DETROIT, MICHIGAN (WTOL) - The Toledo-built Jeeps are drawing lots of attention this week by the inquiring members of the media as the Wrangler and Gladiator Pick Up models pose prominently amid the Jeep display area.
But also drawing attention, and double takes at the North American International Auto Show, was another car that is not a Jeep; but at first glance looks just like one.
It’s called the Roxor, built by Mahindra Motors which originated in India.
This particular model has a haunting resemblance to the vintage Jeep C-J models that were once a popular icon of Jeep enthusiasts around the world.
There’s a reason this twin is almost identical. It’s because it shares a lot of DNA with the Willys Jeep in post World War II.
Mahindra Motors got its start building Willys Military Jeeps in Mumbai India under contract from the Willys Corporation in the 1940’s. Because of those arrangements, they had acquired a number of licenses to build parts that were clones of the famed Jeep.
As Mahindra evolved, it began producing its own four-wheel drive vehicles. However, sold only in Asia, many of them looked stunningly like Jeeps and did so under special licensing agreements with Kaiser, American Motors and Chrysler.
Fast forward a few decades and another chapter was written in the Mahindra story.
“Basically we took what we were doing in India and redesigned it for the local market,” said Rich Ansell, the VP of Marketing for Mahindra.
He also said they have opened operations in Detroit and began producing off-road–only sports performance vehicles for the U.S. market and elsewhere.
With a base price tag of about $16,000, Ansell said sales are growing, and they are even exploring industrial and commercial uses for the vehicle.
Even though the Roxor model is not street legal, Fiat Chrysler has filed a trade complaint with the U.S. government alleging that the Roxor looks too similar to the Jeep, infringing on certain attributes like the front slotted grills and the distinctive overall exterior design.
Roxor maintains that it has had agreement to use certain design features of the Jeep over the decades and FCA’s complaint has no merit.
The Roxor is Mahindra’s first entry into the North American marketplace and although the car is restricted to off road use, with a 45 MPH speed regulator, Jeep enthusiasts are excited by its vintage Jeep look and cheap price tag.
There are also many reports on Internet blogs and forums that the steel framed and bodied Roxor can be easily converted to become a street legal vehicle whose turbo diesel engine could reach speeds of over 70 MPH.
Mahindra’s Rich Ansell admits that conversions are possible, but not recommended.