NEW DELHI, India – @Ford spoke with Michael Boneham, president and managing director, Ford India, following the successful launch of the New Figo this week.
Q. The Figo transformed the Ford business in India when it was launched in 2010. This week, Ford launched the New Figo – what are your expectations for this vehicle?
A. Definitely, the Figo was the game-changer for us in India. In the two years since it was launched, it has firmly established us as a volume-player and has sold 235,000 units in India and around the world. It has also been the ‘Most Awarded Car in India’ and found an entry in The Limca Book of Records. The success of Figo has seen India emerge as a preferred location for small car manufacturing for Ford.
With the New Figo, we wish to carry this success further and tell our customers that change is a wonderful thing. To improve the brand experience of the customers, we have introduced over 100 changes, including 10 styling elements to make it more contemporary and compelling. The New Figo not only looks stylish with its enhanced front fascia, tail lamps and bright new colours, it is beautiful inside and has a great performance thanks to a calibrated engine and easy to shift gears. We are hopeful that the New Figo will prove to be a great companion to complement the active lifestyles of our Indian customers, and will continue the amazing success story of Ford in India.
Q. What was the key to the success of the Figo in India?
A. First and foremost, it was designed and built keeping the Indian customer in mind. We did a lot of research about the Indian customers, and found that buying a car is not the aspiration of just an individual…but of his entire family. By understanding their requirements, we designed the car with excellent head, leg and boot space, put in the largest AC compressor considering the hot summers here, and introduced first in segment Bluetooth connectivity, among other features. So when customers saw a reflection of their needs and expectations in the Figo, they naturally made the intelligent choice.
Q. Can you talk about some of the significant changes customers will see in the New Figo?
A. The New Figo strengthens the substantial package that the Figo already is. We have made over 100 changes in the car, and introduced 10 new styling elements. There is the new hexagonal grill at the front blending with our Kinetic design philosophy, new-look headlamps and rear lamps that improve visibility, a bezel treatment at the front bumper, among others. On the inside we have a new IP colour Riviera Blue, new blue interiors and seat fabric, seats with better lumbar support and a steering mounted audio controls. The new car also has a calibrated engine that provides better pick up and an easier gearshift. We have taken time to understand and listen carefully to our customers and have made the changes which make the New Figo even more attractive.
Q. Market surveys show that 65 percent of Figo customers are first-time car buyers. Why has the Figo been so successful in tapping into this customer base?
A. We seem to have struck the right chord by making the cars excellent value for money—and Indian customers liked the substantial package of style, performance and technology we were offering. We understand that purchasing a car involves a substantial investment and helped the customers make a wise decision with the spacious and feature-loaded Figo. We also tried to bring down maintenance costs with our unique Child Parts strategy and building up our sales network to 230 in 123 cities, ensuring that customers could benefit from a lower cost of ownership.
Take for example, our decision to introduce Bluetooth enabled connectivity and entertainment in the segment when Figo was launched two years ago. Today, 70 percent of the Figos sold are Bluetooth enabled. The key to success is knowing what the customers want, and providing that at the right point in time.
Q: What were the key learnings from the Figo when planning for the New Figo?
A: What we learnt during the initial research was the fact that Indian customers see a car as a value for money product and this stays with the New Figo too. We have listened closely to the customers before incorporating the changes. The new-look headlamps have now an enhanced reflective surface that goes on to improve visibility at night, the seats have been given a better lumbar support to make driving comfortable over long distances, and the engine has been calibrated to provide better pick-up.
We’ve even managed to keep the value for money proposition intact with the New Figo’s prices; it is a reasonable increase considering the additional changes we’ve made.
Q. The competition in the small car segment in India is fierce. How is Ford positioned to be a significant player in this segment?
A. We are encouraged by the tremendous success of the Figo in the small car segment – a fast growing segment driven by volumes. The demand for new cars is expected to grow to nine million by 2020 driven by a growing middle class that is highly aspirational. We at Ford are attuned to needs and wants of our customers and committed to bring them a range of reliable, fuel-efficient and affordable vehicles in the next few years.
Our next product for India, the All-New EcoSport, a compact urban SUV, has already elicited an enthusiastic response from the public and media and we’re all excited about its launch in the near future. By introducing changes as seen in the New Figo, we hope to build on our achievements and provide the latest in technology and comfort to our customers.
Q. With the Ford business growing rapidly in India, largely thanks to the Figo, how does Ford plan to meeting the growing expectations for high quality customer service?
A. Yes, this is an important area for us and we’ve strengthened our sales and service network to provide better service to our customers. We now have 230 sales and service outlets across 123 cities and towns of India and plan to take it to over 500 by mid-decade. With our service initiatives like regular service camps, mobile service vans and Roadside Assistance (RSA), we plan to reach out to more customers in tier-two and tier-three cities of India.