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‘Perfect time for Ford’s small car’

After about a decade and a half in the Indian market, Ford Motor Co is aiming to step up sales volumes by introducing a small car next year known as the Figo. Alan Mulally says the timing is just right for the launch of the Figo in this exclusive interview to Mint, reports R Sukumar & Samar Srivastava.

business Updated: Sep 23, 2009 21:41 IST

After about a decade and a half in the Indian market, Ford Motor Co is aiming to step up sales volumes by introducing a small car next year known as the Figo. Alan Mulally, chief executive officer of the only big US automobile company that staved off bankruptcy during the global financial meltdown, says the timing is just right for the launch of the Figo in this exclusive interview to

Mint

, in which he also talks about the car market and how Ford protected itself from going the way of the other US auto majors.

Edited excerpts:

How does it feel to have a small car finally in India?

Well it’s very exciting, especially for our wonderful Indian customers, because they’re getting a chance to experience a fabulous vehicle from Ford.

Why has it taken you this long?

Well, I think what we’ve been focused on around the world, especially in the US, were larger vehicles, especially SUVs (sports utility vehicles) and trucks. One of the very special things about Ford is that we’ve really pulled together all the Ford operations around the world to focus on the customer and also to have a full product line of small, medium and large vehicles. The Indian market is a tremendous market and so now, we have a chance to leverage all that intellectual capability around the world to bring a fabulous small car to India.

Is this the right time for a small car?

I think this is a perfect time because when we look at the markets going forward, about 60 per cent of the vehicles will be of the smaller size, so this is a very important market in India and around the world. It’s just special to be able to launch the vehicle in India.

It’s not just the Indian market that you’re targeting with this car. Ford also has export plans.

Oh, absolutely. All of our vehicles are on global platforms and so whether it is a small vehicle or medium size or larger, they’ll be on global platforms and then tailored or customized for specific markets around the world, so each of these vehicles is important to each market segment.

The Figo is an exciting name that really reflects the nature and the capability and the personality of the vehicle. It’s colloquial Italian for cool, so it’s a really cool car.

What kind of numbers do you expect with the Figo?

Well, we haven’t released the production numbers. That will be decided by the consumers in the market. Clearly, it’s an aspirational vehicle. It’s going to be a great entry vehicle into this segment.

Are you happy with what the company has achieved in India?

I think the fact that we established ourselves in India 15 years ago was a very, very important first step. I think we’ve developed a very good foundation in India.

We have tremendous engineering capability, manufacturing capability, and India is a key element of the global Ford team. Could we have gone faster? Maybe.

Where do you see Ford in India in the next couple of years?

It’s going to be a very important market for us. You’re going to see more vehicles, a complete family of vehicles.

How is the shift towards small cars going to affect profitability for Ford and the industry?

That’s where the world is going. We really believe that 60 per cent of all vehicles worldwide are going to be of a smaller size, 25 per cent medium size and 15 per cent larger. And the commitment from Ford is that in every country that we serve, they’re going to get a full product line.

Is the Figo going to be made only in India?

We believe that this is going to be a centre of excellence for us and we will continue to export from here, including the Figo. This is going to be a popular car around the world.