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WATCH: No really, Mahindra will build a hypercar! Here's how the Indian brand plans to go premium with supercar-maker Pininfarina

2018-10-15 10:00

Lance Branquinho

mahindra hypercar

Image: YouTube

The Indian automotive industry might not build vehicles to trouble German premium brands, but they have invested their profits with exceptional cunning.

Tata’s recapitalisation of Jaguar-Land-Rover has revitalised two of Britain’s most storied manufacturers and Mahindra has been even more strategic with allocating its windfall income.

A sustainable future

Consumer prejudice is a very real ceiling for emerging market car companies and Mahindra is aware that it is never going to sell an SUV at Q7/X5/GLE pricing.

READ: Mahindra’s crossover SUV duo in SA: Stylish new XUV500 and KUV100 NXT offer more value for local SUV-seekers

Instead of acquiring a struggling brand with a celebrated history – such as Alfa-Romeo – Mahindra has devised a superior strategy. It’s projecting past the immediate future into a sustainable supercar realm.

‘Sustainable supercars?’ Indeed. It might sound contradictory but if they are battery powered, there should be absolutely no guilt associated with owning a supercar in future. And supercars have the added value of being unqualified band-building products for those who produce and market them. 

Supercars are Italian, right? 

To achieve this vision of a sustainable Mahindra supercar, the Indians shrewdly bought one of the world’s most iconic automotive nameplates, which isn’t a manufacturer: Pininfarina.

The Italian design house has to its credit some of the most distinguished car designs in history. It is a name with cachet and very skilled personnel. A quality asset that Mahindra is investing a lot of money in.

Now under Mahindra ownership, who owns 75% of the company, a rebranded subdivision has been established in Rome, called Automobili Pininfarina. The first product is expected in 2020 and it promises to be outrageous.

The prototype codename is PF-Zero and Mahindra is clearly targeting the Bugatti Chiron’s performance numbers. Engineers have been set a task of achieving 1500kW of power from the 120/kWh battery packs, to achieve a 0-100kph time of less than 2 seconds, which could be nausea-inducing if repeated.

Perhaps even more impressive than those projected electric motor output and acceleration numbers is the range. PF-Zero will be built to provide a cruising endurance of 480km. No range anxiety here, if you exercise extreme accelerator pedal prudence – which in truth, is unlikely, considering PF-Zero is being marketed as a supercar. 

The value of Formula E

Mahindra isn’t unfamiliar with high-performance battery-powered vehicles. It fields a team in Formula E, which is unquestionably the best graduate school for acquiring insights and knowledge about battery packs and electric motors in a heavy demand environment.

If an Automobili Pininfarina design team, seconded from Turin to Rome to work independently on the PF-Zero’s design, who is responsible for its engineering?

In the wake of Tesla’s global relevance, a great many battery car start-ups have used extreme power output claims and outlandish prototypes to attach attention. Despite few workable prototypes evolving from the show-and-display cars.

The most famous of these is the Croatian electric hypercar brand, Rimac, which has actually managed to produce workable battery powered supercars.

A technical partnership has been agreed to between Rimac and Pininfarina, effectively confirming that PF-Zero will ride on the Croatian company’s Concept Two platform and likely use its 1427kW drive system too. 

Everyone wins?

Is Automobili Pininfarina a rare instance where everyone wins? It would appear to be the case. Pininfarina was rescued from bankruptcy by Mahindra.

The Italian design house being liquidated would have been a tragedy for the global automotive industry, wasting an immense pool of talented resources.

HK GT Pinifarana

                                                                     Image: YouTube

For Mahindra, it’s an opportunity to acquire market share in the rarefied segments where it realises an Indian brand-named car could never compete against Europeans.

Only 150 PF-Zeros will be assembled and they will surely establish Automobili Pininfarina as a serious luxury/supercar brand, gifting Mahindra a nameplate it can leverage for larger sedans and SUVs in future.

But the biggest winner? It must be Rimac, who have signed a R1.2bn supply contact to equip those PF-Zeros with a drive system. That’s great income, with minimal risk, allowing the ambitious Croatian supercar upstart to grow, without overextending itself.

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