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Hummer clones for Indian roads

Hummer-Type SUVS could soon be vrooming down Indian roads. And the monster won't cost you a fortune. Rahul Singh reports.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2008 02:47 IST
Rahul Singh

Hummer-Type SUVS could soon be vrooming down Indian roads. And the monster won't cost you a fortune.

Automobile biggies, craving military business with their fast-attack vehicles, are planning variants for civilian use. The
military variants are turning heads with their rugged appeal at the fifth international land and naval systems exhibition, DefExpo 2008. Some manufacturers are looking for opportunities in the SUV segment as well.

The companies competing for the military order are Mahindra Defence Systems, Tata Motors, Ordnance Factory Board, Vectra Engineering and Ashok Leyland.

Sudipta Ghosh, Director General Ordnance Factories and Chairman, Ordnance Factory Board, told HT, "The SUV segment is quite promising. A modified version for civilian use is on the cards." The OFB has offered the army its Flier fast attack vehicle, designed with US help.

If Mahindra Defence Systems is hard-selling the Axe, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and Vectra Engineering are counting on their light specialist vehicles (LSV) to beat competition.

Lieutenant General Amarjit Singh (retd), chairman, Vectra, said, "A civilian version is very much in our scheme of things." Industry sources say Mahindra too is keen on an Axe variant for civilian use. The mean-looking, high mobility combat vehicles, showcased at DefExpo by the Tatas and Mahindra Defence, actually symbolise an emerging military business segment that auto majors are chasing aggressively.

Estimated to be worth over Rs 2,000 crore, the segment is lucrative enough to whet the appetites of auto giants. A Hummer costs over Rs 80 lakh, custom duty included. Homegrown Hummer-lookalikes could cost just a third.

The army has plans to buy over 8,400 fast attack vehicles in the long term. It had issued a request for proposal for 228 vehicles last year. The vehicles are undergoing trials at the Vehicle Research & Development Establishment, Ahmednagar, and winter trials in Leh.