Like most automakers, Ford did not expect the Indian market to move from petrol to diesel cars almost overnight.

As a result, the Figo which was initially planned with a petrol-diesel mix of 60:40 dramatically fell to 30:70 almost overnight.

Yet, Ford managed the transition comfortably thanks to its business model that actively focuses on exports.

“We had no problems because the petrol Figo is still sought after in South Africa and Mexico.

“It has only reinforced our strategy to use India as an export base for small cars and engines,” Michael Boneham, President and Managing Director of Ford India, told Business Line.

Global platform

It is this global focus that will drive the company’s India business going forward as a critical component of the One Ford strategy.

The EcoSport compact SUV, designed and engineered in Brazil, will debut next year, while six more vehicles will complete the India product line-up by 2015.

One of these is the Ka small car (codenamed B562), again designed in Brazil and scheduled to be part of Ford’s assembly line being commissioned at its new plant at Sanand in Gujarat.

The global strategy will ensure that costs are kept in check and individual countries can play to their strengths.

In an earlier interview with this paper, Alan Mulally, President & CEO, Ford Motor Company, said it was this large chunk of small vehicles that would be part of Ford's global platforms.

Here, 70-80 per cent of the components would be the same across the chain, while only 20 per cent could be customised.

“We will actually make vehicles in the same way across the world. A Fiesta in Chennai will be made exactly the same way as in China or the US which gives us the scale with our suppliers and [helps us] bring more affordable products (than competition) to customers,” Mulally had said.

According to Boneham, India’s Tier II/III centres will be the key growth drivers in the coming years.

This is already evident with the Figo’s customer base where two-thirds are also first-time car buyers.

“It is a clear indication where the market is heading,” the Ford India chief said, alluding to the emergence of the ‘B plus’ segment as the preferred entry-level option, quite like the Maruti 800 not-so-long ago.

The Figo journey has also imparted some critical lessons along the way.

“The first is that the cost base should be low enough to price products aggressively. In our case, the localisation levels of 85 per cent have helped cope with growing input costs,” Boneham said.

murali.gopalan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 17, 2012)
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