Ford will spend US$72m to expand its powertrain factory in Chennai, India, to further support its sales and export growth plans in India.

When the expansion programme is completed in mid-2012, the engine plant's production capacity will increase from 250,000 to 330,000 units per year, an additional output of 80,000 diesel engines annually.

"This investment reinforces the importance of our Chennai plant and Ford's continued expansion in India," said local chief Michael Boneham. "This expansion will allow us to provide more technologically advanced and fuel-efficient engines to our customers in India and in markets around the world where we export Chennai-built vehicles."

The expansion of diesel engine production capacity will bring Ford's total investment in India to over $1bn.

"The new investment also further supports our plan to introduce eight new global Ford vehicles in India by 2015," Boneham added. "When the expansion is finished, a third production shift will be added at the engine assembly plant, creating more than 300 new direct jobs."

The new investment is part of Ford India's transformation into a major global export and manufacturing hub - 1.6 TiVCT, 1.4 HC and Duratorq engines will be exported.

In March, employees celebrated the 100,000th engine produced at the factory - this milestone was achieved just 14 months after the engine plant opened in January 2010.

The plant is the first Ford facility to feature single flexible production line manufacturing petrol and diesel engines. It is also the first to run a flexible crankshaft production line producing for both petrol and diesel engines.

The plant currently produces five Duratec petrol engine variants and one Duratorq diesel. It is also gearing up to produce powertrains for the new generation Fiesta sedan to be launched in India later this year.

Since June 2010, around 4,000 Indian-built 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrol engines have been exported to Thailand every month. Diesel engines have also been exported to South Africa since 2008 and Ford plans to export petrol and diesel powertrains to more markets soon.