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Ford aims high with Everest rollout

New Delhi, May 6: The Indian unit of Ford Motor Company plans to expand its product portfolio with the launch of a sports utility vehicle, priced between Rs 10-11 lakh, which analysts say will drive the firm’s auto sales.

Branded Everest, the 2.5-litre fully-loaded sports utility vehicle (SUV) with diesel engine and 111.5 bhp power output, will initially be imported. Subsequently, the firm plans to manufacture the model at its factory in Chennai.

However, the imported units would have a manual transmission system, without the new Common Rail Direct Injection (CRDi) system, and would be a two-wheel drive unlike the other SUV models available in the country, which are four-wheel drives.

“This has been done to keep the costs low,” sources said adding the new model has a tough-build since it is based on the existing Ranger model of pick-up trucks. “The Everest will be the largest sports utility vehicle available in the domestic market at 4.95 metres and weighs around 2,591 kgs,” he said.

He added the petrol version would be available when the auto-maker will manufacture the model locally. The Everest model will sport a premium audio system with six speakers, which has both compact discs and MP3 player, sources said. Also, there would be a dual control air conditioning (AC) system with two additional set of AC vents for rear seat passengers.

In addition, there would be the usual features like power windows and steering, central locking facility — things that are available in the higher-priced cars.

Ford is one of the several global auto-makers arriving with SUVs and utility vehicles in India. The imported SUV models available are General Motor’s Forrester, which costs between Rs 16-17 lakh and Suzuki’s Grand Vitara priced Rs 15 lakh. By contrast, the locally manufactured Tata Safari costs around Rs 8 lakh to Rs 9 lakh.

Analysts said SUVs would report a higher growth rate in the current fiscal, despite being part of the premium segment.

The world’s second largest auto-maker, which has invested around Rs 1,700 crore in a factory near Chennai, currently offers the Ikon, a sedan, and the larger Mondeo Sedan, which is imported as completely built units.

Ford has achieved a local content of 90 per cent in its vehicles made in India. It has an agreement with Hindustan Motors to manufacture engines for the Ikon model. The company exports completely knocked-down kits of the Ikon model to South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.

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