AHMEDABAD, India — Just a few years ago, the number of Ford dealers in India was small enough that they could fit together in a small room. How things have changed.
“Now, we look at the largest banquet halls when we plan a gathering,” said Vinay Piparsania, executive director, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford India, said proudly at the recent Ford National Dealers’ Meet in Ahmedabad, attended by more than 150 dealers.
His sentiments were echoed by his Asia Pacific counterpart Nigel Harris, who reminisced about his early visits to India which included a dealers’ meet with a few participants huddled around a small table. “Your spectacular growth is impressive indeed,” he said.
Ford has witnessed rapid dealership growth from 125 to 260 in just the past couple of years, with 40 percent located in tier II and III markets. In line with its aggressive expansion plan for India and in a bid to make ownership of a Ford vehicle more convenient for customers, the company plans to take the total number of sales and service touch points to over 500 by mid-decade.
To drive this momentum, Ford India has started a pilot project for small outlets in tier IV and V towns and cities. “These will have small basic service facilities and will improve brand accessibility for our customers in areas which may not be feasibile for full-fledged dealerships,” said Ford India’s general manager for Dealer Development Anuj Tyagi. He said the company has opened two such outlets in Rajasthan, and will open 15 more in small urban centres by end of the year.
Another dealership opened in Gujarat’s Himmatnagar last week, led by 29-year old Nehal Patel, who opened his dealership SP Ford at Mahesana three years ago and rode the crest with the success of the Figo.
“The Figo has made us a great believer in the Blue Oval. I am even more optimistic about the EcoSport because today’s customers are seeking a small SUV like it,” Patel said. Joining the wave of optimism was 33-year old Kanishka Himmasighka from Guwahati who feels Ford has tremendous potential with its technology leadership, fuel-efficient and fun-to-drive products, and he would like to grow with the company as well.
Among those at the dealer meeting were veterans like Raj Naresh Singh, Kishore Singh Gehlot and S Ravindranathan — dealers who have been with Ford for over 15 years and have seen its business grow.
“I feel Ford is on the right track by bringing in the right products at the right time and building its second plant in Gujarat,” said Gehlot who has been a Ford dealer in Rajasthan since 1997. Starting his business from Jaipur, Gehlot now runs five dealerships across the state and plans to open two small outlets in Chittorgarh and Vanswada.
“The EcoSport seems a great product that will stir consumer demand and be another game-changer for Ford. There is tremendous demand for a ‘right-sized SUV’ like this and inquiries are already pouring in,” he said.
S. Ravindranathan, who joined Ford in 1996 and has three dealerships in Chennai and one each in Pondicherry and Kochi, attributed the growth of his business to the “amazing support from Ford India. “I see the great potential the Blue Oval has and I’m willing to grow my business further,” he said. “With the launch of the EcoSport, the most awaited SUV and several other products, Ford should be able to corner a sizeable chunk of the Indian auto market.”
This year, Ford’s National Dealers’ Meet was held in Ahmedabad, a city close to Sanand in Gujarat, where Ford is building a second plant with an estimated investment of US$1 billion. After a tour of the plant site, where the dealers witnessed steady progress in construction, they kicked off their meeting, where they were joined by Piparsania and Joginder Singh, president and managing director, Ford India.
“2013 could be the year when the physicals start coming together to elevate the brand and build a stronger footprint,” Said Singh.
”With your great support and enthusiasm we have steadily pushed further into tier II and III cities, taking the total number of outlets to 250. With the ‘dhamaka’ (thunder) of a product, EcoSport, just round the corner, I am sure we will again taste success as we move further and reinforce Ford brand pillars of Quality, Green, Safe and Smart,” he said to loud applause from the audience.
“We have always endeavored to offer our customers the best experience with Ford; and our rapid expansion will provide our customers better ease and convenience in many more locations,” said Piparsania.
Singh and Piparsania also handed over annual performance awards to dealers and reviewed the way forward during the meeting.
Kishore Gehlot (left) and his son Karan Gehlot pose with the Ford EcoSport.
Nehal Patel explores the EcoSport with his father at the steering.