Faurecia centre consoles for left-hand-driveEcoSport

Faurecia Interior Systems is to begin supply of centre consoles for the left-hand-drive version of the Ford EcoSport SUV from June 2014. Karthik H has the latest update.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 05 Dec 2013 Views icon2433 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Faurecia centre consoles for left-hand-driveEcoSport
Faurecia Interior Systems (FIS) is to begin supplying centre consoles for the left-hand-drive (LHD) version of the Ford EcoSport SUV from June 2014. At present, the US carmaker imports this centre console from Faurecia’s plant in China and exports the fully-built car to the European market from Ford India’s Chennai plant. Given Ford’s mandate to increase localisation levels and reduce costs, FIS will also manufacture the LHD version of the EcoSport’s instrument panel from early 2015.

As of now, FIS’ only manufacturing facility in India caters solely to the EcoSport which made its debut in June 2012. While the Chennai plant manufactures the instrument panel and centre console, at a global level, FIS also supplies door panels for the EcoSport.

Despite having already bagged several orders for Ford’s global projects, the EcoSport has for the first time brought FIS to India. “Ford as a company accounts for 30 percent of our business on the global level,” says VidyadharLimaye, director – India, Faurecia Interior Systems. On a global level, FIS also helped Ford with its design and development of the EcoSport.

Order first, plant next

At present, the entire capacity of FIS’ 4,300 square metre facility in Chennai is dedicated to the EcoSport at present. This goes in line with Faurecia’s philosophy of first bagging orders and then building plants to cater for them. Though Limaye says he says he doesn’t look after that business group, Faurecia has followed the same philosophy to set up a separate seating and exhaust systems plants in Sanand, Gujarat – a region that is poised to become India’s next auto cluster.

The Chennai plant averages 300 car sets per day, each set comprising an instrument panel and a centre console. “But this goes up to 360 on some days and may fall on other days,” explains David Duval, plant manager. “The reason we are on this leased land is because we supply Just-In-Sequence to Ford’s plant nearby,” says Limaye. The company will invest a further Rs 30 crore by mid-2015, “This is based on Ford’s projected target for the EcoSport.” The idea, Limaye says, “is to take the capacity for car sets from 119,000 cars per annum to 230,000-240,000 per annum.”

In tune with this, FIS has ordered a second 1,800-tonne injection moulding machine in addition to existing two 1,300-tonne machines and a 1,800-tonne machine. The new moulding machine is expected to become operational next June. Along with the investment, the number of employees will go up by 100 to 280 at the plant.

That said, Limaye underlines that while this plant at present caters solely to the EcoSport project, talks are always on to bag more business. In fact, Limaye candidly accepts that despite serious bidding, FIS was unable to bag orders for Nissan’s Datsun Go hatchback. However, this doesn’t seem to have dissuaded Limaye as he later adds, “We are in talks with Renault-Nissan.” Asked if bagging that order may warrant another plant, Limaye said he thinks so. “Whether it would be another Just-In-Sequence plant is up to Renault-Nissan,” he remarks.

Limaye also touches upon an interesting prevailing scenario in the Indian components manufacturing scene. He is of the opinion that given the low-tech nature of the segment, in terms of what OEMs demand, there is fierce competition. So, Limaye says, “We will come into a country either though global projects or premium products.”

In Europe, Faurecia is a major supplier to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Interestingly, Limaye, while commenting on the low-tech demands of the Indian market says, “If we enter that field, we can’t survive.” Whether this is in hindsight after losing the Datsun bid is a matter of speculation, even though he adds, “We bid for that because it was a global project.”

Still, Faurecia’s R&D centre in Pune is one of its largest, with around 55,000 man hours available for bagging projects. Close to 500 engineers are linked to 30 R&D centres across 11 countries. The R&D centre stands on a 4,500 square metre site with around 5,500 square metres being used as a pilot plant with the latest equipment. Since its 2004 inception, the centre is close to finishing 320 projects. It has, over this time, developed into a centre of excellence for glovebox projects.

Chennai plant under the microscope

Despite FIS’ India operations barely making a dent in the company’s contributions from Asia, the Chennai plant is not taken lightly by the company.

“All our plants worldwide undergo an internal audit called the Faurecia Excellence Audit,” says Duval. Towards the end of next year, the Chennai plant will be put under the microscope for the first time since it began operations this May. “Getting a 70 percent score would put us in the A category,” adds Duval.

An important step towards this would be to bring the plant’s ppm level in line with that of FIS globally. While the plant has managed to reduce its level to around 30 ppm at present, FIS’ mark stands at seven. “We will get it to 15 by the end of this year,” signs off Limaye confidently.
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