The Indian car giant has agreed in an Australian Federal Court to not import a look-a-like version of the Jeep Wrangler.

EXCLUSIVE

The Mahindra Thar four-wheel-drive – a Jeep Wrangler look-a-like – has effectively been banned from being sold in Australia in its current guise.

Indian car giant Mahindra has given an undertaking to the Federal Court of Australia to not import the copycat version of the Jeep Wrangler.

Earlier this year Mahindra’s Australian website published an “expressions of interest” page and notified potential buyers via email: “As we get closer to launching this exciting new vehicle in Australia, we will communicate with you via this email address.”

Last week, the Federal Court heard one Mahindra Thar vehicle (pictured above) “has been imported into Australia for testing,” however the certification process known as homologation “has not commenced and no vehicles are available … in Australia”.

In a major turnaround yesterday, lawyers representing Mahindra in Australia agreed in Federal Court the manufacturer would “not import, market or sell in Australia the model of the Thar vehicle” released in India last year, or a future variant of the Mahindra Thar vehicle.

Mahindra had previously applied to give 45 days notice to Jeep of an intention to certify and import a version of the Mahindra Thar vehicle into Australia – rather than the 90 days requested by Jeep.

Last week Justice John Halley asked the legal representative for Mahindra why the company had a problem with 90 days written notice – as opposed to 45 days written notice – given the undertaking by Mahindra there were no plans to introduce a Jeep Wrangler-like vehicle.

Justice Halley said: “Reading between the lines … unless this is a carefully crafted undertaking, there is no present intention by (Mahindra) to introduce any further or additional or evolved model into Australia at this time.”

However, as part of the Federal Court undertaking, Mahindra yesterday agreed to provide “at least 90 days written notice” to Jeep prior to lodging an application to certify the Mahindra Thar or a future variant for sale in Australia.

Mahindra is also obliged to “include details of the appearance of the vehicle intended to be imported, marketed and sold in Australia”.

A statement issued by Jeep after yesterday’s Federal Court hearing said the company is “pleased that Mahindra has conceded and undertaken that they will not import, market or sell the current Thar vehicle in Australia and will provide prior notice to (Jeep) before bringing any future model or variant of the Thar into Australia”.

The Jeep statement said the Federal Court outcome “illustrates our commitment to protect the iconic trade dress and trademarks of the Jeep brand here and overseas”.

A statement from representatives for Mahindra Australia – sent after yesterday’s Federal Court hearing – said: “Mahindra’s undertaking to the Federal Court means that there will not be any needless litigation in relation to the case filed by (Jeep) in Australia for a model of the Thar that is available in India. When we develop a model specific to (the Australian) market, we will provide the required notice to (Jeep).”

The Mahindra statement said the Federal Court undertaking “has no bearing on our plans (in Australia) as we continue to pursue a considered and managed expansion of our business across a number of vehicle categories.”

Celebrating its 75th year globally – and 15th year of operation in Australia – Mahindra said it “remains firmly committed to the many customers, country-wide, who put their confidence in us and our vehicles, every day” and that the company continues to “invest in the development of a diverse product portfolio.”

Another Federal Court case management hearing has been scheduled for 30 July 2021 to determine legal costs and “the terms on which (both parties) propose to discontinue this proceeding.”

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