Ford has quickly made up for lost time in India with a slew of launches, the latest being the Mustang in Delhi. Less than a fortnight ago, it was the new Endeavour in Mumbai where Nigel Harris, President and Managing Director of Ford India, took time off for an interview. Excerpts:
How has the journey been at Ford India since the time you took charge in 2014?
It has been really good, stunning in fact. We launched the Figo, Figo Aspire, this new Endeavour and we have not stopped yet. Now we can safely say we are not a one-car company!
Today, we have relevant brands, right products and modern showrooms. We have also launched a brand new facility at Sanand with a $1 billion investment.
How much of this has been spent already at Sanand and what are the investments in the pipeline?
In the automobile business, we never stop investing. We have already done so in products and will follow suit in engines but that is still two years away. So these investments continue as we look towards the ‘Make in India’ strategy.
Whether it is engines or completely built-up vehicles, we are getting a scale which we never had before. All this will give us the ability to offer the latest products. The investments will be made for large and small displacement engines, both for the domestic market and exports. We have capacity of about 4.40 lakh engines in Sanand which is pretty significant.
What would you have to say about the EcoSport losing ground to Hyundai’s Creta?
These vehicles are different value propositions with the Creta costing about ₹2 lakh more. The EcoSport is a sub-four metre car and a really a solid vehicle with a strong export market. However, there has been a bit of an impact from sedans as people prefer them for the ride comfort.
Do you still have a waiting period for the EcoSport and Figo?
Yes, there is a 30-45 day waiting period on some automatic versions of EcoSport which is not very significant. We are trying to fix that. On the Figo, there are a couple of models which are pretty attractively priced and we are trying to increase their production. We saw this trend in October-November last year and have taken action.
How did the recent flooding in Chennai impact operations of the EcoSport and new Endeavour?
It was a huge job to keep water out of the plant. We lost about 5,000 units of production and there has been a slight impact on sales with a three-week delay in the launch of Endeavour.
We had to get 1,200 electric motors at the plant conditioned and make sure they were dry. Some of the motors had to be rewound while robotics were disassembled, cleared of moisture and recalibrated.
How would you react to the ban on registration of diesel vehicles in Delhi which will impact the new Endeavour?
The Delhi-NCR market is at about 12 per cent of the total premium SUV sales for Ford.
It does not make sense to ban a Bharat Stage IV vehicle in Delhi but it makes sense to take BS I, II and III (vehicles) off the roads. Vehicles contribute only 2.5 per cent of the total problem while the main pollutants are construction activities, open fire from rubbish and farmers burning stubbles. The Government and auto industry plan to accelerate BS V and VI while exiting BS I, II and III.
With India expected to be the largest market for B segment cars by 2020, what would your strategy be?
There are opportunities that Ford has in terms of additional products but I cannot talk about them today. We have bought big products into India and will bring more.
We are committed to India which is part of the One Ford programme. All new products for South America, Middle East, Africa or Europe will be bought to India as well. In the past, we would have had to wait for three years to get a car like this but are now getting it three or four months after launch in other markets.
Finally, what does India mean to Ford?
India is the third-largest market for the company after China and the North America in terms of total sales. As a market, it is really important to Ford which is why we spent $1 billion on the new plant and launched so many new products in the last few months.
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