Ford, too, says no-no to a Nano clone

Fol­lows GM, Re­nault; be­lieves first-time buy­ers in­creas­ingly opt­ing for pre­mium hatches

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Sindhu Bhat­tacharya NEW DELHI

One by one, au­tomak­ers seem to be shy­ing away from the ul­tra-low-cost car mar­ket, per­suaded per­haps by the tepid re­sponse to the Tata Nano.

The lat­est is Ford Mo­tor Com­pany, which just an­nounced a 4,000 crore plan to set up a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant near the Nano fac­tory in Gu­jarat. To be sure, the fo­cus of the world’s fourth-largest car­maker in In­dia re­mains the small car, but the Nano seg­ment is a big no-no seg­ment.

Rea­son? Buy­ers are up­trad­ing, for one. That is, go­ing for costlier/fancier cars.

Ford In­dia pres­i­dent Michael Bone­ham said more than half of the buy­ers of Figo, the com­pany’s pre­mium hatch­back, are first-timers.

“So it’s ob­vi­ous they are jump­ing straight to a pre­mium car,” he said.

Joseph R Hin­ricks, pres­i­dent, Ford Asia Pa­cific & Africa, said the com­pany no longer has a plan to build a car in the $3000-$3500 (sub 2 lakh) price range.

“The Tata Nano has prob­a­bly not achieved the vol­umes the me­dia thought it would. Ford stands for driv­ing dy­nam­ics, safety etc. You have to stand for some­thing as a brand. We want to make sure our brand has con­tinu- ity in In­dia,” said Hin­ricks.

Ford joins Gen­eral Mo­tors and Re­nault-Nis­san in junk­ing the ul­tra-low-cost car plan.

GM In­dia pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Karl Slym re­cently said plans to launch a car smaller than the Spark hatch­back have been shelved.

“It (small car) was un­der dis­cus­sion when the 1 lakh car (Nano) came in. We have reached a de­ci­sion point that it is not right for us,” Slym said re­cently.

The de­vel­op­ment of a ul- tra-low cost car by Ba­jaj Auto for Re­nault-Nis­san also ap­pears to be in jeop­ardy, partly due to in­abil­ity to source parts at low costs.

Ford is also cau­tious about en­ter­ing the lux­ury space. Given its tough fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, the US car­maker had sold off many mar­quee brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin over the last few years and is left with only the Lin­coln brand in its global port­fo­lio.

Hin­ricks said the com­pany is com­mit­ted to re­build­ing this brand and pos­si­bly, some time in the fu­ture, it might find a place in In­dia too.

“The lux­ury car mar­ket is grow­ing in China and In­dia but in the near-to-medium term, we will have to fo­cus on the brand Ford ... we con­tinue to in­vest in Lin­coln and you may see it here in fu­ture some­time.”

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