Ford is considering an aggressive pricing strategy for its upcoming EcoSport, a move that will likely intensify competition not just in the compact SUV segment but force hatchback makers such as Hyundai and Maruti to change tack as well
ET learns that the initial launch price of the compact EcoSport SUV will be Rs 5.9-6 lakh, much lower than Renault Duster's launch price of Rs 7.19 lakh. Higher variants will command a higher price, but Ford has worked out the pricing in such a way that the top-most EcoSport variant, at around 9 lakh, will still be cheaper than the Duster's Rs 11 lakh.
The EcoSport's pricing is likely to intensify competition in the SUV segment and also force hatchback makers such as Hyundai and Maruti to change tack quickly. The top DZire/i20 variant is likely to cost more than the base version of an EcoSport, giving buyers an opportunity to buy an SUV (even if it is a compact one) than a costly premium hatchback or a compact sedan. For instance, the highest version of a Maruti DZire costs Rs 7.5 lakh while the i20's premium version costs about Rs 7.79 lakh.
Duster's customers include buyers of mid-size sedans such as Honda City, Volkswagen Vento and Hyundai Verna, but the EcoSport, being a B segment compact SUV, will aim at buyers of compact sedans such as Maruti Suzuki DZire and Toyota Etios. Renault rattled the SUV market veterans, primarily M&M, by launching the Duster at an initial price of Rs 7.19 lakh.
It has become Renault's best-selling vehicle, averaging 4,000-5,000 units a month, and one of the reasons behind the scorching pace of SUV growth this year along with M&M's XUV 500. Though M&M has seen its market share falling to 47%, its volumes have grown over 30% this fiscal to over 2.4 lakh units.
A senior official at Ford India while declining to give specific pricing told ET that scale enables companies to deliver that level of efficiency, which helps in bringing value for the consumer through aggressive pricing. Despite the excise duty hike for SUVs this budget, Ford is reportedly expected to fall in compact car category and the company will pay only 12% excise duty on EcoSport.
EcoSport will be positioned in the untapped compact sub-4 metre SUV space, occupied by M&M's Quanto, launched six months ago, and Premier's Rio. While M&M's Quanto averages around 2,000 to 2,500 units a month, Rio sells less than a hundred units a month. The attractive price offering has been possible due to the strong exports strategy at the heart of it, just like Figo, a source said. Today, 30% of Figo's production is exported. ET learns that 40-45% of EcoSport's expected annual production of 1.5 lakh units will be shipped out of India, with Chennai acting as an exports hub to over 40-50 countries. The local plant will produce 380 variants for markets across the globe.
The export-led strategy works well in favour of the Indian customers. International benchmarks help Indian customers to avail of advanced features such as Bluetooth Sync, rear parking sensor and hill climb assist in some of its top-end variants, which are standard features with the EcoSport globally. In addition, the vehicle will come with 1-litre EcoBoost petrol engine that promises to be fuel efficient, delivering mileage of over 15-17 km a litre. The vehicle will also be available in 1.5-litre diesel engine and 1.5-litre petrol engine with automatic transmission.