By mid-decade Ford India would have checked all the necessary boxes such as strong dealer network, a more complete product line, manufacturing facilities that can produce enough vehicles at a low price, etc to dive into the MPV segment. We don't have the numbers or the growth percentage of the high-end MPV market over the years but one thing is for sure - this segment has been neglected by car makers.
Toyota's decision to carry out the second facelift for the Innova instead of changing the model completely tells us two things - how much India loves the car and how easy the competition is on Toyota.
The hard-working Xylo, Tavera and Aria have not unsettled the Innova as it continues stretching its legs. Is the Innova a halo car people will view as a classic in the future? Will it go down in history as a car that was too good for rival car makers? Certainly it would if the competition gives up.
In the next 3-5 years, Hyundai and Ford will look to rewrite this script. The Hexa Space concept Hyundai revealed at the Expo hints at a spacious seven-seat family car and the Ford B-Max MPV are the contenders in question. The progress of the Hexa Space to the production line is not known at this time, but the B-Max MPV is ready for an unveiling next month at the Geneva Motor Show.
Sources have told Indian Autos Blog that the five-seat B-Max MPV being shown at Geneva has been declared by Ford as "too small" for the Indian market. As the B-Max shares a good share of parts with the Fiesta that Ford India has managed to localize very well, it has opted to re-engineer the B-Max to meet local requirement better. A change in wheelbase is in order if the B-Max has to get a clear distinction as in truth its a raised Fiesta hatchback. According to a Ford official with direct knowledge on the matter who spoke to IAB recently, a stretched B-Max is "pretty much spot on" for the Indian market.
Ford is also preparing to bring the C-Platform to India but its responsibilities may not go beyond underpinning the Focus sedan at least for the first set of 8 products. Ford sells an MPV on the C-Platform called as the C-Max but this may prove to be too expensive for the Indian market. The CD-Platform, a much bigger foundation that the Mondeo rides on, also plays host to a MPV, dubbed S-Max, for the Chinese and European markets. This has also been ruled out for our market.
Ford is unlikely to disturb other aspects of the B-Max such as its pillarless design (it misses a B-Pillar), sliding doors, front-end that's fast becoming familiar to all Ford models, and mechanical features such as the 1-liter Ecoboost petrol engine and the 1.5-liter diesel engine. The lengthened wheelbase gives Ford the chance to plant a third row of seats. Ford will strive for class-leading fuel economy on the B-Max L and the benchmark could be hard to beat as outpacing the 20.77 kmpl Ertiga diesel is a stiff ask.
Will Ford's efforts to take on the Innova with attractive product attributes, an international nameplate and class-leading fuel economy reap rich dividends? Or has the Innova already won this marathon? Only time will tell.