BANGALORE, India (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co. launched a cut-price version of its Ikon sedan in India on Tuesday, aiming to woo customers with smaller compact cars in one of the world's fastest-growing markets.
Company officials told a news conference that the mid-sized 1.3 liter engine Flair model comes at a basic showroom price of 495,000 rupees ($10,730), aiming at a market segment that grew to 164,000 units in the latest quarter, up 28 percent from the year-earlier quarter.
"I want a piece of this growth, and especially of this sub-500,000 (rupees segment)," said David Friedman, managing director of Ford's Indian subsidiary.
India's domestic new car market expanded 6.41 percent in the past year to March to 541,738 units. Sedans, the segment in which Ford competes, made up 18.3 percent of total sales.
Ford India's marketing vice-president, Randy Shockley, told Reuters on the margins of the conference that the company expected to sell 20,000 cars in 2003, up from 15,000 in the previous year, aided by the price thrust and a recent cut in auto tax.
Ford also sells the more upscale Mondeo model in India which it imports fully built from its Belgian plant, besides various versions of the Ikon model.
Ford said in a statement it could offer the Flair at a low price for its category as 90 percent of the components were now made in India, making it a "mid-size car at a small-car price".
As 80 percent of Indian customers buy cars using loans involving monthly repayments, Ford has worked out dealer and financing arrangements to match the Flair model's monthly instalments with those offered for small cars, Shockley said.
Ford's latest offering would essentially compete with the Esteem model made by India's largest car maker, Maruti Udyog Ltd., in which Japan's Suzuki Motor Co. holds a majority stake, and also the Palio model made by Fiat.