Ford India has announced that it will sell its spares in the open market in a bid to make servicing of its cars more convenient for customers. The over-the-counter sale of spare parts will make it easier for independent chains and neighbourhood garages to service cars. Car owners often find these outlets to be a better, cheaper and more convenient option than authorised service stations. Currently, only companies like Maruti, M&M, Tata and Hyundai endorse this practice of making spare parts widely available.
Ford, until now, like most other multi-national car companies, did not retail spare parts to non-authorised outlets. This meant, owners had no choice but to go to Ford workshops, which are usually more expensive and not always well located. "We found out from our research that customers need us to be far more accessible than what we are today, and that was the primary driver for us to open up parts distribution" said Ford India president, Nigel Harris.
This move by Ford could also get the Competition Commission of India (CCI) off its back. The watchdog for fair play has alleged that some auto companies are guilty of anti-competitive practices by restricting the sale of spare parts in the open market, and selling them only through authorised dealerships at higher prices. Alhough the investigations have been completed, the CCI is yet to pass an order against any of the automobile companies.
Was the pending order of the CCI one of the reasons that prompted Ford to open up spare parts distribution? "It’s one factor, but the primary reason was to give the customers parts where they want. When your customers tell you that if you make your parts more available, I’ll buy your vehicles; then the answers are pretty simple" says Harris.
Ford dealers stand the most to lose by this move as it could move business to non-authorised outlets. However, Harris says that there is business for everyone. "Our dealers are okay with what we have done because we are going to come with more products in the market which will keep their showrooms and service departments full, there is no doubt about that."
Ford has been working hard to lower the cost of ownership of its cars since the launch of the Figo in 2010. And now, by retailing its spare parts in the open market, the company hopes to lower maintenance costs further with an added shot of convenience.