Confident that sub-4 metre vehicle will appeal to younger set
Ford believes its upcoming sub-4 metre long SUV, EcoSport, will give it a “nimble” edge in the market. Ford India’s President and Managing Director, Michael Boneham, is pleased with all the action in the compact SUV segment. Competitor Renault has already launched the Duster SUV; Mahindra is rolling out its mini SUV, Quanto. Maruti and Hyundai are also said to be gearing up for this segment.
Ford plans to launch the EcoSport, which it showcased at the Auto Expo in January, in the first quarter of 2013, in both petrol and diesel versions.
“People say we are late in launching it. That’s not necessarily correct. EcoSport is being launched in Brazil, which is happening right now; this will be followed by China and then India,” said Boneham, in an interview.
EcoSport will be less than four metres long and, hence, easy and flexible to handle, like a small car, said Boneham. Renault's Duster is 4.31 metres long.
“EcoSport, with a command seating position, will deliver an ‘SUVness’ in a segment that has never had SUVness before. At the same time, it will also be nimble, like a small car, in terms of flexibility in parking etc.”
Women will enjoy this vehicle, said Boneham. It will also appeal to young people. Boneham said being a sub 4-metre car, EcoSport will enjoy the excise duty benefits of a small car, providing the company “flexibility” in pricing. But the compact SUV category will not cannibalise the market for sedans, said Boneham, adding that it will provide a new choice and address a “white space” in the market. It will create excitement among car buyers, said Boneham. EcoSport will be rolled out of Ford’s plant in Maraimalainagar, Chennai. Ford is investing Rs 750 crore in the plant for the EcoSport launch.
The plant is also expected to export EcoSport; although the markets have not been announced yet, they could be Mexico, Asia and South Africa, said Boneham.
Earlier, Ford had the Fusion in India, which it tagged as a multi-utility vehicle.
An auto industry observer points out the Fusion could have easily passed off as a compact SUV.
“Only thing was it was ahead of its time and was highly priced then,” he says. The vehicle came in a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 1.4-litre diesel engine and had a high driving stance, ample cabin room and adequate boot space.
“Ford India will have incorporated the learnings from the Fusion in the EcoSport,” he adds.