Alan Mulally, President & CEO of Ford Motor Co, sees ” India becoming a compact SUV hub”, in an indication that India’s continuing economic tepidity hasn’t changed the company’s big plans for the country.
Mulally met media persons in Chennai on Monday as Ford rolled out its long-awaited compact SUV model EcoSport from its factory in Maraimalai Nagar, near here, to dealers.
” Who would have ever taught that the small SUV would be the fastest growing segment in India? India is a great market and is the lead edge indicator as to what people want in the world,” said Mulally, whose name wasn’t officially disclosed in Ford’s invite to the event due to the security protocol.
Renault Duster has stolen the thunder in the budget SUV category in recent months from formidable players such as “Mahindra (M&M) & Maruti”.
This is Ford’s biggest bet in India after their small car Figo, launched in early 2010. The EcoSport was first showcased one-and-a-half years back at the Delhi Auto Expo and, as observers reckon, it has taken a long time to come.
Ford has spent $142 million ( 822 crore) to produce Ecosport in India, one of its five places in the world to produce the vehicle. Currently, it is being produced at Camacari (Brazil) and Chongqing (China). Rayong (Thailand) and Tatarstan (Russia) will subsequently start producing the model.
Around the time of the Figo launch, Ford had announced it would launch eight more models by 2015. Critics have, citing the EcoSport delay, wondered if Ford is taking too much time to bring in newer models, losing momentum meanwhile.
Mulally brushed aside that concern, saying, ” We are absolutely committed to bringing more and more products.” The man who turned around the ailing Ford Motor Co acknowledged the current challenging economic environment in India but indicated he won’t be bogged down by the near-term trends.
“A lot of people ask us if it’s the right time to deliver EcoSport?” Mulally said, “We look at where the world is headed and take a long-term view of our investments. The slowdown will not come in the way of our commitment to India or the Asia Pacific.”
His point is GDP growth will be back on track eventually, increasing discretionary spending. That should boost the demand for cars. “Same as aeroplanes,” said Mulally, who was heading Boeing before being brought as Ford chief by Bill Ford Jr in 2006. Mulally, in fact, said he sees Asia-Pacific contributing 40% of global vehicle sales of Ford in the next 5 years.