Ford India launching special Ikon variant

18 Oct 2004


Hyderabad: Ford India has launched yet another Ikon variant, Ford Ikon Anniversary, a special, limited edition of the Ikon to celebrate the company's fifth anniversary in India. According to Ford, only 500 units of the special edition will be manufactured each month and will be priced at Rs5 lakh (ex-Chennai). It will be available across India for a limited period and will have five exclusive features to enhance its value.

The anniversary edition will come in metallic panther black and silver stone colours and will have leather vinyl seat covers, superior stereo system, remote entry with anti-theft alarm and fog lamps.

The company's target is to sell 27,000 units of Ford Ikon for this calendar year. Sales of the Ikon have grown by 38 per cent over last year in the first nine months of the year. The mid size car market is growing by 25 per cent annually and is expected to touch 1,40,000 units this year. Ford hopes to achieve between 18 and 20 per cent of the mid-sized segment by December 2004 said company. Since last year Ford India has been on a localisation drive to cut costs and prices of the Ikon. It has succeeded to a large extent and its Ikon Flair and Ikon Lx pricing below Rs5 lakh has resulted in an upsurge in sales of the mid sized segment in the past year.

According to David Freidman, managing director, Ford India, "We are able to price our models so aggressively since 90 per cent of our components are sourced locally. We have added a second shift thereby enabling a higher utilisation of capacity, which has added to our manufacturing efficiencies," he said. Ford India is also stressing on a branded spare-parts retail strategy and has opened a large sales, service and spares facility in Chennai covering 53,000 sq ft at Arumbakkam. The outlet offers a fully integrated sales, services and spares operation with a large product display area, a separate sales counter and 22 work bays.

After the success of the Endeavour and Flair, Ford India is planning to launch the Ford Fusion in India by December this year. This will be the second new launch from the company in the past two years. After the unexciting performance of the Ford Mondeo, which is imported as a CBU (completely-built-up) unit, the company seems to be losing its appetite for assembling vehicles from imported kits.

The Ford Fusion is reported to have over 70 per cent localisation, with parts sourced locally and engines sourced from Hindustan Motors' Pithampur plant. This has enabled the company to price it more competitively in the Rs6.5 and Rs8 lakh range. Ford has been sourcing the 1.3 Rocam and 1.6-litre engines for its Ikon Flair model from HM also, which has enabled it to drop prices across the range.

Industry experts say Ford Fusion is designed to be roomy and comfortable in keeping with its status as an SUV-cum-passenger car. The width of the Fusion is thus a comfortable 172cm wider than most C segment cars. Its length is about 402cm, a little shorter than the Accent and Ikon, which are 425cm and 422.5cm long respectively.

The Chevrolet Optra and Toyota Corolla at 172.5cm are longer than the Fusion. The Honda City, likely to be Fusion's main competitor in India, is longer than the latter at 431cm, but marginally narrower in width at 169cm and shorter at 148.5cm. In terms of height, however, the Fusion at 153.4cm is taller than all mid-sized cars, though shorter than tallboys, Santro, (159 cm) and Wagon R (166 cm)

The Fusion was launched in Europe nearly two years ago. Company officials say the Indian version is almost identical to the one available in Europe with the same 1.6 litre, 16-valve petrol engine. According to them the Indian version has been conditioned in keeping with the needs of the Indian market.

The Ford Fusion in India will come with more powerful air-conditioning, tuned suspension, higher ground clearance and water wading. This is keeping in mind the Indian climate and the extensive road testing done on the vehicle on about 800,000km on all kinds of roads in India. It will also have flexible seating arrangements to accommodate greater number of passengers and will have great manoeuvrability.

Looking at the popularity of diesel engines in India, Ford India is most likely to offer a diesel engine variant soon after it brings in the petrol version.

The Fusion is likely to provide the New Honda City some competition as it is targeted, price wise, at small car owners wishing to upgrade to mid-size cars. The New Honda City is positioned similarly. The company feels that out of 18-lakh small car owners, even if 10 per cent switch over to the Fusion, the car will sell in large numbers.

SUVs like Scorpio, Qualis and GM Tavera, positioned in the mid-sized segment, have been successful here, as they are rugged, have high clearance and are roomy, a combination designed to succeed in the Indian context.

Two years ago David Friedman, managing director and president, Ford India, had indicated that Ford would henceforth bet on the 'made in India' concept. Since then, the company has been consistently playing the price card by increasingly the local content in its cars.

Now the company is said to be planning to bring in models from its global portfolio, which would create new segments. Speaking to the press, Freidman had indicated a short while ago that the company would look at segments in the market where Ford was not participating at present in India. He said though Ford was looking at the huge small car market in the country, the new models it wanted to bring in would be different from the offerings in the market currently. Ford India is targeting selling 27,000 cars in the domestic market and exports 24,000 cars to South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.

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