The auto industry in India is betting on sports utility vehicles to drive sales in a slowly-recovering sector. A majority of car launches in recent months have been SUVs—including the Kia Sonet, ​the Tata Nexon EV, and the Volkswagen T-Roc. On Tuesday, U.S. auto major Ford launched the Sport edition of the Endeavour in India. The all-wheel-drive SUV is priced at ₹35.10 lakh (ex-showroom).

Ford, which has seen slowing sales for the last couple of months, hopes for a revival and a demand uptick with the launch of this SUV. The Endeavour competes with the Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X, and Mahindra Alturas. Most auto companies are focussing on the SUV segment as SUVs are in great demand in a market like India.

The Endeavour Sport has a first-in-segment Terrain Management System with four preset modes—Normal, Snow/Mud/Grass, Sand, and Rock. The all-new ebony black front grille symbolises “raw power”, according to the company. “Ford Endeavour Sport in black makes a bold statement—whether it is your regular commute during the week or your off-road adventure during the weekend,” said Vinay Raina, executive director of marketing, sales and service, Ford India.

The SUV is powered by a BS VI-compliant 2-litre EcoBlue diesel engine that delivers 170 PS peak power and a 10-speed automatic gearbox. “We are thankful to our customers for their faith in the Ford Endeavour and hope the special edition Sport will strengthen it further,” Raina said. The vehicle will be available in three colours—Absolute Black, Diffused Silver, and Diamond White.

Ford has come up with a number of external changes for the SUV which is based on the Titanium+ platform. For example, the front fender as well as the front and rear bumper skid plates get an ebony black treatment, and the SUV gets an all-LED headlamp for both low and high beam, which provides up to 20% greater lighting penetration for enhanced night-time visibility, the company says.

According to auto experts, Indians are big on connectivity and convenience, and Ford tries to tick all the right boxes with this launch. The Endeavour sport has a voice-enabled, in-car connectivity with an eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system that supports Apple’s CarPlay, and Google’s Android Auto. It also features active noise cancellation—a technology used in noise-cancelling headphones—to help reduce low-frequency engine sounds from entering the cabin, according to the company. Other features include a panoramic sun-roof, semi-auto parallel park assist, push button start, hand-free tailgate controls, rear and front parking sensors, rear parking camera, automatic headlamps, etc.

Ford, like other automakers in the country, has had a bad year because of the economic slowdown made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. In August, Ford sold a total of 4,731 units as against 5,517 units during the corresponding period last year—registering a de-growth of 14.2%. Its market share of 2% is also down by 0.8% as compared to last year. Automakers are hoping that as the country goes into unlock mode, new launches, especially in the SUV segment, will help quench the pent-up demand in the market. That is why a slew of launches in this segment—including the Toyota Urban Cruiser, Mercedes-Benz EQC, and the MG Gloster—are scheduled to be launched between now and the festive season.

Ford had recently launched the 2020 Endeavour with a new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine and what it claims is the world’s first 10-speed automatic transmission. The company calls it “a potent mix of unmatched off-roading capabilities, surprisingly affordable service cost and up to 14% improvement in fuel efficiency over its predecessor”.

The EcoSport has been the best-selling model for the company in the domestic market. It sold 2,757 units in August, against 2,882 units during the corresponding period in 2019 with a 4% fall in sales.

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