Ltd making this comparison, which is currently the subject of a lawsuit by Jeep's parent company Fiat Chrysler.

Even so, the Mahindra Roxor is currently tearing up the off-road scene with its Jeep-esque appearance. Appearance, however, is where the similarities end. The Roxor is powered by a smaller powertrain featuring a 2.5-liter direct-injected turbo-diesel engine. From this little workhorse engine, Mahindra squeezes 35 MPG and a 350-mile tank range.

The drivetrain comes in both automatic and manual transmission. The maximum speed of the Roxor is artificially limited to 45 or 55 MPH, depending on the model year. For the American markets, the Mahindra includes additional roll-protection functions, since the Roxor is intended for more demanding off-roader use here.


Mahindra Jeep in the USA

The Mahindra Jeep's future in North America isn't quite secure, yet. And previous failures at Mahindra to introduce products into the U.S. might not bode well for the companies savvy in American Markets.

However, it does seem that the Indian Manufacturer has learned from its past failures in North America. Last time, Mahindra attempted to introduce a line of budget pickup trucks to the American market with only a handful of core team members, which resulted in failed emissions requirements, broken deals with auto sellers, and eventual dealership suits against Mahindra. This time, the Indian manufacturer has hired nearly 400 new employees for its second jump to the states. This hiring spree includes Rick Haas, a former executive for Tesla and Ford, as the project's lead.

In addition, Mahindra smartly avoids competition with staple automakers in American by offering the Mahindra Roxor as an off-road recreational vehicle rather than a production road car (more on that later). This would circumvent the greatest hurdle companies face in breaking into American automotive markets: oversaturation. There are already well over 40 brands and 300 model-lines with established market shares competing in North America.

Or, so Mahindra thought. Fiat Chrysler sees its Jeep Wrangler as Mahindra's main competitor in America given the style and usage overlap of these two off-roader sport utility vehicles. In response to news of Mahindra's plans to enter the American market, Fiat Chrysler brought a lawsuit against the Indian automaker which focuses mostly on the Jeep-style grille. It should be noted that this is not a patent infringement suit, but a "trade-dress" suit, which is more difficult to successfully prove and enforce.

So, the suit moves forward, but so does Mahindra. Mahindra Ltd has purchased a manufacturing plant just outside of Detroit, Michigan and currently produces Roxors there. And, yes, you can buy one of these Mahindra Roxer mini Jeeps as of now. Mahindra also has plans to invest an increased $600 million (from $200 million) in the United States by 2020. These don't seem like the actions of a company that is particularly worried.

Whether that's a good or bad thing is still uncertain. Mahindra itself doesn't dispute the Jeep Willys CJ design influence on the Roxor, but claims to have received permission from Fiat Chrysler Automotive to enter the United States all the way back in 2009. Mahindra received permission to use the Jeep trademarked design in India, where it can be driven on roadways, over half a century ago in 1947.

Is Mahindra Jeep Street Legal?

No. At least not in the United States. This product is not able to be driven on roadways, which means you'll need to transport it to an off-roading destination before driving it. This, of course, differs from the Jeep Wrangler, however, FCA is still concerned since many off-roading enthusiasts may purchase the cheaper, new, fun Roxer mini-Jeep and leave the commuting burden on another vehicle.

Mahindra Jeep Price

You can currently purchase a Mahindra Roxer mini Jeep at outlets across the U.S. and Canada. Various models go for around $15,000.

For now, it seems you've got some time to purchase if you want a Mahindra. The lawsuit, like most lawsuits, seems to be moving fairly slowly. And, even if FCA does manage to prevent the Roxor from being sold in America, you should still be able to find a private used seller.