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Ford CEO to focus on India, China to drive Vision 2020

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 24, 2018

Mark Fields, who took charge as CEO last July, will be looking at Ford building its market share in a market where Maruti Suzuki rules the roost with Hyundai as its closest challenger. Photo: Reuters

It has been a busy week for Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, with new plants being inaugurated in China and India.

From his point of view, this only reinforces the importance of these two countries in the company’s roadmap. Ford is looking at producing nearly 9.5 million vehicles by 2020 (a vision statement articulated by Fields last September) which puts in perspective the growing role of India and China through this decade.

Fields was present for the opening of Ford’s sixth plant in China on Tuesday and its second facility in India just a couple of days later. In an informal chat with a select team of journalists in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, he drove home the point that Asia would be a critical growth lever for the future.

Export hub

The Sanand plant in Gujarat will enhance the role of India as an export hub for Ford’s cars and engines. The company will also look at increasing its market share with a slew of new vehicles over the next 2-3 years. It had announced over a couple of years ago that eight products would be launched in India by 2015, a timetable that has not quite worked according to plan. It will now hope to make this up by stepping up the gas in Sanand.

Fields, who took charge as CEO last July, will be looking at Ford building its market share in a market where Maruti Suzuki rules the roost with Hyundai as its closest challenger. For a company that has been around for nearly two decades, Ford has had its share of successful products like the Ikon, Figo and, more recently, the EcoSport but clearly a lot more could have been done. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that traditionally strong markets like the US and Europe were doing well and there was really no reason to pull out all stops in an emerging economy like India.

Small car challenge

The slowdown of 2008-09 came as a rude jolt and Fields would only be too aware now that the changing global dynamics clearly puts the spotlight on India and China. On the face of it, there are no issues with Brand Ford and its connect with a youthful customer base as evident in the runaway success of the EcoSport.

The real big challenge lies in the small car segment where the first product from Sanand, the B562 compact will be the acid test. With a strong focus on localisation, Ford will hope to hit the sweet spot in the value-for-money quotient. With Brazil and Russia not in the best of shape right now, Fields will be doubly keen to see the company get on to the fast track in India and China.

And for all the talk on growth in China slowing down to seven per cent, the Ford chief adds good-naturedly that he would be more than content with such a figure given the relatively fragile state of the global economy. China is tipped to produce nearly 25 million cars by 2020 which translates into tremendous growth opportunities for companies like Ford.

In contrast, India is expected to do barely six million units by the end of this decade but automakers continue to be upbeat on its growth momentum. Sales fell rapidly over the last two fiscals and it is only lately that growth is gradually getting back on track. The biggest bonanza has been commodity prices which have remained relatively low and ended up being the best piece of news to manufacturers.

Published on March 26, 2015

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