India will be major exports hub: Ford

US automobile major Ford Motor Company is betting big on Asia-Pacific markets, especially China and India. "In the next four to five years, sales from Asia-Pacific would be about 40 per cent," said Ford chief executive Alan Mulally, adding markets in this region were growing the fastest in the world. Currently, Asia-Pacific accounts for 19 per cent of Ford's global sales.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally, here for the roll-out of the Ford EcoSports production line at its existing facility near Chennai, said Asia-Pacific was important for Ford and strategies were being put in place to tap the domestic market and use the region as a sourcing hub. The company is betting big on the 'B', or compact car, platform/chassis. Mulally said Ford was investing in seven plants in the Asia-Pacific region - five in China and two in India (the engine plant at the facility near Chennai and a new facility in Gujarat).

"Ford will export Figo and EcoSport models out of India. The Indian plants would support the market here, as well as other global markets," Mulally said, adding one of India's advantages was its competitiveness and free trade.

Mulally said there was a huge opportunity in the B-platform, where different kinds of body panels could be put on. He added Ford was focusing on the B-segment and there would be more models in this space.

Joginder Singh, president and managing director, Ford India, said the company had doubled its investment in India from $1 billion in 2011 to $2 billion. It had also doubled its production capacity in India.

On the EcoSport, Mulally said it would be a small sports utility vehicle on the 'B' platform, one of the fastest growing segments in the country. By 2015, the company would produce two million vehicles a year on its B-platform globally.

Ford has invested about $142 million at its plant near here to roll out the EcoSport. Currently, it manufactures the model at its plants in Camacari (Brazil) and Chongqing (China). Production in Rayong (Thailand) and Tatarstan (Russia) is yet to start.

On whether the company would lose about $2 million in Europe this year and whether it would shut any of its European plants, Mulally said though the European market was under stress, the leadership in that region was dealing with the hurdles and some felt the crisis had bottomed out. He added Ford Motor Company was restructuring its European operations and cutting production levels to match the demand there.

He said the company continued to supply engines to Tata Motors' Jaguar and Land Rover models. A few years ago, Tata Motors had acquired these brands from Ford.