CHENNAI, India — For the Ford global Product Development team, the smallest details are often the most important – even down to the size of local water bottles. As the Chennai plant prepares for production of the all-new EcoSport, adapting the global vehicle to local tastes is a major task.
"We at Ford conduct extensive research and user studies to customise our vehicles to local markets. This vehicle will have seat height adjustments, several bottle holders and many other features considering local tastes," said Bruno Figueiredo, program management team (PMT) leader, Body Interior.
Product Development teams from Ford South America Operations (FSAO) and APA recently inspected the Chennai plant, which also involved discussions on customizing the EcoSport for the Indian market – including the size of the most commonly sold water bottle in India.
The all-new EcoSport, unveiled by Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally at the Delhi Auto Expo 2012 in January, will eventually be sold in over 100 countries on five continents. The EcoSport combines best-in-class design, technology, quality and safety, aimed at attracting a new generation of consumers in different global markets.
The visiting Product Development teams were impressed with the Chennai plant, which has recently received an investment of $142 million for production of the EcoSport
The team spent several hours with the engineers at the plant to fine-tune the product design and customisation. Tom Chakalackal, executive director, Manufacturing, John Lonsdale, director, Product Development, P Senthil Kumar, vice president, Vehicle Operations and Balasundaram Radhakrishnan, vice president, Powertrain Operations (PTO) led the discussions to improve the overall EcoSport package for India.
"This will be an amazingly safe vehicle with enhanced body construction and safety features," said Luiz Zamorano, a PMT member for Body Exterior from FSAO.
David Filipe, assistant vehicle line director, APA, said he expects the vehicle, with its commanding driving position, fuel efficiency and large interior space, will be a great success in APA.
"This is going to be the next big thing," he said.
The teams also praised the state-of-the art facilities at the plant and were impressed with the readiness and infrastructure.
Juan DePena, APA segment chief for EcoSport, said the infrastructure is "just superb! The flexible PTO plant you have here is terrific. The workforce is pretty skilled and enthusiastic and I see standardisation of all our global best practices here."
"We also see this as a great occasion for people-to-people interaction and learning. We already have many Indian engineers working with us in the global Product Development team. Some of them will go back to their countries when production happens, similarly workers from India will visit FSAO and China. Together, we will go further as One Ford," said Alex Machado, the global chief nameplate engineer for EcoSport.