Ford Mustang GT
How’s the Mustang doing in the market?
Awesome! We’re almost done for the year in terms of bookings. Now, we’re opening sales opportunities for some of our other key markets, and that’ll give us a good sense of what to plan for next year. The demand has far exceeded our expectations. The response in just Delhi and Mumbai has consumed our entire years’ quota. We couldn’t get enough. And it’s doing exactly what we brought the product to the market for, which is to lift the brand. We’re getting people into the showroom who would otherwise never have come into a Ford showroom.
2016 has been a little difficult with the diesel ban. How has it been for Ford?
The industry has grown by about 8%, but between Jan to October we’ve grown by 17%. And there’s only one other manufacturer of reasonable size who has grown faster – and that tells me that our strategy is working. This strategy is based on four fundamental pillars – strong brand, right products, competitive costs and effective scale. In terms of scale, we made sure that exports are part of our strategy. From a cost standpoint, we’ve done a lot of work to increase localization. On right products, we’ve made sure that our product portfolio gives a wide range of choices to our consumers. In terms of the brand, we’ve made sure that the dealership experience is of a much higher quality. We want to earn the trust of our customers by treating them like family. Plus, we want to bust the myth regarding the high cost of ownership for Ford products. And we’ve done this in two ways, through accessibility and affordability. In 12 months, we’ve lit up the country with our parts distribution. You can now buy genuine parts from our distributors anywhere in the country. In addition to that, we’ve made a lot of effort to ensure that we are 6-12% cheaper than any other name that comes to mind when you think of cost of maintenance – and we’ve achieved this through a high level of sub-assembly parts and making sure localisation levels are high.
The Endeavor will now face added competition from the new Fortuner. Do you expect that to impact sales?
New players always increase the size of the market. If you look at the segment, it used to be 1% of the industry. In the last three-four months, it’s been coming down – it dropped to .8, and even .5%. But the Endeavour always held its share, which was close to about 40-45% market share. And even now it’s holding on due to the sheer amount of content in the car – because we always have a good sense of where our competitors are going to land. The Endeavour always intended to be the most powerful SUV with 200PS of power, and we draw the attention of customers with smart technology like the terrain management system and even the moonroof. Plus, it’s an all-new product, unlike our competitors for whom the core platform has stayed the same – so it’s a freshening in that sense.
In regards to the recent price correction for the Endeavour, is there a way you can compensate your customers who’ve bought the car prior to the correction?
My premise is this – if the price had gone the other way, would customers have responded with a similar emotion? Probably not! You have to make sure that you get your price/value equation absolutely right. It also shows the intent of Ford to become a volume player in the marketplace. So, in a way, by making sure the volume is higher and by making sure the product has higher longevity, you’re ensuring the resale value of the product. So, by doing what we’ve done we’ve actually helped retain the resale value of the product for those customers.
From a safety perspective do you see more customers willing to pay more for safety features? And will there be any trouble in meeting the new norms for 2017?
Times are changing now. We have people who bought the EcoSport just because it came with 6 airbags. In the early part of last year, we had done a comprehensive study on people’s perception on safety. You actually start to see a shift in the perceived value of safety features, and also the take-rate of the products that have those safety features. So that gives us the confidence that consumers want safety features, and they’re willing to pay for it. In terms of the norms, what the industry always seeks is predictability. If you give us predictability, we can work towards it. So, given the fact that this news was well known, most manufactures should be okay on that front.
Do you have any plans to bring in any new SUVs between the EcoSport and the Endeavour?
We’ll continue to look for areas where we can bring in new products – and SUVs are certainly on the radar since Ford has always been known for SUVs. 70% of people who are buying cars today aspire to own an SUV. 3 out of every 4 people who own an SUV will buy an SUV again as their next car. So the trend is certainly there. At the end of the day, it’s about having the right product and making a viable business case around it.