The faltering truck and auto industry in the United States has provided an opening for an all-new entry into the pickup competition here – the first-ever passenger vehicle to be imported from India.

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. plans to introduce a four-door compact pickup truck to the U.S. market sometime early in 2011. As yet unnamed, the Jeep-like pickup (called the Pik-Up in its home country) initially will offer one engine – a four-cylinder, 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter turbocharged "clean" diesel that provides 236 foot-pounds of torque. A two-door pickup, also produced in India, may be added to the lineup afterward.

The four-door model will offer most features American truck buyers expect today, including electronic stability control, four-wheel disk brakes with ABS, power windows and door locks, and air conditioning. Specs include payload and towing capacity of 2,633 pounds and 5,000 pounds, respectively. Exact pricing has yet to be announced, but the four-door is expected to sell in the low $20,000-plus range.

Although the Mahindra nameplate is unfamiliar to most Americans, the company has a long history of vehicle production dating back to 1949, when it began assembling postwar Willys Jeeps for the Asian market. Today, the company makes passenger cars in India in partnership with Ford and Renault-Nissan. Since 1994, Mahindra has also been building tractors in the U.S. and currently has plants in Texas, Georgia, and California.