(Or why I love my car and hate the canopy.)
I cannot lie, even if I tried, it was love at first sight – as much as I hate that cliché. I walked into the cramped Mahindra showroom opposite to Bikaji Cama Palace. The Thar was placed right in front of the lot, looking hot, smoldering in black. Leave aside the silly rope twining the bull bars, everything about the cars exterior accentuated the sense of adventure I had planned for this baby and me ahead. I was going to drive through the great Indian north. Just the Thar, me and the road. So when I saw this beauty of a machine calling out, I couldn’t resist and became besotted.
Now let me offer you a second cliché: Love is blind. And so it was. I fell in love and I wanted it – badly. No other vehicle would do. No other colour would do. I had heard that the wait time for the Thar was excruciatingly long (no not the “without you every moment seems like eternity” kind of long, but rather 3 months.) However the dealer assured me they would get me the model in 2 weeks time. Albeit surprised, I was more than happy and made my down-payment to book the model.
Why did I say love was blind? I’ll come to that in a bit. However I found out something about myself when I sat in it at the showroom for the first time. The Thar’s beauty is merely skin deep. It looks utterly gorgeous from the outside. I mean, I could literally compare it with international models. I know some of you will already guffaw at that, so I will simply redirect you to my ‘love is blind’ cliché.
However as much as the Chassis-body-designer of the Mahindra Thar should be praised, the interior designer of the Mahindra Thar should be publicly flogged. To say that he or she or they have done a sub-standard job would be to shower praise on him, her or them. Allow me to bullet point:
- The plastics are cheap. I mean utterly cheap. The kinds they made the kids plastic school tiffins out of… back in the early 1980s… probably.
- The trimming on top of the dashboard is merely a rubber sheath that is lying loose and comes off at a sharp turn.
- The steering wheel is not centrally aligned with the driver’s seat, but that’s already been covered by many others.
- The passenger seat cannot be reclined as the seat behind the passenger seat is longer than the one behind the driver seat. As a result – the passenger must sit upright throughout a journey.
- The handles, window-rollers are made of cheap plastic and break when you close the door a bit hard (mind you this is an outdoor vehicle).
But all this, could not deter me from falling in love. Seriously. I can be considered for the Darwin award. However, I digress.
So now we come to delivery date. You can probably guess what happened next. Usual drama of delays, “No sir, the stockyard paperwork wasn’t correct.” “No sir, the waterproofing is being done.” Etc. Etc. All in all I was promised a date, and I was delayed by a week. Small mercy, considering I was in Delhi. The service of the showroom “Koncept Motors” was shoddy at best as they tested my patience duly. Did I tell you that I paid the amount in full a week before delivery date? Yes. Yes. I know. Darwin!
Finally a week later, I received the vehicle. They ask me to come to collect the vehicle at 2 pm. For whatever reasons I land up there around 1 pm and find the rope being taken off the bull-bars. Remember the rope from the first time I had walked into the showroom? I also noticed:
- The left door handle was broken when I had seen it a month ago, and when I got it on Aug 2, it was still broken.
- There was rust on the disc-brakes on the vehicles.
- The key I was given was completely worn down rather than a new set of keys as one would expect for a new vehicle.
- Finally the odometer had clicked 300 kms when I received the Thar. I don’t know how far your stockyards are, but 300 kms is by no norms the amount a new car should be driven before being handed to a customer.
No prizes for the right guess, but Koncept Motors insisted this was a “fresh” piece. “Really. It is.”
They were no longer testing my patience. Now they were testing my love.
I persisted. And said, “Screw it. What’s the difference?” I wanted a black Thar and no other. And by then I had heard enough stories of the legendary wait. So I stuck to my love.
The jeep came in at INR 7,00,000 or something. Add to that everything else (bull bars, roll-over bars, A/C (really???), light grills, engine grills) and your total is up to a good INR 8,00,000. But it’s not about the money. Really. It’s about the product and the service.
So I moved on. A happy camper. Finally united with my baby whom I christened “Short Round” (go google it.) And set off for my first great adventure. A month long drive through the Himachal (Kinnaur, Spiti, Kaza) and Ladakh valleys.
Skip forward to Shimla, one of the very first pitstops before I hit Kinnaur valley.
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY
It started raining cats and dogs – as it does in the hills in August. I mean it really came down. And I was on the road to get to a small place called Thanedar about 80 kms outside of Shimla. There was no place to stop. But why would I want to stop? Because I felt like the the rain was coming into the jeep. I parked Short Round and looked back. THE CANOPY WAS LEAKING.
WHAT? THIS IS AN OUTDOOR VEHICLE!! AND THEY COULDN’T GET THE CANOPY RIGHT???
I had my bags and my speakers rigged in the back. (I got the seats taken out so that the passenger could recline and so that I could park my bags and ration.) And it was all getting wet now.
S#%T! So I did what every scooterist does in India. Parked under a tree and waited for the rains to abate… in a covered jeep. After 30 minutes or so, once the rain stopped, I got out and used tissues to clean up the water, moisture and everything so I could move. I stuffed the tissues in the corners where the roll-over bars connected with the cheap see-through plastic, so that they could absorb any water should it rain again.
BRINGING THE GREAT OUTDOORS… INDOORS!
Luckily, for me, it didn’t rain again that day. However the roads were muddy. Now why would I mention this to you? Because the canopy screwed me over again. How? The bottom corners of the canopy in the Mahindra Thar are not closed properly. And the mud-guards of the Mahindra Thar do precious little. So when the wheels fling the mud up, the corners which are ajar, let the mud fly in. In fine, little precise streaks. Nice, eh?
By the time I got to Thanedar, my stop 2 of adventure North, my bags had been wet, and muddied – all thanks to the fine engineering effort of the designer of the Mahindra Thar.
Do you want to know how I resolved the issue? Trucker-style. I got a tarp to cover the canopy of the Mahindra Thar. Got it well strung up, and drove through the rest of my adventure. Because I just lost all faith in the accessories of the Thar. Suddenly I was wondering whether the roll-over bars would hold in a critical situation. Luckily I never had to test them.
Coming back to the canopy, you should also know that you cannot completely close the canopy. Why? Because of the spare wheel hinged on the back door (which doesn’t open easily from the exterior handle). The hinge it rests on has an upward bend that comes in the way of the canopy and doesn’t let the canopy close entirely to seal the cabin. So there is a constant loss of air-conditioning and in-flux dust, etc.
JUSTIFY MY LOVE
However, at this point I must add the positives: The exteriors of the car – OMG! I don’t think I saw one grown man – not smile as it passed by. Kudos to the body-job Mr. Mahindra. And even the engine. Not once did it give me any trouble (but then I have only driven it 5,000 kms, the rest is yet to come.) Well done. But this is where the praise ends.
The Thar’s interiors are 4th-world shoddy and cost cutting cannot be the mantra to apply when someone sits in a 8-lacs plus vehicle. This is certainly not a city vehicle (even though that’s what you would like to project). And even if, it is a second or a recreational vehicle.
So wouldn’t it make sense to charge the customer a wee bit more and give them the quality they should expect from your company? I would gladly pay more as long as I don’t have to be stuck under a tree in the middle of nowhere just because it’s raining and the canopy used by your team can’t take it.
AFTER SALES DIS-SERVICE
Yes! I called the after sales. And got more sub-standard handling. After writing an elaborate mail (see below) to management and senior people in the Delhi side of your operations, all I got a was a call back (2 weeks later) and upon insistence a person who came and inspected the vehicle post my travels.
If you’re really interested, that was in September first week. Nothing post that. Not even a ‘promise’ to change the canopy. That’s why I decided to write and at least let the world know, that if you love something, be prepared for all you will have to sacrifice in the process.
Shame. Really. Cuz I do love the Thar. The company that makes it – not so much.
PS: Quick update – July, 2012 The canopy was finally changed, under the warranty, and I thought my worries would end. So – no rain inside anymore, but the dang canopy just doesn’t wrap around the frame at the back of the vehicle, constantly remaining open. Again letting in the elements and leaking out cabin air. I finally give up. Like most common Indians do, and make peace with what we have. Shame.