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Ford EcoSport launch signals new India focus

Company will spend $142 million to revamp Chennai plant to build green SUV

In another signal that the company has woken up to the potential of the Indian automobile market, Ford Motor Co. unveiled another "global model" to be made and sold in India next year. The Times of India says this means that India is a key cog in Ford's turnaround strategy:

Alan Mulally, the turnaround man at US auto major Ford, has his eyes firmly fixed on India. After tasting success with the Figo hatchback, Mulally is now set to unleash a new wave of global platforms in India as he banks on the country's underlying potential to fuel Ford's ambitious global plans, including increasing worldwide sales nearly 50% by mid-decade to 8 million vehicles a year.

Designed in Brazil, the EcoSport is the second of eight new global models that the company plans to launch in India by the end of the decade, the company said.

The green SUV has a tiny one liter, 120 horsepower engine with the cheesy name "EcoBoost."  But even if Indians aren't yet concerned about emissions (what do YOU drive, Americans?) the low running cost of the SUV could be a major selling point in a country where diesels outsell gasoline-powered cars by a wide margin.

Even if the EcoSport doesn't succeed, though, its launch shows that Ford is finally getting on track.  Its recent low-cost hatchbacks have helped the company get in the game (though it seems like GM has been more aggressive, based on the ads I've seen for the Spark).  

Ford sold 96,270 vehicles in India in 2011, a growth of 15%, according to the Times of India. Ford India also exported 22,521 cars, almost three times as many as in 2010.

BTW: All this India hype reminds me of an old Newsweek (or was it BizWeek?) headline, circa 2008, that read Here Come the Chinese Cars!  Well, where did they go?  Anybody driving a Chery yet?  Of course, quite a few folks are driving Rovers and Jags -- courtesy of India's Ratan Tata.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/ford-ecosport-launch-signals-new-india-focus