It was a sad day when it happened, but it wasn’t surprising even though we were teary-eyed. Ford announcing that it would be stopping vehicle production in India was only about time since the pandemic wreaked havoc last year. What looked like a positive future until recently was suddenly crushed, and within a few months, it all came to an end. However, as the title says, Ford has just gone further and hasn’t completely pulled out. It will continue bringing in niche products from the portfolio and serving the current Ford users.
The History Lesson
It started back in the late nineties with the Escort. A car was brought in thanks to a joint venture with Mahindra but was far from the Fords of today. It was slow, and lacked styling, and also was a CKD. However, that quickly changed, and the significant jump up was the Ikon. A car made in India that set the ball rolling for Ford. A car tailored for our audience and with fantastic driving dynamics found many buyers. The success of the Ikon lasted long, but the soaring graph tipped with the launch of the Fusion. A crossover that was well ahead of its time and just didn’t appeal to the market. Similarly, the Ford Mondeo was an absolute gem, but it went up against established and premium rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series. Clearly then, it wasn’t going to sell much. However, they bounced back with the massive Endeavour and its iterations, and it was looking promising once again.
The Ones That Got Away
The Figo, however, was the tipping point that brought Ford back from the abyss. It was a hatchback that had space, a solid build and even a frugal diesel engine. However, more than that, it was the running and owning costs that were more attractive. It was with Figo that Ford started building the low-cost maintenance image. The initial cost of owning was competitive, and after-sales and service costs were aggressively priced. Still, even though the Figo as a product was strong, the weak dealer network was the hurdle that tumbled prospective owners.
Then came the Fiesta, which in typical Ford fashion, was incredible to drive and had plenty of space and practicality. It too had a petrol and diesel option, but the highlight was introducing the ‘S’ version—a sportier iteration of the standard car, but with enough changes to make you gush. Then there was the completely revamped version of the Fiesta while the older model was rebadged as the Fiesta Classic and was still selling alongside. Such was the popularity and demand. However, the big update came at the Auto Expo of 2021. The Ford Ecosport was showcased, giving birth to the now crowded compact SUV segment.
The Ecosport was Ford’s cash cow as it offered the best of both worlds with the SUV design and top features. It aced the Ford sales chart for a long time, and even in its later years, it was just as strong. To strengthen that, Ford also launched the all-new Figo in 2015, which again was a very capable car and was in line with Ford’s ethics. It was just beautiful to drive. And the final entry to the Ford lineup in recent times was the all-new Endeavour. Ford’s flagship SUV in India had it all. The looks, the features, the comfort, you name it. It was chugging along strongly, giving its arch-rival the Toyota Fortuner a good run for its money.
To the delight of many, Ford even brought in the Mustang in limited numbers. Clearly, it was here to stay, and with such strong products, nobody would have expected the exit. But coping up with losses of over 2 billion dollars and fighting with less than 2% of the market share was just too difficult for the Detroit giant. It just didn’t make sense financially. The partnership that was to happen with Mahindra didn’t go through, which was the final nail in the coffin. Shame that such a strong and one of the legendary manufacturers in the world had to go out like this.
Like we mentioned earlier, Ford is not completely exiting from India. The silver lining is that it will continue to sell cars but won’t be battling in the mass market segments. Instead, it will bring in products like the Mustang and Mustang Mach-E. It is, of course, something that we are glad about, and we will take something in place of nothing, but the void of losing out on the Figo, Aspire, Ecosport and the Endeavour will never be filled.
It isn’t all bad for existing owners as Ford will continue to offer service and after-sales support with no changes to the pricing. That is a huge relief as over a million Fords are currently roaming the Indian streets. The news of the exit was surely something we hated, but a small compensation is that Ford isn’t entirely leaving. Thanks to the Mustang and even the Mach-E, they will continue to ‘Go Further’.