First in 25 years: Automaker plans Detroit area plant

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

A Mumbai-based automaker says it will open the first new auto assembly plant in southeast Michigan in more than 25 years.

Indian automaker Mahindra Group plans to open a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Rex Boulevard in Auburn Hills. Details will be shared at a news conference at the plant Nov. 20. The company also recently opened a 250,000-square-foot warehouse in Pontiac.

Mahindra’s technical center and North American headquarters, currently based in Troy, will relocate to the new Auburn Hills manufacturing facility, Mahindra spokesman Rich Ansell said Friday. The roughly 40,000-square-foot Troy building will still serve as a prototyping facility.

The company did not reveal how many new workers the new Auburn Hills facility would employ, but said in a media advisory it has tripled its employment in the Metro Detroit area over the last 18 months.

It’s not yet clear exactly what the Auburn Hills plant will produce, but the Times of India reported last week that it will build off-road utility vehicles.

The Indian automaker has long wanted to enter the U.S. auto market. Mahindra is already a large distributor of tractors and information technology services in the U.S., but does not have a passenger vehicle in the market. It mainly manufactures SUVs, pickups and commercial vehicles for the Indian market. Mahindra also produces three electric vehicles — a subcompact passenger car, a cargo van and a three-wheel micro car.

Mahindra’s plans to open a factory in southeast Michigan were first hinted at last week when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the automaker would build the “first-ever Indian automotive manufacturing plant in the U.S.,” according to the Times of India.

The automaker joined in September with Ford Motor Co. in a three-year partnership in India. The two companies are working together on mobility programs, connected vehicles, electrification and product development as Ford attempts to build a stronger presence in that country.

Mahindra arrived in Michigan in 2013 when it invested $4 million to open a technical center and North American headquarters in Troy, and an assembly plant to build GenZe electric bicycles and scooters in Ann Arbor. A Mahindra executive told The Detroit News in 2015 that the company’s goal was to learn the U.S. market with an eye toward introducing automobiles here.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who will attend the Nov. 20 ribbon-cutting at the new Auburn Hills plant, wrote in a statement Friday, “I visited with Mahindra in 2015 during an investment mission to India and look forward to joining with them again later this month to celebrate their investment at the ribbon cutting.”

Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel says Mahindra’s investment in his city “proves that Metro Detroit remains the auto capital of the world.”

“Their company product line,” he said, “meets our goal of diversifying our local economy and that of Oakland County.”