March 6 - Ford admits it made a mistake in India and will now focus on the small car market to try to make the country a manufacturing hub for Asia Pacific and Africa. Arnold Gay reports.
It may be Asia's third biggest economy, but here in India, the small car is king, and that's where Ford is aiming its sights. Ford's India's head Michael Boneham says the automaker will launch a slew of small cars in the country over the next three years. Boneham admits the carmaker is playing catchup. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORD INDIA PRESIDENT MICHAEL BONEHAM SAYING: "We haven't been a major player (in India) because we weren't positioning ourselves in the segment where 70 percent of all cars are sold. We were focused more on issues outside of India and sending cars that were force-feeding the Indian consumer. That was a mistake and we've learned from that mistake, and now we've got a very robust plan for the business." Ford India began operations in 1995, a year earlier than South Korea's Hyundai Motor. But as Ford struggled to sell its oversized, costly vehicles, Hyundai's compact cars drove the company to second place in the market within two years. Hyundai India sold over 600,000 cars in 2011, about five times Ford's total. But Boneham aims to change that by targeting the small car market, and making India its manufacturing base for small cars. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORD INDIA PRESIDENT MICHAEL BONEHAM SAYING: "We predict it will be five million passenger commercial vehicles by 2015, and nine million by 2020, passenger and commercial. I think India will be the small car hub of certainly Asia Pacific and Africa, for Ford Motor Company." Ford exported 30,000 cars from this sprawling 350-acre factory in Chengalpattu, south of Chennai, last year. The automaker will open a new $1 billion plant in northwest India in 2014. The new plant will have the capacity to build 240,000, bringing Ford's total India capacity to 450,000. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORD INDIA PRESIDENT MICHAEL BONEHAM SAYING: "Many developing countries fit the profile of what we have here in India, and that is value for money vehicles, we want solid robust vehicles, we want vehicles that are fun to drive, we still want technology. People don't want cheap, they want value for money." Ford's India plans come just a day after the carmaker said it would not pursue any alliances with other automakers in Europe, but will instead seek to match production with actual demand. Arnold Gay, Reuters.