Mahindra's been making these off-roaders for 70 years, and isn't about to stop now.
Last week a court determined that the Mahindra Roxor looks too much like a Jeep, upholding Fiat Chrysler's claim and recommending that the Indian off-roader be barred from the US market. But what would on the surface seem like a slam-dunk victory for FCA is much more complicated than that.
Mahindra, the Indian automaker responsible for the Roxor, shared its side of the story with Jalopnik, seeking to clear up a few misunderstandings surrounding the issue and making its case for why it is as entitled to use the Jeep CJ-style design every bit as much as Fiat Chrysler. And it makes a compelling argument.
For one thing, Mahindra notes, the ruling by the Administrative Law Judge isn't binding. It's a recommendation to the US International Trade Commission, which can, in turn, choose to accept or reject, in full or in part, the judge's ruling. And contrary to some reports, Mahindra (which also incidentally owns Pininfarina) points out that no cease-and-desist order has been issued, and that it (not FCA) was the party that took the matter up with the judge in the first place, seeking to secure its right to produce and sell the Roxor in America.
The story goes back much further than that, though – back to the years following the Second World War, when Willys (the Jeep's original producer) licensed the CJ's design to numerous manufacturers around the world – among them Mahindra, a company founded in 1945 and which has been building this style of vehicle since 1947, most recently as the Mahindra Thar in India and other markets. That would ostensibly give Mahindra as much right to continue using the design (on a global basis) as Fiat Chrysler, whose current Jeep Wrangler bears what could only be described as a passing resemblance to the Willys-era CJ and Mahindra's Thar/Roxor.
Add to that the efforts Mahindra undertook to visually differentiate the Roxor from the Wrangler, the fact that the Roxor can only be driven off-road, and Mahindra's charge that FCA failed to define what constitutes the "Jeep Trade Dress" which the judge deemed Mahindra to violate, and the Roxor's legal fate looks anything but sealed.
Or so, at least, the hundreds of employees, dealers, and suppliers working to produce and sell the Roxor in America might hope. But we wouldn't expect FCA to take this all lying down – especially in Auburn Hills, Michigan, where Chrysler is based and where Mahindra established "the first assembly plant to be built in Southeast Michigan in over a quarter of a century."