The bad news is that Ford will stop producing cars in India. The good news is that this has galvanised new customers into queuing up at its dealerships.
In Chennai, which is home to Ford’s factory, dealers have been seeing a surge in footfalls over the last few days — more precisely, since the time the company announced its decision to exit India. Anticipating generous discounts given that dealers will be keen on liquidating stocks, customers have been thronging showrooms.
"People know that this is the best time for a bargain," says a customer service representative at a prominent Ford dealership in Chennai. The top priority here is to sell those products that are in stock of which the EcoSport is the biggest draw. The market was hoping to get the latest version but with Ford choosing to shut shop, this particular dealership has cancelled nearly 50 new bookings of the SUV.
The remaining EcoSport options on offer are demo/factory-operated models which will be retailed as used cars with generous discounts. The current trend in Chennai shows that the EcoSport and Endeavour are the two most popular brands.
Others like the Figo, Aspire and Freestyle are also on sale though the inventory pipeline is limited. According to the customer service representative. These models can be delivered within three days on full payment. The discount tag which was barely Rs 5,000 before the exit announcement has now jumped eight-fold to Rs 40,000 at this dealership.
For those buyers who are in the market for a Ford vehicle, this seems the best time to buy especially when the need for personal mobility is on the rise. This particular Chennai outlet (which does not want to be identified) has also offered service for the next 15 years even while Ford is in departure mode. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the company will keep the CBU route open for its India innings even while directly imported cars will cost a bagful.
Up north in New Delhi which is another big market, the mood is more sombre with long faces across Ford dealerships. Employees are clearly worried about the future while customers feel shortchanged. “It came as a rude shock ; nobody was prepared for it,” says a Ford showroom staffer. People like him are hoping that their dealer employers will relocate them to servicing other company brands.
The accessory area inside the showroom (pictured above) bears a forlorn look with no new deliveries lined up and nobody to man it either. This is a place that in happier times would be bustling with activity. Families would gather at this spot to look at new cars, accessories and freebies. All this seems like the distant past with despair hanging heavily in the air.
A customer is just taking delivery of his brand-new Endeavour for which he paid over Rs 40 lakh earlier this month. He is clearly disappointed and is perhaps wondering what lies ahead for people like him. Meanwhile a die-hard Ford fan walks in along with his father seeking a brand-new EcoSport but is dejected to see that there are no stocks left.
Despatches of the EcoSport, Aspire and even the newly-launched Figo automatic have been little to write home about for the last couple of months. Dealer sources say only a handful of Endeavour SUVs have made their way to showrooms.
This Delhi-based businessman has chosen to cancel the booking of his long-awaited EcoSport diesel.
A Delhi-based businessman says his BS VI-compliant EcoSport diesel has been long overdue since July but he is now here to cancel the booking “of a car I really liked”. As he puts it, it just makes no sense at all to buy it when the company has decided to shut shop. “Ford has ditched me and I need to look elsewhere. It is going to be difficult getting a car almost immediately given the long waiting period for MG, Kia and Hyundai models,” he rues.
According to a FADA statement issued last week, Ford India has 171 dealer partners with 391 outlets and 40,000 staffers in sales and after-sales. While the after-sales function will continue at some outlets , employees associated with sales, insurance, accessory and pre-owned divisions within dealer operations are going to be hit badly. These are not the easiest of times for those people associated with the American auto brand.
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