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September 23, 2009

INDIA: Ford reveals new small car

If the new Indian-made Figo five-door hatchback unveiled today by no less than Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally looks a little familiar it should: it's an updated and lightly restyled variant of Ford Europe's previous-generation Fiesta.

If the new Indian-made Figo five-door hatchback unveiled today by no less than Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally looks a little familiar it should: it’s an updated and lightly restyled variant of Ford Europe’s previous-generation Fiesta.

The car was unveiled at a press event in Delhi and joins the Ikon (sedan version of an older European Fiesta generation also sold in other developing markets) and Fiesta (a sedan variant of the new Figo), the European Fusion hatchback and Endeavour SUV in Ford India’s product portfolio.

Mulally told reporters the Figo was “designed and engineered to compete in the heart of the domestic India car market”.

It will be made at the automaker’s expanded integrated manufacturing facility near Chennai, which is in the middle of a US$500m upgrade to double capacity to 200,000 units a year and become what Ford calls “a regional centre of excellence for small car production” that will export cars for the first time, joining other local producers including Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata.

The plant is also set to produce diesel and petrol engines for both local vehicle production and export to Asia Pacific and African countries.

“Ford’s investment in its Chennai plant gears it for eco-friendly volume production and positions Ford India to become a major export producer,” the company said in a statement.

“Our exciting new Figo shows how serious we are about India,” Mulally said. “It reflects our commitment to compete with great products in all segments of this car market.”

The new car will compete in India’s small car segment, which accounts for over 70% of sales. It  shares platform architecture with the current Fiesta sedan.

Ford India president and managing director Michael Boneham said: “We believe the Figo is a big game-changer for Ford that will help transform our brand into a volume player in India.”

Ford showed only the Figo exterior in Delhi today and will not reveal more details until nearer the car’s launch next March. The interior design sketch it did release shows a dashboard clearly based on the previous-generation European Fiesta’s but with a current generation-style instrument pack and audio system.

Local media reports said the new model would be offered with 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines to satisfy the Indian government’s definition of a small car.

Key competitors will include the locally built Maruti Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i10.

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