February 1, 2012: Joe Hinrichs, President, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa, Ford Motor Co
The president, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa, speaks on the prospects of the recently unveiled EcoSport compact SUV in India.
The EcoSport creates an all-new segment. Any concerns that you will be looking at a customer who’s never had this kind of vehicle?
We actually did a lot of market research with Indian consumers about the EcoSport. It is an opportunity to give an SUV option on a B-segment platform, to offer new customers what’s aspirational for an urban SUV. When we launched the EcoSport about nine years ago, in Brazil, a similar opportunity existed. The EcoSport established a new segment, took off and has been a segment leader in that whole time period since its launch. We see that same kind of potential in India.
This car comes close to a very exciting dimension norm. Given that it is a global product, it couldn’t really be determined by the four-metre regulation. So how do you derive cost benefit?
We are going to get that through the local content that Ford has got at our manufacturing facility in Chennai. This is a globally-designed vehicle for global markets. It’s going to be built in Brazil, Thailand, and here in India, and so we’ve designed it for the global marketplace. For us, the proportions and styling were critical because this is an aspirational vehicle. We wanted to make sure the design was right. We gave our designers a lot of freedom.
So you couldn’t just chop it off under the four-metre mark?
As regards engine choices, the EcoSport will have a one-litre petrol that is great on specifications and performance. Will there be more engine options and more powerful versions?
We will have a diesel as well as a base petrol option. With the EcoSport, we bring for the first time to India, the EcoBoost technology – the turbocharged, direct-injection engine – in the 1-litre three-cylinder engine which has the power of a 1.6 four-cylinder. So we’ll have different options. Diesel engines are important in India. However, the petrol EcoBoost engine will be a good option for diesel buyers.
Based on this award-winning B2E platform, can we assume that for India a logical assumption would be an MPV?
We launched the Fiesta here which is based on the same platform, and now the EcoSport. In Europe, we’ve announced the B-Max which is a sliding-door MPV. We haven’t gone further than that to talk about engine options. For our growth in India, we have to go where the customers are. So where there’s volume opportunity in India, we will be there.
There’s volume opportunity space off the hatchback space, also off the 299 for the B2E platform. So you’ve thought about it before?
Indeed, we have. The hatchback version of the Fiesta has been very successful around the world. It looks great. Obviously, it is something we’ll take into consideration.
What are your plans for the A-segment because that’s where the real volume is?
We do see volume opportunity in vehicles that are smaller than the Figo. We studied the potential and will continue to study it. The ‘Ford brand’ can be expanded both up and down with a range of products in India and in Asia-Pacific. The challenge is getting scale. Going forward, we’re going to be developing cars off global platforms. So do we have a platform that can support that kind of vehicle at the right cost point or do we need to develop one? These are the questions that need to be answered.
Based on what you say, is the Figo that was developed off an existing platform now an exception?
The Figo was an exception. Going forward, when and if we were to develop a vehicle of that size, it would be of a global platform. That is our strategy. On the B-segment, the C-segment, the C-D-segment, we’ve said publically ‘that’s our strategy’. In the other segments like A or sub-B, we haven’t made decisions.
In India, the volume shrinks dramatically in the C-segment. What’s your take on the C-segment and what's your strategy?
In India, we do not have the scale yet of the C-segment. Around the world, the C-segment is the largest segment of all the markets. So when the C-segment in India matures and gets bigger, we can expect to see more migration to the C-segment. It is a potential opportunity in the future. For now, it is the B/sub-B-segment in India.
Ford has just announced an engine plant of 600,000 engines. That’s a lot of capacity. How do you plan to utilise this capacity to the best effect?
That combines the Chennai facility with the upcoming Gujarat one. In Chennai, we can currently manufacture petrol and engines off the same assembly line. This gives us great flexibility. In fact, we exported about 100,000 engines out of Chennai, and we’ll see that same kind of strategy. Export of engines and also support in the domestic production here. Our strategy is to provide diesel and petrol engines for the Indian market and that won’t change. Our capacity will be in line with that.
Coming to CBUs like the top-end Mondeo, is that not a priority anymore?
Ford’s priority in India is the B/sub-B-segment because that’s where the volume is. We call it ‘sub-B’, you might call it ‘A’. Like the Figo and smaller. That’s where the volume is.
So smaller than the Figo is a priority?
The priority is where the volume is. We have a great portfolio of vehicles and will decide when the market’s ready to bring more of those products to India. But for now, we’ve got the EcoSport off a B-platform, the Fiesta, Figo and, of course, more to come.
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