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Less than six months after Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Company president and CEO, revealed the new Figo to India, the first production model was driven off the assembly line on February 5 with Honourable Chief Minister of the State of Tamil Nadu D. M Karunanidi in attendance.
Dr. M K Stalin, Honourable Deputy Chief Minister; Michael Boneham, president and managing director, Ford India; Raj Nair, Ford vice president of operations, Asia Pacific and Africa; Sandip Sanyal, Ford executive director of operations for India and nearly three thousand employees of the newly expanded facilities, were on hand to take part in the Job 1 ceremony.
"Less than six months ago, Ford Motor Company reaffirmed its commitment to transform the plant located here outside of Chennai into a regional manufacturing centre of excellence," Boneham said. ''It's a great honour to have you with us as our projects and investments are turning to reality and the completion of our first Ford Figo off this assembly line."
Following the Figo Job 1 ceremony, the group inaugurated the new engine facility that manufactures the exclusive 1.2-liter petrol engine for Figo.
"Figo is a great example of the role Ford will play in the future of India," Shri. Karunanidi said.
The new compact car underscores the importance Ford has placed in the burgeoning India automotive market as well as throughout the region. While Figo will be manufactured primarily for Indian consumers initially, the new model also will be exported to other countries including South Africa, as early as middle of 2010.
The new, 40,000 square metre flexible engine line, also part of Ford's nearly $500 million (USD) commitment over the past two years in the facility, will build both diesel and petrol engines side-by-side for the new model. Four cylinder engines in varying displacements up to 1.6 litres also will be produced for export at the Chennai facility.
"It's exciting to see the first new Ford Figo's coming to life for the India market," said Nair, "We are totally committed to growing the India market under our 'ONE Ford' plan and Figo is an excellent example of utilizing our global assets and expertise to meet the demands of customers here and in future markets."
The "Sub B" car category where Figo will be competing comprises more than 70 percent of India's total new car sales. Figo is the sixth new Ford model that the automaker has introduced to Indian consumers.
Designed and engineered for the India and export, the new Figo is based on a proven global small car architecture. The vehicle will be equipped with a standard 1.2L petrol engine developed exclusively for the India market. Ford's class leading, fuel efficient Duratorq 1.4L diesel engine also will be available. Both models will be equipped with manual five-speed transmissions. The chassis has been thoroughly retuned for the India market with a more compliant suspension tailored for local road conditions.
The exterior and interior styling of the new Figo are fresh and include bold interpretations of Ford's kinetic design philosophy.
Both the car assembly and engine manufacturing facilities in Chennai have undergone a major expansion to establish Chennai as a major hub for the entire APA region. The facilities serve as the latest examples of Ford's global manufacturing processes and have incorporated several new technologies for Ford and India. Created with a "best-in-class" approach, it has been benchmarked against other competitive facilities globally, as well as current volume manufacturers in the Indian market.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the body and paint shop and assembly line. Sixty six robots have been added to ensure higher quality and a new Three-Step-Wet -Solids paint process applies a smooth, glossy finish without oven curing between coats. A first for India, the new process is environmentally friendly and reduces volatile organic compounds by 20 percent.
"We're confident that the new Ford Figo will be extremely attractive to Indian buyers," Nair added. "It's going to be very competitive with the current market leaders and will offer a tremendous value story for our consumers. This car is set to transform Ford from a niche player in India to vehicle for the masses."
Relying more on Indian partners, 85 percent of the new Figo is expected to be locally contented. More than 700 new employees have been hired by Ford India at the expanded assembly and engine manufacturing facility in the past 12 months. Once full-line capacity is reached, the manufacturing centre is expected to provide additional employment.