Ford to triple exports from India with new $1 billion plant
By Aditi Shah
SANAND, India (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) plans to triple exports from India with a $1 billion plant that will be one of its most heavily automated in Asia, offsetting slower sales inside the country with a push to sell more local production abroad.
The factory, opened on Thursday in the western state of Gujarat, will nearly double Ford's production capacity in India to 610,000 engines and 440,000 vehicles a year. It will make engines and compact cars such as the EcoSport, a small SUV, and the Figo Aspire sedan.
"India is very cost competitive, which is important particularly for small vehicles," Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields told reporters at the factory opening in Sanand, outside Gujarat's biggest city, Ahmedabad.
He declined to say how quickly Ford would take exports to three times the current level.
Smaller cars are key to Ford's efforts to compete in Asia and particularly in India, where a growing urban population means compact models account for about one in every two passenger cars and utility vehicles sold.
Ford, like foreign rivals General Motors (GM.N: Quote) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), has struggled to ramp up sales in India, amid a sluggish recovery in the domestic market and tough competition from established Japanese automakers such as Maruti Suzuki (MRTI.NS: Quote) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote).
Maruti Suzuki dominates the small car segment in particular.
Ford sold 77,140 vehicles in India in 2014 down from 80,431 in 2013, while exports nearly doubled to 76,981 units over the same period. In comparison, market leader Maruti sold 81,564 passenger cars in December alone. Continued...