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Ford confirms new Indian small car for Oz

Local ingenuity: The highly-successful Ford Figo was developed in Australia from the previous-generation Fiesta for the Indian market.

New small car to emerge from Ford in India in January, before its Australian release

4 Oct 2011

FORD Motor Company will use the 2012 New Delhi Auto Expo on January 5 to stage the global reveal of a new small car that will be introduced in Australia.

The new model is likely to have been developed by Ford Australia – the “go-to guys” for low-cost vehicle development for the Blue Oval.

GoAuto understands Ford Australia has been leading the design and engineering of a new compact vehicle for production in India where Ford already makes the super-successful Figo that was developed in Australia from the previous-generation Fiesta.

Ford will not reveal details of the new car, but Ford Australia public affairs director Sinead Phipps has confirmed it will join the Ford model range Down Under after its debut in India.

“Ford will use the New Delhi motor show to reveal a new model that it can confirm will be sold in Australia,” she told GoAuto.

As we have previously reported, Ford Australia is also leading the development of a still-secret new light car for China.

It is not clear if the Indian and Chinese vehicles are related, but it now seems clear that Ford Australia is responsible for designing and engineering volume-selling small cars for the world’s two most populous nations.

27 center imageFrom top: Suzuki Alto, Holden Barina Spark, Nissan Micra, Volkswagen Up, Chery J1.

Apart from providing Ford Australia with a new price watermark below its Thai-made Fiesta ($16,990), the new Indian-sourced model would rival cut-price B-segment models such as Nissan’s Thai-built Micra ($12,990), as well as a host of Chinese imports like the Chery J1 ($11,990 driveaway) and others to come from Geely and Great Wall.

India’s Ford Australia-designed model could be related to the Figo hatch, which was engineered in Broadmeadows by Ford and launched to critical acclaim in March 2010 in India, where it defeated Volkswagen’s Vento and Polo and the Skoda Yeti to be named 2011 Car of the Year.

Based on Ford’s previous-generation Fiesta and manufactured in Chennai, the Figo notched up more than 60,000 sales in the remainder of last year, increasing Ford sales in India by 185 per cent in 2010.

The Figo now accounts for almost three quarters of Ford sales in India, and was earmarked for at least 48 export markets in 2011, including South Africa. By the end of this year it will also be available in Mexico, the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean.

Sales are now approaching the 100,000 mark, making the Figo Ford’s most successful model in India.

Ford Australia’s new Indian-built model could be an upgraded version of the Figo, featuring more safety equipment and more advanced engines to meet more stringent emissions standards in western markets including Australia, or it could be an all-new model based on the latest-generation Fiesta.

In addition to the Figo, Ford’s Australian engineers were responsible for producing the T6 platform that underpins the Blue Oval’s redesigned Ranger one-tonne utility, which is now being rolled out across about 180 markets globally, including Australia.

The company is now developing an SUV off the same platform, to compete with the likes of the Nissan Pathfinder and Mitsubishi Challenger.

The Figo and T6 projects have helped establish Australia as the centre of low-cost vehicle development for Ford globally.

Ford Australia general marketing manager David Katic told GoAuto at the upgraded WT Fiesta launch last December that Ford was “looking very closely at that sub-$15,000 area – but we won’t get anything in Australia in the next 12 to 18 months”, making a local release date likely in the second half of next year.

“Clearly there’s always an opportunity there (with Figo), but you have got to get the right car at the right price,” said Mr Katic at the time.

Dubbed the Value Enabled Strategy and devised with the help of Australian engineers and designers, it enables vehicles within the One Ford global framework to be remade relatively inexpensively, meeting low-price goals of certain markets without the vehicle losing key brand attributes common to all Fords.

At the New York motor show in April, Ford’s group vice-president of global product development Derrick Kuzak described the team at Broadmeadows were now the ‘go-to guys’ for low-cost vehicle development.

The new Ford small car is likely to be one of at least two new Indian-made vehicles to land in Australia in 2012, with Mahindra confirming its new global SUV, the XUV500, will being heading our way within six months.

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