Ford India is planning a multi-pronged strategy for the high-volume Indian compact car market and may field a new entry-level small car, as well as a premium model, above its best-selling Figo, to capture higher volumes, a local report said.
Ford, which has seen a slowdown due to stiff competition and a rapid shift of the market to diesel, feels that models based on global, proven platforms are the way forward to build up mass volumes in India, Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford’s Asia Pacific and Africa Head, told Economic Times.
“Hatchbacks are a high-volume segment in India and you need to have products in that segment to be a bigger player and that is our plan and our intention,” Hinrichs said.
The current Figo is an update of the previous generation European Fiesta (the current model sedan is also built and sold there) but other Ford executives have also said future models for emerging markets will be current and global.
Asked if the plan would also include a new car in the Maruti Alto category, priced below the Figo, Hinrichs said: “We continue to look at all the segments in India, including at lower price points… It is something we study and are capable of doing.”
Ford has the Ka in South America (previous generation) and Europe [current model sharing platform and plant with Fiat’s 500] and Hinrichs told Economic Times the company could look at similar high fuel-economy innovations for densely-populated cities like India.
“(While) we have expertise in that area, we will continue to explore what our options are.”
Hinrichs also spoke about more product in the upper segment of the compact car market, possibly with models developed from global platforms. The company’s ‘B platform’, underpinning the current Fiesta and upcoming EcoSport SUV, is also the basis of the Fiesta hatchback not yet sold in India.
On whether that will come to India, Hinrichs said new products required more production capacity after the completion of the Gujarat plant. “…(and) so you can anticipate that we will have a lot of products to get into the high-volume segment with our competitors.”
Hinrichs said the addition of the new plant in 2014 would help Ford add new models to its range.
Current capacity is 200,000 vehicles and 340,000 engines at Chennai and Gujarat will adde 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 lakh engines, enabling the automaker to launch at least six more new models by mid-decade.
However, the task of adding sales volumes looks tough, according to Economic Times. Ford, a marginal player in India from entry in 1995only became a serious player from March 2010 when it launched the Figo, its first hatchback.
While the Figo helped the company build volumes and confidence in the market, the model has been under severe competitive pressure lately, and Ford India’s overall sales have fallen. menawhile, the global Fiesta sedan, assembled locally and launched in July 2011, got off to a slow start.
Hinrichs said the company was confident of getting momentum right with the EcoSport SUV launching at the beginning of 2013 to compete with other locally made models like the Renault [Dacia] Duster and domstically designed Mahindra Scorpio.
“We think we have a great product in the EcoSport and Ford will price it competitively. To keep the cost of the vehicle competitive, the company has decided to have a local content of over 70% to begin with while also looking at exports to gain economies of scale.”