When the EcoSport was first unveiled at the Auto Expo, there were reasons to believe the car would duck under the hallowed four-metre mark. The choice of engines, a 1.5-litre diesel and 1.0-litre petrol, would have been ideal to benefit from the excise duty sop. The notion was further bolstered by the inclusion of a tailgate-mounted spare wheel which, according to excise rules, is not measured as part of the car’s length. The global mini SUV is likely to be longer than four metres in the interests of space and styling, and if so will not qualify for small-car excise duty savings.
Ford has held the car’s specification, particularly the dimensions, close to its chest, but when we asked if the EcoSport met the sub-four-metre cutoff from bumper-to-bumper, Michael Boneham, president and managing director of Ford India categorically said, “No, it doesn’t.”
Though India will be the lead market of this new EcoSport – an older-generation model is already sold in countries like Brazil – Ford doesn’t want to compromise on the standards of space and styling it has already set. As a result, the car is expected to be closer to 4.25m in length, similar to the outgoing model. This decision was also prompted by criticism that the new Fiesta is too cramped in the back seat, a mistake Ford doesn’t want to repeat with the EcoSport.
The company plans to offset the penalty of a higher excise duty with high levels of localisation. However, Ford is believed to be working on a sub-four-metre version by trimming precious millimetres off the bumpers, but it is very tight-lipped about this. We expect the EcoSport to start at Rs 7 lakh for the base petrol model and go up to Rs 10 lakh for the top-end diesel version.
Interview: Joe Hinrichs, President of Asia Pacific and Africa, Ford
The EcoSport is an all-new segment in India. What potential does it have?
We actually did a lot of market research with the EcoSport and see it as an opportunity to give an SUV option on a B-segment platform. It gives new customers an aspirational urban SUV. When we launched the EcoSport about nine years ago, in Brazil, the same kind of opportunity existed. It established a new segment and took off, and has been a segment leader in that whole time period since its launch. So we see the same kind of potential in India.
We understand that the EcoSport isn’t a sub-four-metre car, so you won’t get the excise benefit. How does this impact you?
We are going to find cost savings with high local content. This is a globally-designed vehicle for global markets. It’s going to be built in Brazil, Thailand, and here in India. For us, the proportions and styling were critical because this is an aspirational vehicle. We just wanted to make sure that the design was right.
Can we expect more body styles from the same platform?
In Europe, we’ve announced the B-Max which is a sliding door MPV. We haven’t gone further than that but the key thing for India is to go where the customers are. So where there’s volume opportunity in India, we will be there.
The Fiesta hatch presents opportunities for volumes. Any plans?
The hatchback version of the Fiesta has been very successful globally. It looks great. So obviously it’s something we’ll consider.
Issue: 165 | May 2013
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