Ford Unveils Small SUV EcoSport In India In Drive For Emerging Markets

First Published Wednesday, 4th January 2012 02:11 pm - © 2012 Dow Jones


--Ford to eventually sell EcoSport SUV in 100 countries

--Ford expects to sell two million EcoSport SUVs globally by 2015

--Ford to make EcoSport SUV in India, Brazil, other countries

(Reworks, context in 5th-8th paragraphs, comments from Ford executives in 2nd, 11th paragraphs)

By Nikhil Gulati and Santanu Choudhury

Of Dow Jones NEWSWIRES

NEW DELHI -(Dow Jones)- Ford Motor Co. (F) Wednesday unveiled in India a new compact sport-utility vehicle with a 1.0-liter gasoline engine that it plans to eventually sell in nearly 100 countries, taking an aggressive step toward its goal of having a bigger presence in the growth markets of India, Brazil and southeast Asia.

Retail sales of the EcoSport in India will start later this year, Ford executives said at the unveiling event that was also attended by Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally. The vehicle, based on the Fiesta platform, will be manufactured in India, Brazil and some other markets, which will be disclosed later, they said.

Ford India is investing $142 million to build the EcoSport at its plant near the southern port city of Chennai.

"The new product will be the second Ford global vehicle to be launched in India and is a part of eight that we plan to launch by the middle of this decade," said Michael Boneham, president and managing director of Ford India Pvt. Ltd.

Created as the latest of 'One Ford' global products, the EcoSport was developed in Brazil in partnership with Ford teams from Asia, Europe and North America. Ford has sold 700,000 units of an older version of the EcoSport in Brazil in nine years.

The EcoSport is currently the smallest-engine capacity SUV in India and is likely to create a new segment for compact SUVs in the country where car sales are forecast to grow to three million by 2016.

Ford said the EcoSport is a significant move in its global plan to boost sales by nearly half by 2015 to 8 million vehicles a year. It expects 60% to 70% of that growth to come from the Asia-Pacific region and Africa. By 2020, it expects the Asia-Pacific region and Africa to make up a third of its global sales from 17% now.

Ford has been gaining market share in India since it introduced the Figo hatchback in March 2010, which is also exported to 32 countries. The company sold 96,270 vehicles in India in 2011, a growth of 15%. Ford India also exported 22,521 cars, almost three times of 2010.

The company currently makes the hatchback Figo, sedans Fiesta Classic and Fiesta, and SUV Endeavour at a factory near Chennai in southern Tamil Nadu state. The plant can produce up to 200,000 cars and 250,000 diesel engines a year.

Ford is investing $72 million until the middle of 2012 to raise capacity for diesel engines to 330,000. It is also investing about $755 million to build a factory at Sanand in western Gujarat state that will initially make 240,000 vehicles a year when it is operational in 2014.

"We've promised to bring more than 50 new vehicles and powertrains to Asia Pacific and Africa by mid-decade and the all-new EcoSport continues to deliver on that pledge," said Joe Hinrichs, president, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa.

"We are still bullish on India. We expect significant growth as per capita income rises in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities," he said, adding the Indian car market is expected to become the third-biggest globally by the end of this decade.

-By Nikhil Gulati and Santanu Choudhury, Dow Jones Newswires; +91-11-4356-3305; santanu.choudhury@dowjones.com

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