In an interactive session with the Chennai media during his first visit to the city after taking over the helm of affairs at Ford India, he said: "Of course, the market condition here in India is sluggish. People are cautious. But it does not deter us from implementing our original plans as we see a strong revival going forward, probably in the next few months and of course for a longer period." The company launched two new products, Fiesta and EcoSport, last year as part of the eight products.
"To prove it further, we did not hold the investments ($1 billion) into our new plant at Sanand in Gujarat. In fact, the plant is getting ready for commercial operations by the year-end and we hope to roll out the first product from this plant by January 2015, which shows our commitment and long term growth prospects in India," Harris pointed out. He, however, declined to specify the range of products to be introduced in the next two to three years.
Denying that the company is overoptimistic about the Indian car market touching 7 million units by 2020 given the current market conditions, Harris said: "The economic indicators are strong and the size of Indian middle class is expected to grow to fuel the demand for cars. We strongly believe that the entry level segments, that of 'B' and 'B+', hold strong growth opportunity and we have seen the success of these segments with our Ford Figo and EcoSport — both on the domestic and export fronts."
"We are keen to tap these segments with more products and the 'Figo Concept' which was showcased at the recent Auto Expo, is an example," he added.
"One needs to remember what happened in China a few years ago — a similar situation. But when the market revived, growth has exceeded expectations and is currently a healthy double-digit. We expect a similar thing to happen in India as the current penetration level is so low," he said.
According to him, future products will be rolled out between the Chennai and Sanand plants. Like Chennai, the Sanand plant will have the flexi-engine plant, with a capacity of 270,000 units per annum. Post Sanand operations, Ford India can produce more than 6,00,000 engines per annum. Currently 40% of the engines produced at its Chennai plant are being exported.
On the EcoSport's performance and waiting period, Harris said: "We are working on how to bring down the waiting period. We are finding it difficult because of materials supply — both domestic and abroad. We have asked our vendors to spruce up supply."
The company has around 60,000 bookings as of now and nearly 40,000 units have been delivered.