Ford’s Chennai plant begins rolling out EcoSport, will drive compact SUV exports
According to a Ford dealer in Chennai, shipment to dealers in North India has begun. While bookings haven't been advertised, dealers are taking walk-in bookings and are charging Rs 50,000 as advance payment. The EcoSport’s official launch is expected at the end of June. According to the dealer, there is huge demand for the compact SUV and he expects a 2-3 month waiting period initially.
Marking the event was the presence of Ford Motor Co’s president and Alan Mulally, who was there to compliment the Chennai workforce. In January 2012, Mulally had unveiled the EcoSport at its global reveal at the Auto Expo in New Delhi.
“The EcoSport looks fantastic,” said Mulally. “The Chennai team, together with our supplier partners, have done an outstanding job in delivering our customers a great-looking, fuel efficient, safe, compact utility vehicle with impressive functionality and connectivity, at a very affordable price.” Ford India’s Chennai facility is the third of five plants globally where the EcoSport will be produced. Currently it is being produced in Camacari, Brazil and Chongqing, China (Changan Ford JV) and with production starting subsequently at Rayong, Thailand; and Tatarstan, Russia (Ford Sollers JV). “The EcoSport is a great example of Ford’s leadership in the global shift to fuel-efficient and functional utility vehicles,” said Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific. “Utilities are helping drive our expansion throughout the region, particularly in emerging markets, where growth in the utility segments is exploding.”
According to auto industry intelligence provider IHS Automotive, global small utility vehicle sales grew 154 percent between 2005 and 2012. In the coming years, small utilities sales are expected to increase by 51 percent globally. Ford small utility sales are projected to outpace the overall industry, according to IHS Automotive.
As part of the One Ford plan , the Ford EcoSport is based on the company’s B-platform, which also underpins its award-winning Fiesta. The company will produce two million vehicles annually on its B-platform by 2015.
Ford’s Chennai Facility
Ford invested US$142 million (Rs 816 crore) to produce the EcoSport at its Ford India manufacturing facility in Chennai. The investment to expand capacity and improve production-line flexibility means the facility is now capable of producing six different types of car bodies on one line including the EcoSport. Ten variants of the EcoSport will be manufactured in Chennai for sale in India and export to several markets. The 21-month upgrade process has helped ramp up and bring additional flexibility to the Chennai plant.
“The excitement and anticipation around the EcoSport is unprecedented. We are extremely gratified with the response from Indian consumers for this vehicle. The dedicated men and women of Ford India are working very hard to exceed customer expectations, and our dealers have begun accepting EcoSport bookings,’’ said Joginder Singh, president and managing director of Ford India.
“With the expanding capability of our plant here in Chennai, we are enhancing our flexibility for the future,” said Dave Schoch, “Growth in Asia Pacific is the cornerstone of our global growth strategy, and having a strong base in India will help us to align production with demand and make the most of these market opportunities.”
Smarter, more efficient production
In addition to growing its manufacturing footprint across Asia Pacific with seven new plants, Ford also is focused on improving the efficiency of its facilities and processes.
At the Ford India plant, the expansion included the conversion of the stamping press line to higher-capacity, fully automatic production. The stamping process also incorporates advanced white-light scanner technology to measure panels and dies, a touchless inspection method that ensures high levels of accuracy while improving workplace safety.
The Chennai plant was also the first in the world to feature Ford’s advanced Three-Wet High Solids paint process, which delivers a superior finish with high gloss and depth of colour, improved durability and better resistance against scratches and stone chips. By eliminating the need for oven baking between paint coats, the process also cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions and reduces the emissions of volatile organic compounds by up to 20 percent compared with standard paint processes.
“These advanced manufacturing technologies and methods show how we’re bringing our best global practices to India, building vehicles to the highest global standards and at the same time, we are making a positive impact on the community here in Chennai,” said Singh. “This reflects our deep commitment to India as a key part of our regional and global manufacturing network. We are delighted that Chennai-built EcoSports will be satisfying consumers not only in India, but also in several export markets, as part of our global growth strategy.”
Gujarat plant coming up
Meanwhile, work on Ford India’s upcoming plant in Sanand, Gujarat is on track and nearly a third of the construction work is completed. The plant is slated to be operational in 2014.
The $1 billion (Rs 5,613 crore) integrated manufacturing facility will have an initial capacity of 240,000 cars and 270,000 engines. This investment includes stamping, body, paint and assembly operations for vehicle manufacturing, as well as machining and assembly operations for engine manufacturing. In an email interview with Autocar Professional last month, Kel Kearns, director - manufacturing, Ford India Sanand Vehicle Assembly and Engine Plant, had said that 19 vendors have been allotted land at the upcoming 200-acre vendor area adjacent to the carmaker’s facility. The Sanand plant will have an initial production capacity of 270,000 engines and together with the Chennai plant will beef up total engine manufacturing capacity to 610,000 comprising both diesel and petrol engines on flexi-engine lines at both plants.
Photograph: (L-R): Joginder Singh, president and managing director of Ford India, Alan Mulally, president and CEO, Ford Motor Co, and Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific.
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