ANN ARBOR (CBS Detroit/AP) – India’s largest SUV maker is ready to make its debut on U.S. roads. But it’s starting with two wheels, not four.
Mahindra hopes to win over city and campus dwellers with a $2,999, Vespa-like electric scooter called the GenZe, which goes on sale this fall in California, Oregon and Michigan. Sales could soon expand to other states and Europe.
So far, it has around 300 GenZe orders from people who paid a $100 deposit. The company expects to make around 3,000 scooters in the first year, Duncan says.
If buyers like it, Mahindra could use the GenZe as a springboard into the car market, just as Honda made the leap from motorcycles to cars here in the 1970s.
“The pressure has really been on to make sure that we get this right,” says Terence Duncan, the head of customer engagement for the GenZe and one of its chief designers. “What we’re doing, really, is introducing the brand to American customers.”
To appeal to skeptics, Mahindra designed the GenZe in Silicon Valley with features favored by tech-savvy Millennials, like a secure laptop charging port under the seat. It opened its four stores in San Francisco and Portland because buyers there are more accepting of two-wheeled transportation.
A huge “BackBay” storage bin has ample space for a backpack or a few bags of groceries.
You won’t always have to string a cord out to the scooter since the battery is removable for charging in your home or anywhere there’s an outlet.
In Michigan, buyers can get a GenZe at the Ann Arbor factory where it’s made.
The GenZe only goes up to 30 miles per hour, so riders won’t need a motorcycle license. Its most innovative feature is a 28-pound removable battery, which riders can unhook and carry inside to charge. The battery takes 3.5 hours to fully charge, and the scooter goes for 30 miles on a charge. A 7-inch touchscreen display tells drivers their speed and range.
Executives are tight-lipped about their plans, but Mahindra has already opened a Detroit-area tech center that’s working on bringing its vehicles up to U.S. safety standards.
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