As the number of cars is increasing on our roads, so is their service requirement. Today, a car that can offer value and reduce the cost of ownership finds resonance with consumers. PK Umashankar, vice-president, Customer Service Operations, Ford India—in an interaction with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express—says that buyers today appreciate assured quality and transparency in the ownership and servicing processes. He also takes us through the steps Ford India is taking so as to ensure its cars have a low cost of ownership. Excerpts:
How has the car ownership experience changed in India over the last few years?
In today’s age of technology, a potential car buyer generally does a thorough research on the web before short-listing a set of cars that he should consider. The information-gathering process includes checking the commentary on social media websites, analysing expert drive reviews, and reading testimonials on the ownership experience. By the time a buyer gets to the showroom, he is already well-informed. We also see an increased demand for assured quality and transparency in the ownership and servicing processes.
What steps are you taking so as to ensure that customers enjoy low cost of ownership?
Our commitment is to offer products that have a low cost of ownership. We ensure our cars have reduced service intervals, enhanced durability and reliability, and superior fuel efficiency.
Are Indian customers ready for high-technology and low-maintenance cars such as the Ford EcoSport EcoBoost?
For a price-sensitive buyer, a car or a technology that can offer value and reduce the cost of ownership always finds resonance. We introduced the EcoBoost gasoline engine in India with the EcoSport. This engine has a patented turbo direct injection system that helps improve fuel economy by up to 20% and reduce emissions by up to 15%. The EcoBoost reiterates Ford’s commitment to promote innovation.
Do all your outlets, be they in small or big cities, offer the same ownership experience?
Our aim has been to provide global standards across all our dealerships. Enhancing the ownership experience is a continuous process. Be it a small town or a metro city, all our outlets offer the same ownership experience. For instance, our Happy Pocket Service, priced at Rs 2,199, enhances the cost of ownership experience of our customers. It comprises of oil change, oil filter, sump plug gasket, labour charges, body wash, and a 50-point check, without any hidden charges.
How has been the response to the Ford Service Roadside Assistance (RSA) programme?
The RSA is connecting well with the customers. Every new Ford car comes with two years of free RSA, with nationwide coverage. The offering is also available as a retail package across our dealerships and is priced at a nominal R1,000 a year.
What was the idea behind the Quick Lane service initiative?
Consumers today have little time to spend at a dealership. Through Quick Lane services, we introduced features such as ‘No Appointment Necessary’ and ‘While you Wait’ service, providing a convenient option for routine car maintenance and minor repairs. Quick Lane considerably reduces the waiting period during service requirements. Extended operating hours on workdays and Saturdays provide a faster turnaround time, increasing customer satisfaction.
A Ford dealer once told me about the replaceable door skin on the Figo. What is it and what led you to introduce this?
The ‘Sub Assembly Levels for Repairs’ strategy enables big savings in the overall ownership costs by breaking up an assembly into sub-components. Whenever a car part needs to be replaced, the strategy enables replacing only the malfunctioning ‘parts at sub assembly levels’, as opposed to replacing the complete assembly.
Replaceable door skin that you mention is a fine example of this technique. It is a design where a replaceable skin is put on the door frame. As a result, in the event of a dent or any other form of minor damage to the door, the skin could be replaced instead of the entire closure assembly, thus making the repair a less costly affair.
The strategy is being followed in other parts of Ford cars too. For instance, if the connecting rod or piston rings get damaged, they can be replaced separately, while earlier the entire short block assembly (piston, rings, pins, connecting rod) needed replacement. Similar is the case with the alternator and the exterior mirror assembly. Earlier, if an alternator failed, the customer would have to purchase a full alternator, but now a specific component within an alternator can be replaced.
Are auto solutions companies such as Carnation taking away after-market customers from auto manufacturers?
Be it small workshops or multi-brand ones, the real concern is customer satisfaction. Most independent workshops lack transparency in their service packages and may work out to be more expensive. Ford India and many other OEMs provide a high quality service experience to their consumers without any hidden costs. For example, while a Ford dealership would charge a fixed amount for labour, multi-brand workshops put separate lines for various labour charges that increases the total cost of the service.