Shortly after Indian automaker Mahindra introduced its off-road-only side-by-side, the Roxor, Jeep filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission. Jeep feels that the Roxor’s CJ-5-inspired looks infringe upon Jeep’s trademarks, so the FCA brand pushed to stop sales of the Mahindra. Mahindra responded by redesigning the Roxor, and now it appears that a further redesign is coming. And it is wacky.
Go to the Mahindra Roxor’s home page, and you’ll notice that there’s really not much to see. There’s just this cryptic message about how the Roxor “will RISE again,” presumably a reference to having been beaten down by Jeep and its suit-wearing trademark lawyers:
Sometimes you have to look deep within to find the truest version of yourself, so we’re off on a journey to do just that.
We will RISE again. Stronger. Different. Freakier.
The Roxor configurator is closed until the 2021 vehicle hits production, as stated on this configurator page that features the new vehicle hidden by a cloth:
What we can see from the design is that the leading edge of the hood stretches far across the vehicle, unlike on the old Roxor, whose hood tapered as it reached forward. Autocarindia has a rendering of what’s under the cloth, and while I can’t show you that here (just click that hyperlink if you’re curious) since I’m not certain that this image comes from Mahindra, that doesn’t matter, because Autocarindia’s rendering looks just like this:
I can’t say I have any clue where this image comes from, either, but unlike that other rendering, this image looks real, and must have come from the manufacturer. The vehicle shown is odd. Extremely odd. But in a fun sort of way.
And the new design is actually quite smart, though before I explain why, allow me to quote my former self to describe what Jeep’s beef was with the Roxor:
The complaint, filed Wednesday (and shown in full at the bottom of this article), claims that Mahindra has “engaged in unlawful acts…through their unlicensed importation, sale for importation, or sale after importation of… products that infringe and dilute FCA’s distinctive Jeep vehicle trade dress.”
FCA defines that trade dress as the following design features:
(i) A boxy body shape with flat appearing vertical side and rear body panels ending at about the same height as the hood;
(ii) Substantially flat hood with curved side edges that tapers to be narrower at the front;
(iii) Trapezoidal front wheel wells with front fenders or fender flares that extend beyond the front of the grille;
(iv) Flat appearing grille with vertical elongated grille slots and a trapezoidal outline that curves around round headlamps positioned on the upper part of the grille;
(v) Exterior hood latches;
(vi) Door cutouts above a bottom portion of the side body panels
The 2021 Roxor (I’m assuming that this slide, which someone from a Roxor Facebook page brought to my attention, does indeed depict the 2021 model) removes a number of the “Trade Dress” items that Jeep is complaining about, and it does it in an intelligent way that minimizes investment.
The whole front grille shape, which looks like a slice of bread on the old Jeep, has been completely altered. The new face still likely uses the same lower mounting provisions on the frame crossmember as the old grille, but up top, it’s wider to meet up with the wider hood.
The new hood’s width up top gives the car a bit of an alien feel to it, though I’m not entirely sure why I make that association. Mahindra, on its own website, says the Roxor will return “freakier,” and I think that’s fair.
With the wider hood, the new Roxor avoids the Jeep’s “tapered hood” trade dress. Plus, because of some kind of new mechanism, the Mahindra also no longer has external hood latches, which Jeep also considers part of its trademark.
Aside from a new face and a new hood (which clearly hinges about the same spot on the cowl as the old one), the new Roxor also gets new fenders, which cut off at the grille instead of extending forward. They lack the curved shape of the old fenders, and while this probably isn’t good for parts commonality with the India-market Thar, the new Thar’s fenders are different anyway and the 2021 Roxor’s fenders look significantly simpler to make than the curved fenders. And because the fender doesn’t curve down after reaching ahead of the grille, the wheel opening doesn’t appear trapezoidal — something that could infringe upon Jeep’s trade dress.
As for the side of the vehicle, Mahindra hasn’t done much. Jeep says its trade dress covers “A boxy body shape with flat appearing vertical side and rear body panels ending at about the same height as the hood.” This is a bit odd, as iconic Jeeps like the military M38A1 and civilian CJ-3B had much taller hoods than rear body panels, but in any case, the Mahindra seems fine, here. The only remaining area where the 2021 still seems to “infringe” upon what Jeep considers its trade dress is the door openings.
Instead of having a door that reaches all the way down to the rocker panel, the Mahindra’s door opening (there is no door, just an opening) starts above the rocker panels. That seems fair enough for a side-by-side? If Jeep complains about this given how wacky the 2021 Roxor looks now, I’d be baffled.
This redesign, by the way, isn’t exactly surprising. Mahindra alluded to it before, telling my coworker Jason Torchinsky this in his story about the new 2020 styling:
Mahindra has already launched its model year 2020 ROXOR with significant styling changes and will make additional styling changes, if so required in cooperation with the ITC. In the meantime, Mahindra expects to enjoy increased sales of the 2020 model with its unique new grille design and numerous product improvements, which should continue creating additional jobs going forward.
I just wasn’t expecting the new look to be this dramatic. But I don’t hate it? It’s extremely weird, but still fun. I can’t wait to see it in person.