ST. PETERSBURG – Ford will suspend production of its EcoSport subcompact CUV and Fiesta subcompact car models at the Russian plant it jointly operates with local automaker Sollers until next year.
A Ford Russia spokesman says the decision mainly is the result of the completion of a yearly plan for EcoSport and Fiesta production. Some Russian industry-watchers, however, believe the Ford Sollers joint venture is curtailing production because of slow sales of two models consumers perceive as overpriced.
According to Wards Intelligence data, Ford sold 44,655 light vehicles through November, up 6.3% from year-ago, while the overall market saw 1,625,351 deliveries, up 13.7%. Specific EcoSport and Fiesta sales figures were not available, but Ford Sollers built 4,906 EcoSports in the year’s first 11 months, compared with 7,007 for all of 2017.
EcoSport production in Russia began in 2014 at the Ford Sollers plant in Naberezhnye Chelny, followed the next year by the Fiesta. Autostat analysts say with those models, the JV was “in the deadly competition zone, where the company failed to correctly build the price positioning of these cars.”
Besides costing more than their competitors, the EcoSport and Fiesta also may be less appealing to Russian consumers because they appear smaller than competing vehicles in the same segments.
Ford Sollers has said it plans to resume building the EcoSport and Fiesta, but analysts say it might be more reasonable to completely suspend production of these models if the JV does not change its pricing policy.
Ford Sollers says its other Russian plants – in Elabuga, which assembles Explorer, Kuga and Transit models, and St. Petersburg, which produces Mondeo and Focus sedans – continue operating.
Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade analysts believe Ford should pay more attention to marketing utility vehicles, a fast-growing segment of the market. The automaker’s leading entry in the segment is the Explorer midsize SUV, which is priced between RR2.7 million and RR3 million ($40,000-$50,000). Ford Sollers also builds the Kuga compact CUV in addition to the EcoSport subcompact CUV.
CEO Adil Shirinov has said Ford Sollers hopes to grow its share of the Russian market, currently estimated at just 3%, by raising utility-vehicle sales. The JV also intends to continue localizing Russian production, announcing recently it will manufacture transmissions there.