Long wait for EcoSport gets Ford to ‘push the pedal’3 min read . Updated: 16 Sep 2013, 02:25 PM IST
If Ford fails to boost production to clear order backlog for EcoSport, it risks losing customers to rivals such as Renault
Chennai: Shivaranjan Bhoopathy, a 32-year-old information technology professional, has wanted to own a Ford EcoSport compact sports utility vehicle ever since it was unveiled at the Delhi Auto Expo in January 2012. Having booked it within a week of its June Indian launch, Bhoopathy is frustrated that he has had to wait for two-and-a-half months and still has no idea about the likely date of delivery.
“I am waiting for the festival season to start—then I will cancel my EcoSport booking, whose price has also gone up now," Bhoopathy said.
Instead, he will go for the Renault Duster.
If it fails to boost production to meet the demand for the EcoSport, Ford India Pvt Ltd. risks losing customers to not only rivals such as Renault SA, with its Duster SUV, but also Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which plans to start selling its compact SUV XA Alpha next year.
Ford was swamped with as many as 30,000 bookings in the fortnight following the launch of the EcoSport in India on 25 June, potential buyers lured by its price, size and looks.
For some customers such as Bhoopathy, the attraction has quickly turned to disapproval as the company has struggled to supply the cars. For the diesel variants, customers have to wait for as long as 9-12 months.
Of the 40,000 plus bookings Ford has received for the EcoSport so far, it has managed to sell 10,000, said Vinay Piparsania, executive director of marketing, sales and service of Ford India. But in July, Ford sold 4,715 EcoSports, outselling Renault’s Duster by 1,600 units.
“We did not anticipate this kind of demand. The orders we received are higher than the base plan and we are working with our suppliers to stretch production to its best," said Piparsania.
Also, with a 5% price increase, the EcoSport is now dearer by about ₹ 45,000, while rival Renault has introduced attractive schemes to lure buyers.
Experts are intrigued.
“At this rate, it is quite possible for the EcoSport to fall out of favour with buyers," said Anil Sharma, senior analyst at consultant IHS Automotive. “Two to three months of waiting period is acceptable. Anything more than three months might hamper the company."
Customers had been initially told by Ford that they may have to wait for two-three months to get their EcoSports. That period has now stretched to nine months for all diesel variants, said a sales manager at a Chennai-based Ford dealership.
“We would have seen double the number of bookings if EcoSport did not have this waiting period," said the sales manager, who requested anonymity.
The company stopped taking bookings for its petrol EcoSport model in August because of an order backlog. Piparsania did not say when the company will start taking orders for the petrol version again.
A Bangalore-based dealer said his dealership has so far received 800 bookings, of which only 150 have been delivered. “The company is producing about 5,000 cars a month and we get 50 cars a month," said the dealer who did not want to be identified.
Ford India has already invested $142 million to expand its capacity to 200,000 cars a year at its Chennai facility in order to support EcoSport’s local sales and exports. The company has always been operating in two-shifts, and continues to do so now.
Asked if it was planning to add a shift to meet the demand, Piparsania said Ford was monitoring and working towards opportunities to optimize production, but had no plans to add a shift at this stage.
However, rival Honda Cars India Ltd, which launched the sub-four meter sedan Amaze in April, said it will add a third shift in November to halve its current waiting period of four months. The estimated order backlog of Amaze is more than 20,000 units and Honda has been selling about 5,500 of these cars a month since it was launched.
“It is important to add a shift, but it is not entirely in the company’s hands to do that. You need the support of all your component suppliers to be able to do that," said Pradeep Saxena, executive director, TNS Automotive India.
“We are pushing the pedal and running at beyond optimal levels within two shifts at our facility in Chennai, and are ramping up even our suppliers and working hard with them to meet the high demand of our products," said Piparsania.
Meanwhile, Ford has said it will continue with its export plans. The EcoSport will be exported to 40 countries, and Ford has flagged off shipments of the EcoSport to South Africa, Mexico and Aruba. Over 3,000 cars have been exported so far, and the numbers are expected to progressively grow.
“It is natural the company will look to export. Given the way the rupee is fluctuating, it is beneficial for them to export, as in the end, it is profitability that counts," said Sharma.