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Interview with Alan Mulally - Ford has just launched the Figo, its first small car. Does this mean going ahead the Figo will have more siblings because you can’t win the small car race with one model?
We are really excited with the reception the Figo is receiving. This is a crucial product for us. Clearly, this is another proof point for everybody of our commitment to the Indian customers. So, we will see more and more Ford products here. As for a sibling...that will come as fast as we can bring them in. The Figo is based on the Fiesta platform but what about a brand new platform for India like the ones being developed by Honda and Toyota, also new entrants in the small car market?
I think so. Going forward, we are going to see more and more of our global platforms, which allow us to use our scale and our knowledge from around the world, and bring all of that value and that scale to our Indian customers. Ford is not a small car maker traditionally. When did you take a call that you needed to crack the Indian market badly enough to get into the small car business?
When I was asked to join Ford from Boeing a couple of years ago, we came to the conclusion very quickly that where we wanted to take Ford was that it would have a complete family of vehicles which serve every major market round the world with best in class performance. At that point we started working on the Figo, using a global platform and it’s gratifying to see that strategy working so well. We are clearly focused on the Blue Oval...the Ford brand is still recognisable around the world. People appreciate it, they value it. How crucial is the Indian market to Ford vis-à-vis say China?
India is a really important market for us. We love being here. We have got great operations here. We can continue bringing more and more of our Ford products to the Indian customers. If you look at the overall market in the Asia Pacific, India and China will be the fastest growing market for us going forward.
When we look at both India and China, we see a family of vehicles...I think you will see small and medium-sized vehicles, also cars and utilities because there is such a great demand for different types of vehicles for different needs and the good thing about Ford is that we have the capability to offer a family of vehicles to our customers.
As for India, it has a tremendous operations force. It will be one of our hubs. We have got tremendous manufacturing capability here. All the units of the business are pretty well-designed and integrated with our entire global production system. So, India will continue to take on more importance in Ford worldwide. So will you put your money where your mouth is and announce some big bang investments for India?
Well, clearly we have made a tremendous commitment to the Indian market, Indian customers and our manufacturing this year. As we go forward, clearly our plan is to expand the business for the good of all of us. Will Ford use India’s frugal engineering expertise in its global operations?
Absolutely. Our new Figo is a perfect example of that. What we have learnt from the customers in India and our manufacturing capability in this country, we are now applying across the world and India will continue to be a key part of the entire Ford strategy globally. Our Ford production system is already globalised and all of these dynamite Indian engineers are deeply embedded in that system and they deeply influence all of our designs and will do so even more in future. Ford has sold Jaguar Land Rover to Tata Motors. Will the powertrain and component arrangements between Ford and JLR continue into perpetuity or will Ford dissociate itself after a while?
Jaguar Land Rover are tremendous brands and we are very pleased with the direction they are taking under the Tatas. While we loved them, we needed to focus on the Ford brand. We appreciate our relationship with the Tatas and have no plans of changing it. We have a working relationship with them and we are very pleased with our business relationship with the Tatas.
What’s the update on Volvo Cars? The buzz is that the deal with Geely is stuck and investment bankers are looking for alternative suitors and have approached M&M, your old partners in India, Where we are with Volvo has not changed. We are in negotiations and the negotiations are proceeding. Volvo has a great brand and our anticipation is that the new owners will build on that brand worldwide. After you came in, Ford divested brands like the Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover and now Volvo Cars. Was it difficult? Did you face resistence from the company saying these are holy grails and shouldn’t be touched?
Not at all. We decided we were going to be world class at FORD and that means a complete family of vehicles— small, medium, large cars, intelligent trucks... every one of them best in class in quality, fuel efficiency, safety, really smart design and offering. great value. So, that’s the reason we divested those other brands, not because we didn’t love those brands. They were great brands and have found wonderful homes now but our focus is to grow the Ford brand worldwide. So it was liberating really. It enabled all the technology, the creativity, the innovation to focus on the Ford brand.
Ford had become a house of brands. You can imagine how confusing it was for everybody to work on all those brands. So when I came on board, we developed this laser focus on the Ford brand. It was liberating as everybody across our operations pulled together to be part of the One Ford plan. So in a sense you went back to basics— something your founder Henry Ford would approve of...
Henry Ford is such an inspiration. His relentless focus on the consumer and providing safe and decent transportation, operate in every country where we sell our vehicles... can actually work for Ford. And back in 1924, he actually said, ‘Ford will open highways to all mankind.’ That’s what we want to do now in markets where we are present. We have to get back to profitability and have more products lined up for emerging markets... It’s a nice balance, really.That’s why it’s so much fun to be introducing the Figo here in India.