At Rs 5.59 lakh, Ford nails it with the EcoSport
Firstly, congratulations are in order. Ford, after what has been an embarrassingly long gestation period, has finally launched and announced prices for its urban SUV, the EcoSport. This in itself feels like a momentous occasion. Ask any of the Ford associates about it and they're ready to break into song because they don't have to deal with the most asked question in their lives anymore when is the EcoSport launch?
But, is the pricing of the EcoSport really as extraordinary as we are all making it out to be?
On the face of it - and in the short term - it sure seems like it. I mean, a starting price of ? 5.59 lakh in Delhi for the base petrol, which isn't poorly equipped, is tremendous. It just doesn't leave the Renault - which starts at over ? 8 lakh - any room to manoeuvre. All EcoSport versions - be it the petrol, diesel or even the EcoBoost - undercut the Renault Duster hugely. To boot, the Ford is better equipped, spec for spec. And as our comparison reveals (read), the EcoSport is also easier to drive, better looking and better suited for the city grind. It is without doubt, the better city centric SUV to buy.
However, one of the main reasons an SUV sells in India is size and road presence. This is the reason why the Fortuner is a hit and why the XUV and the even the Duster have garnered such fan following. One look at the EcoSport in the flesh and you know, the Ford doesn't score very highly on these parameters. So even though the initial euphoria surrounding the EcoSport will see buyers by the hoards at Ford showrooms, in the long run, the EcoSport needs to appeal to a larger audience to over the 'hatch on stilts' tag. This larger audience includes hatch and low-cost sedan buyers.
And for this reason, the EcoSport pricing isn't as out of the ordinary as it seems; in fact, it is just right.
Lets take the entry-level petrol EcoSport as an example. Its pricing puts it bang in the middle of affordable sedans like the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire. So for a similar price, the EcoSport offers more interior room. It has a bigger boot and it is better equipped. If I were to look at the two petrol engines, I might choose the Dzire's for it is more efficient and reasonably potent, but overall, the EcoSport makes more sense. If Ford had gotten greedy and had chosen a higher price tag - especially in the light of such great interest in the EcoSport - it would have been a lost opportunity, because the Dzire (India's best-selling car) would have gone unchallenged.
It plays out similarly in the diesel segment. The diesel EcoSport best compares on price with the Honda Amaze diesel. Feature wise, the Amaze isn't better equipped, but it has more space for the occupants and it has a bigger boot (400 litres) compared to the EcoSport (346 litres). The Amaze is also more fuel-efficient and it isn't short on performance either. Of course, it also carries a more premium badge. But, because the EcoSport dons SUV clothing and has high ground clearance (200mm) as a result, many will look at it as an alternative. And just being considered in this cut-throat competitive segment, is half the battle.
As I see it then, if Ford had priced the EcoSport higher, it would have been a missed opportunity and Ford would have found it difficult to justify the premium. There's no obvious reason why the EcoSport needs to be costlier than an entry-level sedan; being an SUV isn't reason enough, particularly when it lacks outright brawn we associate with such a vehicle. But the current pricing puts this urban SUV in a very good place. It makes it a steal among SUVs and it also gives it more than a fighting chance in the hatch and sedan segments. It is a strategy I applaud, and one which will in the long run give Ford huge dividends.
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