Ford India's compact car or hatchback Figo crossed the 3,00,000 sales mark in its third year, the company said earlier this week. The car which has been a runaway hit helped Ford turn around its fortunes in India, analysts say.
The Figo, which was launched in March 2010, received 10,000 booking in the very first month. Within the first 100 days of its launch, the company had already received 25,000 bookings.
These numbers might not sound impressive in 2013 considering Ford India's latest offering - the EcoSport - has over 30,000 bookings to its credit in a fortnight or so, but back in 2010, it was a big deal for Ford India. The Figo helped Ford establish itself as a strong player in the small car market, where the biggest opportunity lay.
"Before the Figo, we were a niche player. We weren't in the market where 70 per cent of the sales were happening. With the Figo's launch Ford India's sales almost tripled, from 30,000 odd sales we went to 80,000-90,000 odd sales per year," Ford India spokesperson told NDTV.
Until 2010, Ford India's stable consisted of the Endeavour- a sports utility vehicle or SUV, and Classic- a sedan. But they didn't turn out to be the blockbusters Ford needed to entrench itself in the highly competitive Indian market.
"Yes, the Ford Figo worked where most of their other products didn't," auto expert Raj Kapoor said.
It was Ford's first venture in the small car segment and they priced it right... it worked for them, he added.
Besides the pricing, Ford also got its network and spare parts policy right for the Figo, Mr Kapoor added.
Some other models - the Ikon, Escort, Mondeo and Fusion for example - had been discontinued by 2011. The Ikon was discontinued at the beginning of 2011 when the Fiesta was launched.
"Ford was literally bleeding in India. It was the launch of Figo that turned around Ford's fortunes in the country," a Kolkata- based Ford dealer said requesting anonymity.
In a way, it was Figo's pricing that made it a smash hit. Figo started at Rs 3.5 lakh (petrol), but it was the diesel variant starting at Rs 4.48 lakh that turned out to be the real crowd puller. Its competitor, Maruti Suzuki's Swift was more expensive.
The Figo has been a big turning point for Ford, but to put its success in perspective, the Swift continues to sell over 1,50,000 units even eight years after its launch. (Read more)
It's a "far cry from what the Swift has achieved," Mr Kapoor said.
What's pretty clear, however, is the fact that Figo's success helped Ford establish a foothold in the most lucrative segment in India's most competitive segment.
Ford is now in a position to grow exponentially. Its compact sports utility vehicle - the EcoSport - has become a big success after its launch in July.
And once again, the price point has been the clincher. Starting at Rs 5.59 lakh, the EcoSport is much cheaper than its nearest competition- Renault's Duster, which starts at Rs 7.99 lakh.
The EcoSport is unlikely to weigh on Figo's sales though.
"There is no cross-shopping happening between the EcoSport and Figo and Figo is expected to report robust sales going forward as well," Ford India spokesperson said.
With EcoSport's launch, Ford India seems to have got the recipe just right at a time when the auto industry is going through a major slowdown.
Disclaimer: The writer drives a Figo.