Pune: Force Motors Ltd, the manufacturer of light commercial vehicles (LCVs), is planning to set up a new plant to expand its small commercial vehicles range and embark on a nationwide brand-building exercise.

Prasan Firodia, managing director, Force Motors, said, “We want to offer a range of vehicles in the Trump brand—from 0.5 tonne to 1.5 tonne payload carrier. This will be a full range of new small commercial vehicles requiring a brand new plant with new engines, etc."

New strategy: Force Motors managing director Prasan Firodia says the firm is planning to set up company-owned showrooms in five metros.

Force Motors is also planning to set up company-owned showrooms in five metros in the first phase, “so that we can use the location for the launch of new products, to hold events around the products, and even sell vehicles", according to Firodia.

The first such showroom is at least a year away and at a conservative estimate, this could involve an investment upwards of 50 crore, he added.

Besides the showroom, the location will also house the company’s offices and a regional training centre, thus maximizing its investment in property, which will be located in prime areas of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore.

Force Motors currently has a company-owned showroom in its home city of Pune, but this only displays the Force One sports utility vehicle (SUV) and it is not a sales point.

Brand awareness is a major concern for Force Motors, said Abhijeet Ranade, director, PwC Consulting.

“In the sports utility segment, Force Motors’ brand visibility is more acute than it is in the other segments in which it operates. In any case, the company does not have a pan-India visibility and the competition in the SUV segment is very stiff. Force Motors will have to address visibility and brand recall along with its distribution network along with being a late entrant in this segment," he added.

The Force One hasn’t been too popular with buyers, having sold about 2000 units since it began retailing it in October last year. The firm had announced at the time of launch, in August 2011, that it wanted to sell some 4,000 vehicles in the first year.

Ranade said the small commercial vehicles’ segment has shown double-digit growth. “Small commercial vehicles address last-mile connectivity. Tata Motors has a headstart, and the Mahindras are well-placed, too. Again, Force Motors is a late entrant here. This is a price-sensitive segment, so the price point of these vehicles will be important, but the market for goods carriers is very good," he added.

Meanwhile, with the current slowdown hitting the automobile sector, Force Motors declared an 11-day closure on 3-14 August. Work resumed at its small commercial vehicle and tractor plants on 16 August.

“We declared a block closure for the small commercial vehicle, the Trump, and the tractors, which are made at the Pune plant, since we have stocks here as well as with our dealers. The unit making non-common rail engines for vehicles assembled at the Pithampur plant is working round the clock," said Firodia.

Aiming at strengthening its presence in the passenger carrier segment, where its Traveller brand operates, Force Motors will launch a 26-seater monocoque vehicle in the next couple of months.

A monocoque structure is one that does not have a chassis; it refers to vehicles where the body and chassis form a single unit.

“This is a new segment for us, a segment with annual sales estimated at 80,000 units," said Firodia said, adding the company is currently testing 20 such vehicles.

Reinforcing its presence in the passenger carrier segment, Force Motors had announced a technical tie-up last year with Daimler AG to build multipurpose vans. These vans, based on Mercedes Benz’s Viano platform, will be assembled at a brand new factory now under construction at Force Motors’ Pithampur location.

The first of these multipurpose vans will roll out by December 2013 in standard and luxury variants.

Seeking to enhance its presence in the personal carrier division, Firodia also plans to launch variants of the Force One SUV in the next three months.

Force Motors ended Friday at 432.25 on BSE, down 1.45%; the Sensex rose 0.19% to close at 17,691.08. The BSE Auto Index rose 0.62% to close at 9,535.47. In the April-June quarter, Force Motors shares fell 3.72%, while the Sensex rose 0.15% and BSE Auto Index fell 6.68%.

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