Ford is exiting India and what it means for customers

 Why Ford is exiting India and what it means for customers

The Ford Escort still looms large in my memory. Until its launch in 1995, the posh segment was largely moribund, apart from the wholly-unattainable Mercedes-Benz E-Class and a couple of other names.

But, the Escort seemed novel, as did the blue oval emblazoned on its bonnet. Ford, the American automotive giant that gave the planet the Model T , the Mustang, the Thunderbird and lots of such iconic sub-brands had arrived in India, which could only mean that India’s liberalised economy and its automotive market had come aged . With the fourth phase of economic reforms and relaxed FDI rules, Ford’s first innings in independent India had officially kicked-off a la mode .

The Escort was special. it had been driven and owned by the likes of Azim Premji, long after it had left the market. Its boxy rear didn’t seamlessly meet its curvy front, and yet it had been striking in its unconventionality.

The maiden product of the Mahindra Ford India Limited venture that saw its re-entry within the Indian market, the Escort was powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine and did not become a sales success.

It did, however, pave the way for his or her first big hit – the Ford Ikon. The Ikon was the primary independent product made by the brand, launched in 1999, following which it went on to form 12 products, through its two, world-class production facilities in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu .

The Ikon was everything young India wanted – stylish, dynamic and practical else . It came after the Ford Mahindra venture ended and let Ford India, the wholly-owned subsidiary make its own mark within the industry. The Ikon was followed shortly by the brilliant Ford Mondeo. Launched to require on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and other entry-level luxury sedans, the Mondeo was before its time.

In that it had been too expensive a product for a brand that was yet to form its mark as a manufacturer of premium products. Despite the Mondeo’s power, refinement and attractiveness , its steep pricing wasn’t to everyone’s liking and Ford didn’t keep it around for too long. Ever since then it’s just the Endeavour that’s occupied the top-tier of Ford’s India-built offerings.

The Escort, the Mondeo then the Ford Fusion – none of the cars succeeded within the way the Ikon, the Endeavour or the EcoSport did. But that wasn’t because they were lesser cars, quite the contrary. The Fusion features a cult following till date and therefore the other two were simply victims of being within the wrong place at the incorrect time. during a purely utility conscious market, Ford’s efforts to supply solid driving dynamics and spirited performance often went unnoticed and unappreciated.

The Ford Fiesta and therefore the Figo hatchback were more suited to the requirements of the Indian customer. While they did remain eclipsed by the simplest sellers from their respective genres, those within the know preferred Ford’s punchy yet economical diesel, while the Figo’s gearbox remains an enthusiast favourite till date. whilst the Figo evolved into a more plus hatchback, Ford never diluted the formula. As a car equipped with a dual-clutch gearbox, the Figo remained one among the simplest driving cars in its category.

But it had been with the EcoSport that the brand struck gold – till date the best-selling car from Ford India’s stables, it’s facelift, which was due for launch next year, will remain unseen. what is going to be seen, thankfully are the cars that have sustained the Ford brand globally. Halo products just like the Mustang, the Ranger and maybe even the Bronco will keep the Mustang brand alive in India.

What went wrong?

Simply put, Ford accrued over $2 billion dollars in losses over the last decade, as stated by the brand’s president and CEO Jim Farley. increase this the considerable drop by demand and therefore the high running costs of Ford’s Sanand plant, and it not seemed feasible to continue operations.

But, before Ford’s collective production rate in India dropped to twenty percent, Ford saw a deal for an additional venture with Mahindra & Mahindra fall by the wayside. With shared expertise, manufacturing facilities, platforms and engines on the horizon, things did appear to seem good for Ford, until early this year when the JV was called off. With no clear communication from either brand on the explanation for it, the JV was and remains subject to much speculation. What can’t be disputed is that the incontrovertible fact that Ford bet it all on the JV understanding , and without it, was left without a paddle.

According to Ford’s statement it’ll cease to manufacture cars in India and can pack up the assembly facilities of its Sanand plant by the fourth quarter of 2021 and therefore the Tamil Nadu one by the second quarter of 2022. consistent with Anurag Mehrotra, the President and director of Ford India, the corporate considered multiple options involving partnerships, platform sharing and maybe even selling its plants.

“The decision was reinforced by years of accumulated losses, persistent industry overcapacity and lack of expected growth in India’s car market”

Where does this leave the customer?

Ford isn’t shutting shop within the way its other American compatriot General Motors did. The brand has made it very clear that it’ll still provide spares and still support customers with servicing.

While the dealers are likely to urge affected, Ford will still import high-end models just like the upcoming Mustang Mach-e, Ford Ranger and in fact , the Mustang. SUVs just like the Ford Bronco also appear to be within the pipeline. Sale of existing models just like the EcoSport, Figo, Aspire, Freestyle and therefore the Endeavour will end once the inventories are cleared-out. The brand continues to reiterate that the purchasers remain their top-priority which the brand is functioning closely with existing employees, unions, dealers and suppliers.

After 23 years, the Ford India story appears to possess hit an insurmountable obstacle. But it isn’t over.

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