CHENNAI, India—The excitement in India over the imminent launch of the all-new EcoSport grew manifold with the visit of Ford president and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally to Chennai — from where Ford’s latest urban SUVs are being shipped to the dealers for its eagerly awaited launch.
Two new shiny Kinetic Blue EcoSports awaited Mulally at the entry gate of Maraimalai Nagar manufacturing facility. “This looks fabulous…I can’t wait to get into the driver’s seat,” said Mulally as he took the wheel and drove the brand new urban SUV to the corporate office, the short yet effortless drive giving him a hands-on feel of the drivability, practicality and comfort of the vehicle. “Great job done, Chennai team! Congratulations for rolling out a truly world-class product.”
The plant visit was part of the packed two day-long itinerary the Blue Oval’s leader had in the city ever since he arrived at Hotel ITC Grand Chola, Chennai on Sunday. Discussions with Ford India’s leadership, meetings with journalists, a luncheon with Ford dealers and interactions with Ford India employees and managers were the highlights of his trip.
“So, what drives you Alan?” asked a curious employee at one of the interactions and Mulally explained during his early years he had a chance to witness how the two superpowers had inter-continental ballistic missiles aimed at each other…but after working in a global business environment he realized that people aren’t much different from each other across borders, colour or race. “We are more similar than we are different, and we can achieve great things if we work together. And that’s what drives me,” he said holding up his ‘One Ford’ card for everyone to see.
Mulally won over everyone he came across with his inimitable personal charm, greeting people with warm hugs, handshakes, pats on backs and happily sharing autographs. “I’ve come all the way to meet you, and I appreciate your contribution to this company,” he said meeting members of ‘Voice of Women’ — a women’s association of Ford in India.
While touring the various shop floors he listened closely to young employees presenting on various process and quality improvements by Natural Work Groups, eagerly asked questions to learn more and posed for team photographs. “Absolutely unbelievable, I just love the talent and the enthusiasm you have here. Keep up the good work.” His disarming smile, sparkling wit and humour put people at ease and he even joked about Ford India employees having had a ‘group meeting’ to ask him questions never asked before.
Mulally strongly outlined the vision of Ford and the way forward in India. ‘It’s a wonderful journey for all of us,” reiterated Mulally to employees, dealers and journalists, “Our commitment to Asia Pacific remains unprecedented . We will go ahead and accelerate in this region…it’s going to be so fast, so good, so high…that you will be left amazed.”
“As part of the One Ford strategy, whatever we do in India is very important for whole of Ford because it is showing the company how to make a great value product…we are learning how to localize and offer a better value product for the customers,” he said pointing out that Ford’s sales in India had tripled after the Figo was launched here. “The EcoSport with the 1.0 liter EcoBoost is a great SUV on the B-car platform that will appeal to Indian customers…and be exported around the world to move our growth story further.”
“We are doing the right things in Chennai and in Gujarat, and nothing can come in the way.”
Mulally also spoke passionately about the need for improving infrastructure in India, the importance of doing business ethically and how Ford is investing more in Asia Pacific for its great potential.
“We envisage over 40 percent of our sales coming from the Asia Pacific region in future and Dave and I have been trying to convince the board about investing here aggressively for the long term”, he signed off.
“I have closely interacted with him during this visit, and I must say his knowledge of India is profound indeed. Alan, we welcome you not only as a leader of Ford but a Friend of India,” said Singh amidst loud applause and cheers from the gathering as he announced the EcoSports have begun shipping to dealers across India. Mulally was presented with a plaque inscribed with ‘Go Further’ in 24 Indian languages to signify the country’s diversity and a T-shirt created to mark the EcoSport’s launch.
Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific, Joginder Singh, Ford India’s president and managing director, David Dubensky, president and managing director, Ford Business Services Center, Gary Johnson,vice president of Manufacturing Operations for Ford Asia Pacific, Balasundaram Radhakrishnan, vice president, Chennai Engine Plant, Vairamani Pandiyan, vice president, Human Resources, Ford India and other senior executives joined him during the plant tour.