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Toyota, Ford in India slugfest

autos Updated: Sep 07, 2009 21:41 IST
Sumant Banerji

A classic global war between two of the biggest auto giants has found a new battlefield in India.

In less than a month of its launch, Toyota’s Fortuner is giving headaches all around, for a variety of reasons. For the world’s number one carmaker, its a problem of how to meet demand and keep the waiting list down. For Ford, whose Endeavour has so proudly retained the “India’s number one SUV” tag for over two years, it is a question of how to stand up to the new-found competition that is sweeping everything before it.

Toyota has increased production for the Fortuner to 2,500 units this year from the 2,000 it had planned at launch. But it already has 5,038 bookings, and has been forced to ask its dealers to suspend bookings.

“We are trying our best to increase capacity further and may be able to produce 3,000 vehicles by the end of this year," said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. “The waiting list is now over 6 months and for a car of this price it is unreasonable. So we have stopped bookings at the moment, but have asked the dealers to note enquiries and contact them when existing bookings are met.”

So far Toyota has despatched 550 vehicles from its Bidadi plant near Bangalore.

In contrast, the market leader Ford Endeavour, with a 30 per cent share, sells around 250 units per month.

Ford however, is not idling the Endeavour, and will be launching a new version with automatic transmission — which is missing in the Fortuner — this week. It is also looking at launching another SUV next year.

“Fortuner is good for the industry as it expands the market for SUVs,” said Timothy Tucker, Vice President Sales, Ford India.

“The new Endeavour will answer some of the demands of the market as well. We are also looking at all possible option including another SUV as we understand that with this potential the segment maybe too big for just one product.”

The mid range SUV segment itself has been languishing this year so far with an estimated decline of around 15-20 per cent in the April-July period. Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Captiva and Mitsubishi Pajero and Outlander are some of the other vehicles in the segment.