Company Description: Established
in 1995, Ford India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, a
global automotive industry leader. Ford India manufactures and distributes
automobiles and engines made at its modern integrated manufacturing facilities
at Maraimalai Nagar, near Chennai. The company’s models include the Figo,
Fiesta Classic, Endeavour and the recently launched all-new global Fiesta.
in the country also include Global Business Services, comprised of Ford
Business Services Centre and Ford Technology Services India. Located in Chennai
and Coimbatore, these units support Ford globally in the areas of IT,
accounting and finance, financial services and automotive operations support,
global analytics and engineering services. Ford’s businesses in India employ
10,000 men and women.
You have been with this company since March 2008
and you are quite an expert in the Asia/Pacific/Africa region. Do you consider
your Indian stint as a very significant phase of your career?
I find my stint in India the most exciting in the world.
My career has just been getting better and better, as I had the opportunity to
spend more time and gain more experience. I learnt that more time I spent here
the more I didn’t know and that there is a lot to learn here. The Indian market
is so exciting, so diverse and it’s got so much pent up demand in different
areas. People respond to good products, they give confidence in the
Is the consumer in India different from those in
the rest of the world? How would you describe him?
The consumer in India is very practical and at the same
time the consumer has advanced a long way in terms of wanting to enjoy the car
a lot better. The Bluetooth feature going in the Figo, is one example. We have
helped drive that now and the result is that the customers are asking for
Bluetooth. If they don’t have it at the bottom end they want it, because it is
enabling their life to be a little better. They are looking for more comfort,
more convenience and a lot of people are looking for next level of technology,
technology that is affordable.
You see that happening in cars?
are seeing it happening progressively. Other manufacturers are bringing out new
products and the bar will continue to be raised and it will not go back to a
base. The only base products that you see in the market now are in terms of
You also announced that you are setting up a new
plant in Sanand, Gujarat. Is it going to be bigger than the Chennai plant?
there is going to be 240,000 units p.a. capacity for manufacturing of cars and
270,000 units p.a. capacity for engines. This is more than our Chennai
operations. The capacity of the engine plant in Chennai is going to be
increased from 250,000 to 350,000 units
p.a. The Chennai car assembly plant has a capacity of 200,000 units p.a.
Suddenly Ford seems to be waking up to an
exciting world. Do you see huge potential here in india?
way you are seeing Ford developing is the way seeds grow in the ground. There
is a lot of work and it’s out of sight and all of a sudden it starts to sprout.
Then it becomes obvious to everyone that the plant is growing. That’s what
people are starting to see in terms of Ford. We have done all the hard work,
prepared the ground, got the seeds planted and everyone is working with the
supply base. Now it’s starting to sprout and the first signs of growth in that
area - the shoots-- are the Figo and that’s where we changed. Now we are
promising that there are other seeds planted in the ground. There are up to 8 products
to be launched in the middle of the decade.
Will the company’s focus only be on small cars?
focus will be small cars. This market is still a small car market. But again,
you cannot be playing in the small car area only.
Your parent company Ford at one time had some
iconic brands like Aston Martin, JLR etc. Do you miss these brands? I mean it’s a very
hypothetical question, would it have been much better had they been there?
I was in love with Aston Martin cars and it was James Bond’s fault!. Not
because of the fact that Ford owned it at that point of time. I watched them
over these years and it’s been wonderful for Ford to be a part of this. But the
real thing about our company is Ford and Ford products. With the challenges the
company had, it was absolutely right to focus on them and at the time we did.
On a global basis and on a local basis there was no place for us to be involved
in that distribution and network and all those things. We got a big challenge
in terms of growing our distribution network, developing our brand to the right
level in India, to be able to support the 8 products coming through. The
success of those products will build the brand further.
We have come to know from our sources that your
Japanese subsidiary Mazda is planning to make a foray into India. Your comment
I couldn’t comment on that at all. We don’t drive their business plans.
Now coming to the Fiesta, what’s been the
response like? Has it met your expectations?
response has been fabulous in some areas and the product has been extremely
well received. It’s a driver’s car and that’s what we have said. We are here to
make our mark in this premium segment and that’s exactly what we are going to
do. We never set out to dominate this segment with this car. We have a capacity
constraint that does not allow us to do that. We have brought the product in a
manner that we can be competitive for the upper end of the segment, particularly
in terms of technology and drivability. It’s got intuitive technology and we
just had some people as a part of a drive programme in the launch phase that we
have rolled out. We haven’t launched the product in a traditional above the
line manner. We got some press, we got some television, we have done all our
work in the digital space. Through the magazines and press, it’s gained a lot
of interest at showroom levels. We have short supply on our diesel product
which is not unusual.
What about the automatic transmission, would you
look at that at some stage?
is a good indicator that automatic transmission is on the drawing board for the
future. I think this is a segment that can rightfully take on the automatic. We
are going to see this marketplace more automatic inclined in the future.
Potentially when the automatics get to a level it will support the fuel
efficiency that manuals deliver. As no one wants to give up on any fuel
efficiency and we are very focused on the fuel efficiency angle. We know that
technology exists in the world and it will come at some point of time.
You talked about the big ticket investment that
your company is making. But what about a dedicated R&D centre in India of
some kind because there is so much of local talent to be tapped?
We have a global approach to our business from the
planning processes to design engineering and then to the location of our
manufacturing centres. So instead of having design centres in every country,
engineering centres in every country, we take advantage of the talent in the
place. For instance, when we had done the Figo, a lot of engineers were from
India. The Chief Programme Engineer was from India. We had a lot of people
working on our team. Different people are capable for working on different
parts of the product and not just the product for India. It’s about global
products and supporting the global demand of our customers. India is included
in all of the research, development and customer needs and wants. Certainly the
product that we get will take into account Indian road conditions and the
environmental conditions here as they are very demanding on cars and it’s good
that they are tested appropriately here earlier in the phase.
We also have come to know that the company is
working on a brand new platform for the Figo like a bigger Figo or a sedan
Figo. Is such a move happening?
won’t say about any particular nameplate coming out in the future but of the 8
products coming up you can be sure there will be hatches and sedans. It’s just
logical as that is what the market place demands.
But what about the Figo in
CNG or LPG or an automatic in small cars?
are taking inputs in terms of people’s requirements and when it comes to Figo
as it is today, we have a couple of challenges at the same time. One, is the
achievement of the success of the Figo in the domestic market in India. At the
same time a very significant part is the development of the export activities.
We will be exporting Figo to 50 markets. We are already tapping at the door of
30 markets approximately and it takes a lot of development work as there are
minor differences in some of these locations related to fuel, engine sizes etc.
Your company has covered
the spaces from Figo to Fiesta. What about a sub-Figo or maybe a D-segment
Focus kind of car? Do you find the space exciting?
Of course we find the space exciting and with the 8
products we are going to see a bigger table. Looking at platform base, it’s
more likely to be adjacent and above without pulling any definition into this
area as its tough to do smaller cars. We are taking on some challenges as an
Ford in China is making the 1 litre Eco-Boost
engine. Do we find it coming here or is it just meant for those markets?
The company has talked about Eco-Boost technology in
North America as you get V8 power in a six and power of a V6 in a 4 and the
trucks in North America are starting to have the Eco-Boost tech. More and more
V6’s dominate the market rather than the V8’s in those products. The things
that need to be done to increase fuel efficiency at an affordable cost is a key
driver for us. Globally the new Fiesta that has just been launched has class
leading fuel efficiency figures both in petrol and diesel--- 23 kmpl for diesel
is outstanding and 17 kmpl for petrol is noteworthy. So we lay some of the
foundation on the promise of where we are going on a global and local basis.
What about luxury brands
like Lincoln? Any plans for LCV and pickups?
have indicated that we have planted the seeds for the next 8 products and once
you grow a garden like that you can’t stop and you have to have other products.
We will continue to look at opportunities in the future but no announcements,
no plans of the products that you just spoke about. We are going to make sure
in a global basis that we are there and continue to provide products that
people want to buy. It’s not that we are forcing them in the marketplace, it’s
matter of ensuring that we do our homework adequately with the understanding of
what the consumer wants---. from the early design phase with their needs and
wants, identify what’s not available in the market, test a few other thoughts
on them and develop that.
The reason that we had Bluetooth in the
Figo, is that we were trying to understand a potential need and want of the
customer base. The Fiesta has technology that the other products don’t have
currently and we will continue to be down the technology path and fuel
Coming back to your lovely garden, at some stage
would you consider planting exotic seeds?
comes back to where our development funds best fit--- creating a return. Unless
you have got the necessary volume you can’t create the investment necessary,
you can’t justify the product in the market unless it fits in the niche
category. You have got to make sure it competes with other categories. If other
people in here assemble locally, then you can’t compete with tariff barriers.
It’s not going to add value that we want. We will continue to make sure the
brand is wholesome and desirable and people will aspire for that brand.
You talked about tariffs, the EU FTA will it
benefit a company like yours?
It’s an interesting
challenge that we are going to investigate and look at the opportunities. It
would be a common support mechanism for other manufacturers so we want to
ensure that the playing field remains level. It could reduce the value of local
production vs import in some areas, it’s yet to be determined whether we could
use it to our advantage.
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