After the announcement that the Ford-Mahindra joint venture is now officially over, the former seems to be going through a tough phase. Now there are few media reports claiming that Ford India will shut shop soon. We try and analyse if this is indeed true. If you see, no new Ford cars have been launched in quite some time and except for their SUVs like the EcoSport as well as Endeavour, most of the other cars from the stable, though very capable, don’t seem to be the first choice for many buyers. There was news last year that Ford India will be launching the Figo automatic and finally, after a long wait the car is now being readied for launch. That said, the second-gen Figo was already late in coming to our market and on top of it, it didn’t boast any significant feature or powertrain advantage over the competition. One thing it did well was have sorted dynamics. The price tag too did undercut well-established brand names.
The Ford India spokesperson sounded quite optimistic when we asked if the company is indeed planning to wind up its operation. The response we got was “We don’t comment on speculations and remain committed to serving our customers in India.”, but there is a possibility that the reality might be different. In order to sustain in a cut-throat market like ours, manufacturers need to up their game significantly. Either you play on the price side wherein the margins are lower but the buying populace perceives the product as quite economical or keep introducing new and feature-loaded cars in the market. Ideally a combination of both works wonders. With the current situation, these seem a bit bleak for Ford India. While the Figo automatic might be launched by the beginning of next month in India, it might be a bit late to the segment which already has the Hyundai i20, Maruti Suzuki Baleno and the Volkswagen Polo.
Ford’s two plants – Marimalai and Sanand – are said to be underutilised at the moment. There is speculation that the fast-growing Ola electric branch might want to acquire these and start with their highly ambitious manufacturing plans. Fresh investments will also be a big question for Ford India as globally the Blue Oval has been downsizing and has shut plants in multiple locations. While we did see Ford Ranger Raptor lifestyle vehicles with India-specific temporary number plates on our roads, the launch plans of the same are relatively unclear.
Is Ford India going the GM way? Quite possibly. In early 2015, GM did showcase the India-bound new Cruze globally but shortly thereafter the company had to wind up its sales operations in our country. This is despite Mary Barra, the then CEO assuring that GM is all set to invest in India. Without any new products, investment, or path-breaking technology in its Indian products, Ford India might be looking at the writing on the wall.
Turnaround? Only if Ford gets into a joint venture with some other company wherein the other party brings in investments and optimises the existing production lines. The Mahindra bit could have pulled Ford out of the brinks in India, however as they say “there is no use crying over spilt milk.” It is also rumoured that Ford India was in talks with many other players for a JV but the conversations seem to have had no concrete conclusion. We also appreciate the fact that the Blue Oval has continued with its diesel engines post the BS6 implementation, something that biggies like Maruti Suzuki, Toyota, Renault couldn’t.
We, at Express Drives, sincerely hope that Ford India quells these rumours and comes out strong. Maybe the boffins sitting at the Detroit office will see merit to invest in our market as well as infuse interest and the only way to do that is by launching products developed for Indian consumers on a regular basis. Resting on the success of a single model at any given time has brought Ford India this far but that strategy might not work any longer.
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