Force Motors readies action plan to sell SUV; aims to sell 4,000 units in first year

Force Motors is aiming to sell 4,000 units of its new SUV (sold as the Foday Explorer in China) when it launches around May 2011 at an expected price range of Rs. 10 – 15 lakh.

For a company with little knowledge about the segment, Force has sought the assistance of UK-based Lotus Engineering, a leading automotive consultancy, to help build the SUV. A ‘C-in-C’ chassis is being designed and developed by Force Motors, with the suspension, ride and handling characteristics being fine-tuned with the help of Lotus.

With regard to engine and transmission, Force Motors has tied up with Mercedes-Benz Technology, a 100% subsidiary of the German car-making company for build quality assistance, vehicle dynamics and electronics. In fact, the engine powering the Explorer will likely be a 2,148 cc Daimler that could put out 148 hp or 220 hp.

force motors explorer suv photo
Photo: Force Motors' upcoming SUV will be based on the Chinese-made Foday Explorer

The SUV was originally slated to launch in March, but will now be rolled out in mid-2011 as Force Motors is fine-tuning the NVH levels of the vehicle. Related: Force Motors postpones SUV launch

Force Motors SUV vs Mahindra Scorpio vs Tata Safari

Currently, the entry-level SUV market in India is dominated by Mahindra Scorpio and Tata Safari. If Force Motors is aiming for sales volume, the company will need to address some key aspects such as interior quality, engine refinement and fuel efficiency before rolling out its SUV.

While the company and its foreign partners are putting in their best efforts in developing a faultless SUV, the market image of Force Motors as ‘only a commercial vehicle manufacture may be a significant ‘turn-down’ factor.

The Chinese Foday Explorer has seven seats arranged in the same fashion as in the Tata Aria: two at the front, three in the middle and two at the rear. Expect Force Motors to launch the same seating arrangement for the India market.

Force Motors’ plans

Force Motors is setting up a 50-strong dealership network to sell the upcoming SUV. These dealerships will sell only passenger vehicles of the company, while there will be a separate set of outlets for sales of commercial vehicles.

The Pune-based auto-maker is planning to build an exclusive plant in the city in 2012 for manufacturing its upcoming SUV. The company will invest Rs. 1,000 crore in the next 2-3 years and spend a major portion of this investment in setting up the new plant in Pune. Also read: SUVs in India

The new factory will have a capacity to manufacture 1.2 lakh vehicles per annum. In the first phase, though, the company plans to produce only 60,000 units and utilize the remaining capacity in the second phase.

The company is also planning to produce two commercial vehicles that will expand the company’s Trump mini-truck range. Currently, Force Motors sells Trump 20 and Trump 40, which it rolls out from its plant in Akurdi.

Prasan Firodia, MD of Force Motors, has told The Financial Express that the company will take a decision on launching new models of small commercial vehicles in a couple of months.