Roxor Versus Jeep, Verne’s Opinion
Verne’s Take on the Roxor
The Mahindra Roxor is a copy of a Jeep. And this article may make some folks at Jeep/FCA mad, but it's the way I feel. I'm a magazine tech editor, but I'm also an off-road enthusiast. I do like all 4x4s (sure, some more than others) and have owned vehicles from several manufacturers. Still, some would say I'm a Jeep guy, and I do love Jeeps. I love Jeeps that were built by Bantam, Ford, Willys, Kaiser, AMC, Chrysler, Daimler, Fiat, and Mahindra. I also love the Toyota, Land Rover, Ford, GM, Nissan, etc. vehicles that were clearly inspired by the WWII jeep.
The Jeep look, history, and functionality are what attract me to Jeeps, but I also see the attraction of Mahindra's Roxor for many of the same reasons. Actually, the existence of the Roxor strikes me as being a move of marketing genius for the folks who decided to sell the Roxor as a side-by-side. And, as a result, I hope the Roxor succeeds despite the legal issues surrounding its sales in the U.S.
Mahindra vs FCA, My Opinion
FCA accuses Mahindra of violating the "trade dress" of Jeep. Specifically, the look of the Roxor is too close to that of the iconic Jeep, the CJ. Legal verbiage calls out: exterior hood latches, door cutouts above the bottom portion of the side body panels, a boxy body shape with flat appearing vertical side, and so on. Mahindra doesn't deny the similarities. Most of their automotive products are based in designs from licensed versions of Jeep's CJs starting with the CJ-3b. I'm not a lawyer, but here's my opinion of what's happening in the new Jeep and Roxor markets. Markets of concern to FCA and Mahindra, I argue, are totally separate. As a Jeep owner who also wants a Roxor, I can say that there are two very different types of "Jeep" customers. Either they want a luxury automobile (totally legal for the road in all 50 states) that can go off-road (which is totally what the Jeep Wrangler JL and Gladiator JT are), or the buyer wants an open-top utility and adventure vehicle for mostly off-road use: hunting, farming, dirty work, and play. This second buyer, the one who isn't looking for a luxury SUV, has had a few options. They can buy a used Jeep, an old Samurai, an FJ-40, a Blazer, a Bronco, and so on, and none of that has anything to do with FCA. Or they could compromise and buy a new non-Roxor side-by-side (which, in my opinion, is genuinely ugly and just seems fragile), or now thanks to Mahindra, they can go buy a Roxor. It's a multi-purpose tractor much like the first several iterations of the civilian Jeeps (that Mahindra was licensed to copy). That is, until legal recourse from FCA takes effect.
What Roxor Buyers Want What Jeep Buyers Want
Dear FCA, I'd love to own a new JL Wrangler, but I am also allergic to making large monthly car payments. This creates an impasse, and it's me, not you I'll admit it, I'm cheap. Also, I really have no need for most of the geegaws that the new JL comes with from the factory (some of my vehicles lack basic creature comforts and speedometers, let alone cameras and lane departure assist). And I'm either too dumb to care or just don't mind the lack of A/C, Bluetooth, a top that seals, or being safe and legal to drive on the road in all 50 states. For me the compromise is saving money on a Roxor (or a used Jeep) that can be a nearly fully off-road and trail-dedicated machine while daily-driving something else.
The Beauty of a Roxor
The attraction of the Roxor is that it is like an old used open-top SUV, only it's a new product. The buyer can make payments on it, won't have to worry about its past maintenance history, and can just enjoy it for what it is. It's a fresh slate for any owner to make their own and use as they see fit (albeit not on the highway). That is one of the major attractions of the open-top SUV, a vehicle the Jeep Corporation used to have a near monopoly on. Thus, I would argue that the Roxor might be affecting old, used Jeep sales, and that (as I am sure the suits at FCA know) has nothing to do with FCA. Also, I would argue that the Roxor is not much more like a CJ than a Toyota FJ-40 is. Historically Toyota's FJs have had many of the Jeep "trade dress" features mentioned above since the early '50s. FCA complains about these aspects of the Roxor in their lawsuits yet hasn't filed complaints against Toyota. What about the Suzuki Samurai? What about Series and Defender model Land Rovers? The truth is, the similarities abound in all real 4x4s, and all of them have some ideas borrowed from the first (if not more recent) Jeeps.
Apples and Oranges, Automobiles and ATVs
Roxor also isn't interfering with the sales of new Jeeps, or new Toyota 4x4s either 'cause like FCA, Toyota doesn't sell a side-by-side. There is nothing in the side-by-side market like a Roxor yet. In fact, accusing the Roxor, as a side-by-side, of damaging the reputation or financial income of any automobile manufacturer is basically the same as accusing snowmobile manufacturers of damaging the reputation of jet ski manufacturers because someone published a video of a snowmobile skimming across the top of an unfrozen a lake (google it). Now this may change. Jeep could come out with a Jeep-branded side-by-side, Suzuki could sell their small SUV (the Jimny, sold overseas) as a side-by-side, and I personally hope all that happens as it will bring more options to the customer. Regardless, Mahindra was the first in this market with the Roxor.
Advice to Mahindra About the Roxor
Dear Mahindra, if FCA can't recognize the differences between the two distinct markets, I'd recommend you guys just change the way the front end of the Roxor looks. Design a new box-shaped hood, fenders, and grille that fit the same old bones of a Roxor (I'm happy to help), and then sell a kit to make it look more like "the icon" or something to that effect. The real genius of the Roxor is twofold. One, the Roxor is a new side-by-side filling a niche of older used open-top SUVs (and ugly, fragile side-by-sides); and two, it has real jeep history that gives it undeniable retro, old-school appeal that most of the new Jeeps from Jeep totally lack. The fact is, the Roxor is arguably more a jeep than most of the vehicles with the Jeep emblem attached to their sheetmetal on dealer lots. That's no one's fault but Jeep's.