Ford India launched its ‘CUV”, the Freestyle, on April 26, 2018, with a stunning introductory price of just Rs 5.09 lakh (ex-showroom). At the launch, we got into a conversation with Anurag Mehrotra, the managing director of Ford India, regarding the possibility of an AMT option for the Freestyle and this is what he had to say.
“Our research shows that the consumer is willing to pay for a conventional automatic if you show them the value. We will go back and sit down with our India Product department and see if the business case is viable and if it is, we will bring it.”
What we can make of the statement is that though it is quite early to say if the Freestyle will come with an automatic option, it will definitely not be an AMT. According to Anurag, Ford’s research shows that customers are willing to shell out a little extra for an automatic option provided they see it as a value-for-money option. Plus, an AMT does tend to compromise the fun-to-drive factor of the car, which is a strict no-no in Ford’s books.
Ford currently offers a torque-converter automatic with the EcoSport powered by the 1.5-litre Dragon petrol engine. The Freestyle uses a smaller 1.2-litre engine which comes from the same family. So, if Ford decides to offer an automatic it shouldn’t take them too much time to get one to the table.
As for a diesel automatic, Ford is unlikely to offer the Freestyle with such an option as oil-burners become less popular thanks to crude oil prices and regulations. “The mix is shifting. The petrol mix is getting stronger and stronger across product categories. We have an outlook of the next few years on where and how the petrol and diesel mix will shift given the crude price and regulations, which is another major factor, and the shift will be towards petrol,” said Anurag.
When BSVI emission norms come into effect in 2020, expect small diesel engines to become a lot more expensive as they will require a lot of additional technology to clean up tailpipe emissions. And that added tech will no doubt impact the cost and the attractiveness of a diesel automatic for car buyers. So, while a petrol automatic on the Freestyle is likely, we wouldn’t be surprised to find it under the bonnet of the upcoming Figo facelift first.