Ford’s abrupt exit leaves dealers jittery, their employees in lurch

Brimming with festive decorations, India’s oldest Ford dealership is decked up with standees and promotional danglers saying its Twenty fifth-anniversary celebrations. But the temper throughout the sprawling Harpreet Ford outlet in Delhi’s Moti Nagar does no longer fit the ornament on its partitions.

While Ganesh Chaturthi will be the busiest time for salesmen at any automobile dealership, there are just a few round, and there is not any rush to wait to someone strolling in the course of the door. Ford India’s unexpected announcement to tug the plug on its car production operations in India appears to be uncooked and sinking in nonetheless.

“Some guys have gone to talk to the HR about what happens next. Some have already managed to line up interviews. People have families to feed, they are anxious,” says Jitender Sadana, a gross sales consultant on the dealership.

While looking to conceal his personal anxiousness, Sadana (44) is busy taking a buyer in the course of the ultimate pre-delivery inspection (PDI) for a brand new Ford Endeavour this is all however able to roll-out of the showroom.

As Gaurav Gupta’s circle of relatives settles into their new automobile, he winces when requested if he’s apprehensive about purchasing a Ford proper after the corporate’s dire announcement.

“Had I known about this a month back, I would have certainly bought some other car. I had already suffered a similar fate with Chevrolet (after it announced its India exit in 2017). But I will have to live with this decision now and trust Ford to deliver on their promise to provide after-sale support,” says Gupta.

Sadana, who has delivered two automobiles since morning, smiles doubtfully as he mentions that cancellations too have began since Thursday.

“We were in such a celebratory mood on September 9. Our dealership was completing 25 years. Everyone had been asked to come in casuals. We had ordered pizzas and a big cake. Beginning Thursday and going up to Diwali, we had special customer offers planned too….But just as we were busy celebrating, the news flashed on TV. Many among us had tears in their eyes…,” says the 44-year-old, including that he has spent 24 years operating with Ford and does no longer know what lies forward.

Sunil Tandon, Executive Director, Harpreet Ford, has few solutions to provide.

“It has just happened. We have multiple dealerships with other carmakers in our dealership bouquet, so we will try to absorb as many as we can. I can’t say the same for small dealers. The service section will continue, but sales department is the worrying part. We will be talking to Ford. It is surreal that we began operations on September 9, 1996, and Ford’s announcement came on the same day, 25 years later,” he provides.

The Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA), a frame representing 15,000 car sellers, says that Ford’s choice will affect over 40,000 dealership staff. That is ten instances the quantity (roughly 4,000 Ford India manufacturing facility staff) that the United States automaker says will likely be hit through shutting down of its production crops in India.

FADA says that it’s already flooded with misery calls from apprehensive sellers.

“This will impact dealers, dealership employees and their families. Outside auto retail, component manufacturers who supply Ford in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu will feel the impact,” FADA CEO Saharsh Damani tells The Indian Express

“This happened just before Ganesh Chaturthi. There has been a lot of backlash from customers. Around 400 vehicles across India that were due to be delivered on this auspicious day could not get delivered because customers are jittery. In fact, there are a lot of customers who had confirmed bookings, but now want a refund. Customers don’t know how Ford will continue servicing their vehicles,” he provides.

In a video message launched on Thursday, Ford India head Anurag Mehrotra had mentioned: “Ford has a long and proud history and over a million customers in India. I want to be clear that we are not leaving and will continue to take care of you like family. We will be working closely with our dealers, all of whom have supported Ford for long, to ensure accessibility of service and spare parts, quality of service with a ‘family-wali feeling’, competitive cost of ownership, and honouring of our warranty promise.”

Damani responds: “Ford has certainly said they will continue service support, but once you stop India operations, then there is a big question mark. Companies leaving India say such things, but it does not work in the long run because there are spare parts issues, manpower issues, and then many dealers will not want to continue.”

According to FADA, there are round 170 Ford sellers in India who’ve 391 retailers. The auto sellers’ frame says that for the reason that Ford is the fifth greatest go out from Indian markets since 2017, India urgently wishes a Franchise Protection Act for Automobile Dealers.

Damani explains: “All developed markets have a Franchise Protection Act. Once this Act is there, companies can’t abruptly exit. They have to then give sufficient time and suitable compensation. Dealership agreements then will have a long-term vision. It takes around Rs 5-6 crore to set up a Ford dealership in India. There is specific Ford-related hardware and infrastructure that is of no use once you are not associated with the brand. Dealers are SMEs and family-run partnerships, and this will be the biggest loss in their entire entrepreneurial career. Ford has 4,000 employees, the dealers have 40,000 employees. On an average, a dealership outlet has around 100 employees…”

Asked about the way forward for those dealership employees, he added: “No one knows. If my dealership will not survive, how will I keep paying my employees?”

Ford sellers also are miffed about being saved at the hours of darkness within the run-up to the announcement.

“I spoke to Ford managers, that we are regularly in touch with, soon after the announcement and they said they too did not have a clue,” says Tandon.

Damani provides, “These decisions are not taken overnight. Till five months back, Ford was appointing new dealers. There were discussions with dealers over ‘upcoming’ EcoSport facelift bookings around 4-5 days back. They allowed these bookings based on pictures. The customers and the dealers have been fooled.”

At Harpreet Ford, a salesperson flips via his telephone’s media gallery to turn footage of this ‘upcoming’ EcoSport.

“Customers were booking just after seeing these pictures. I had bookings going up to Diwali,” says one in every of them.

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