January 15, 2012: Alan Mulally, President and CEO, Ford Motors
The president and CEO of Ford Motor Company speaks about the all-new EcoSport, which had its global unveiling at the Expo, and on Ford’s involvement with India.
Ford has always used the Auto Expo for the big splash. It was the Figo the last time, now the EcoSport. What’s the strategy behind this?
This is clearly a very exciting time for Indian customers and also for Ford because it just shows our commitment to provide a complete family of best-in-class vehicles for Indian consumers. The response that we’ve got from the Figo was outstanding. Now, for the first time ever, to have a small compact SUV on the B-size platform to complement the Figo, I think it’s going to be really well received.
The compact SUV seems to be the mantra here. What has market research shown?
What the consumers want today is no matter what size of vehicle they choose, they want the best quality, best fuel efficiency and best safety, a smart design and the very best value.The biggest thing about the EcoSport today is that you get all of the driving comfort of a saloon as well as the flexibility of an SUV — so it's great for work, great for family, very versatile and it delivers world-class fuel economy.
Best for India’s roads also because they are very crowded?
It is a very substantial vehicle. It is a platform that we make worldwide, so we’ve included everybody’s input from around the world, starting right here in India.
How does India fit in the scheme of things when you choose India as a platform globally to unveil a product like the EcoSport?
Ford is absolutely committed to serve our customers worldwide — that was Henry Ford’s original vision. He wanted to make driving on the world’s highways available and affordable to everybody. So, clearly, going forward, Asia-Pacific is going to be the highest growth region for automobiles in the world. Of course, the vehicles that the Asia-Pacific customers want are smaller and medium-sized vehicles. Therefore, it is neat to launch an EcoSport here because it is going to be right in the centre of the market.
Is the product design also being determined by the design in the Asia-Pacific region?
Yes, the design was led by the knowledge we got in the Indian market, the marketing, sales and all customer research; we include that in our global product development system. So what you are seeing here is a vehicle that has all the vehicle characteristics that an Indian customer wants but we will also be selling it all around the world.
There is some pessimism in India among OEMs here that the rates are high but for a company like Ford, what is it that you are looking at?
We see nothing but a chance to put smiles on the faces of all customers because Ford is committed to the Indian market. We will introduce eight new vehicles here in the next few years. We will build a new plant in Gujarat. So this is going to be probably our highest growth area going forward over the next few years.
What is the kind of trajectory are you looking at for investments in India?
We have already committed $ 2 billion and we are going to expand the Chennai plant. We will make vehicles here to serve Indian customers but export them from India too. The new Figo, for example, is exported to 30 countries and now we are on our way to export it to 50 countries. This is a tremendous engineering and manufacturing operation but we also get a chance to serve the customers.
That’s the format many companies are looking at — India as an export base. What is the logic behind it: is it the proximity to the Middle East and African markets?
The Asia-Pacific region is growing on the one hand but on the other, it has been a tremendous public-private partnership where the governments – both local and national – have been very supportive of manufacturing. They recognise the value of the great jobs that it creates, the research and development that goes with it. In Ford’s case, Henry Ford always wanted to operate in all the regions which he sells the cars.
How would you describe the global market and the slowdown?
The global market is pretty robust and will grow at five percent each year. We sold 74 million vehicles worldwide and by mid-decade that will be 100 million. So it is a good time now to have the full family of vehicles available everywhere. Globally, the Asia-Pacific market has slowed down a little bit but the US and Europe are still doing good. We are seeing everyone take off around the world and experience new vehicles. Also, we will see petrol engines and diesel, and more electric and more hybrids in our vehicles.
Will the EcoSport be exported?
Yes, but over time. Now India is priority.
What about China as an automotive market?
China is growing at around nine percent; it is a tremendous market.
Apart from Brazil and India, will the EcoSport be a global product?
Yes, we have used our knowledge globally and also our understanding as to what the customer wants locally and with this platform. We will make over two million vehicles on the B2E platform. Having a small SUV now on that platform opens up a whole new market. People love SUVs in all sizes, and we have it all in Ford.
What about the costs of development?
Yes, our strategy is to leverage our assets worldwide and as we do global platforms, our investment efficiency is much better. Given that we have more models from one basic platform, we get quality and efficiency.
How much does India contribute to Ford’s global revenues?
India has been very important to Ford and will continue to be important. We have nearly 10,000 employees and in the next few years we will add 5,000. That’s a 50 percent increase. So India is a fantastic opportunity, not for just great vehicles from Ford but also great jobs and careers. We are increasing our market share globally and this full family of vehicles will be preferred more and more over time. This engine (EcoBoost) will be used in most vehicles of this size. In general, all the vehicles that are of the same size will get the same engine.
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