So, Ford launched its haloed Mustang in India. And the pent up demand for the car – which encompasses many a years and not just the time period from when Ford India started promoting it – has now made it the best selling sportscar in India. It isn’t a big feat in terms of numbers, yes. But, being number one, no matter what category, product type or class size, is vindication of a strategy that’s working.
But, here’s the thing: the Ford Mustang was never launched to bring in the numbers. And soon enough the pent up demand will dry out. The pony car is here as the ‘Hero’, the aura of which is suppose to rub-off on the rest of the Ford India’s product line up. Unfortunately, not much is being done in this regard. But, before we go into the details of that, here’s a short explanation of what ‘Hero’ products should ideally be achieving.
We all know Nissan. It is one of the many car companies that are just about surviving in the Indian market. Which is sad, because internationally Nissan is a big deal. And it has a product lineup that spans everything from affordable small cars to large dune-bashing SUVs to delicious sportscars and of course, save-the-Earth quirky cars. And one of the big reasons Nissan is struggling in India is because it has the brand recall of an umbrella maker. Exactly. You don’t really care for the umbrella maker till the time the thing survives many monsoons and keeps you dry.
Clearly, Nissan needs a ‘Hero’. A product that establishes Nissan as a brand with heritage, engineering prowess, and the ability to deliver something exciting. A brand people will aspire to own. The Nissan GT-R, which will be launched in the coming months, is supposed to do exactly that. As you can tell a lot is riding on the GT-R; again, not in terms of numbers, but to put Nissan on the consideration list of buyers looking at affordable, fuel-efficient cars.
Another reason for bringing in a ‘Hero’ car is to help reposition a brand. Take Hyundai. It has done wonderfully well with its new generation cars – Elite i20, Grand i10 and the Creta – to move up the perception ladder to be now seen as a rival to the likes of Honda instead of Maruti Suzuki. But, it believes it needs to cement this in the minds of current and prospect Hyundai car buyers.
Its answer is the Genesis. Now, unlike the Nissan GT-R, which is all about speed, engineering and drool, the Genesis is more about luxury, technology and being seen on the same pedestal as the three luxury German marques. The build up towards the Genesis will also have a healthy rub-off on Hyundai’s upcoming cars, particularly, the new Elantra and the Hyundai Tucson. Which is something Hyundai needs to be seen as a worthy alternative to the likes of Toyota, Skoda and even the three Germans.
Ford India doesn’t have the same problem as Nissan. And it is clearly not gunning for the same perceived luxury aura as Hyundai; or at least it isn’t with as much gusto. Ford’s problem is the lack of confidence in its brand, its products and especially its after sales. And with that, there’s a sheer absence of the feel-good factor about owning a Ford. The company has taken corrective steps when it comes to after-sales with specially developed car ownership app, adding transparency to its service costs, and giving unrestricted access to its parts in the open market. But, the feel-good factor, can only come with a ‘Hero’ car.
Enter the Ford Mustang; a car we went gaga over after driving it, and you the reader lapped up every article that was written about it. So, clearly, it has the potential to up the feel-good factor around Ford as a brand. And Ford is doing the right thing by displaying the car in showrooms, even if it is at the cost of the Figo twins.
The Mustang issue
There is a problem, however. Even though the Ford Mustang sits there in the middle of the showroom occupying pride of place, not one sales executive wants to talk about it. Ford buyers and prospects circle around the car, try opening its locked doors, and clearly have that inquisitive tingle in their eyes, but there’s no body to indulge them.
If I were a Ford dealer with a Mustang sitting on my showroom floor looking all stimulating in yellow, I’d make it a point to show the car to all. Explain the history, talk about the tech, and make them touch and feel the Mustang. Maybe even rev it a bit. If nothing else, it will be a memory for all to cherish and share. And that’s where the feel-good factor begins tricking in from…