The Ikon by Ford was an Icon indeed, during the 90s in India. It was an aspirational car for the average middle class Indian who couldn’t even afford a Fiat Padmini or an Ambassador Car, the top two favourites back then before Maruti 800 made it’s mark among scores of households. Ikon was a classic and shall remain a classic forever. Those who could afford an Ikon, some of them, at least progressed to the Endeavour which was a darling of the richest in India around the turn of the Millennium. Somewhere after that, Ford India lost steam, with so many CXOs trying their best, unsuccessfully in the fiercely competitive Indian Automobile Industry. Interestingly, the market for passenger doubled over the past 15 years, from 1.40 million units in FY 2005 to 2.94 million in 2019, after hitting a peak of 4.4 million in 2018, just ahead of the General Elections in 2019. The Economy was doing perhaps at its best during the period FY 2017-19 and it reflected in the growth of many Industries.
It is quite strange, that Ford, which originally set shop in India in 1926 and wound up right after Independence, was among the first to set their world class facility in India after liberalisation, in the outskirts of Chennai, once dubbed the Detriot of India due the presence of a number of automotive companies including Royal Enfield, Hyundai, Apollo Tyres and hundreds of Tier 2/3/4 manufacturers of spares. The plant came up in 1994 and is currently hosting an annual manufacturing capacity of 200,000 vehicles and 340,000 engines. One cannot not wonder, why the company is ranked 9th among all other OEMs with just about 1.57% market share, though hosting over 330 Dealerships in almost 300 Indian cities.
Each Ford Dealership comes at an Investment (in current times) at Rs. 3.5 to Rs. 5. Crores for a 3S Facility – Sales, Service and Spares. With just 5 models to showcase – the top end Endeavour, Ecosport, Aspire, Freestyle and Figo, the Dealers are now left in the lurch, even as the company’s best effort to resurrect the Brand has failed time and again. The last one, being the break through with Mahindra Group in which the latter was supposed to infuse Rs. 1,400 Crores but chose to do away with the idea. Ford is the second one, second American Automobile Brand, to exit the 5th largest Automobile market in India which had a CAGR of 5% for the past 15 years (except the pandemic years), thanks to a burgeoning middle class, better roads, higher disposable incomes and of course, better quality of roads. Ford India will also take away with it, over 4,000 jobs of people who were employed at it’s Chennai and Sanand Factories.
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Not just the Dealers, lakhs of Ford owners are feeling disappointed with the recent announcement from the Brand with nowhere to go for future service requirements, though the company has assured that they will continue to manufacture spare parts. However, the cost of the used vehicles will take a huge hit coupled with the uncertainties of the pandemic which has, unfortunately put the growth of automobiles in India in reverse gear!