From opening Ford’s 6th assembly plant in China, at Hangzhou, the Blue Oval’s President & CEO, is now in India. Mark Fields is here to inaugurate Ford Motor Company’s 2nd production facility in India, at Sanand just outside Ahmedabad. It is the same industrial park chosen by Tata Motors for its Nano when it made the famous shift from Singur in West Bengal to Gujarat. Ford is next door, and the new facility doubles not just the company’s vehicle manufacturing capacity in India, but also its investments. The new plant in Gujarat adds 240,000 cars and 270,000 engines capacity, and so Ford now will be able to make 440,000 cars a year and more than 600,000 engines. Ford’s first plant in india is outside Chennai.
In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Fields said that the reason Ford chose Gujarat in the first place was so it gains access to another port for easier exports, the state’s infrastructure, and the govt’s incentives. At the time the company had decided to invest in the state, Narendra Modi was still its Chief Minster. Fields says it was just days after Mr Modi took over as PM, that he had the chance to meet him and was asked to ramp up exports of cars made in India. Ford is now happy to comply with that request and expects half its production in India to be shipped overseas. That may change if local demand exceeds current levels though, but Fields is keen to support Mr Modi’s Make in India pitch. Getting in the way though is India’s high taxation on automobiles. Fields says that it is an area no carmaker can control obviously, and which is why they looks for other ways to cut costs and offer more price-competitive products to buyers. He does still hope for a rationalisation of taxes. The other area of worry – despite the growth potential India still offers – is the slow speed of getting clearances and approvals. Smoother functioning with less red tape would help businesses do more in India.
Fields hopes that Ford will become one of the key players in the Indian automobile market soon. The company plans to expand its network and also bring down the cost of ownership on its cars further. Most crucial will be new products that help Ford access segments it currently does not operate in. In the immediate future though Ford’s big push will be for its subcompact sedan – the Figo Aspire – which will take on the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, Hyundai Xcent, Tata Zest and Honda Amaze. The car will soon be followed by the next generations of the Figo hatch and the Endeavour full-size SUV.