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Blue Oval's local hunting ground

Sub-Continental: Ford Australia-developed Fiesta covered 700,000km in testing, mostly on choppy Indian roads.

Having conquered New Delhi with its Fiesta, Ford Oz turns to other parts of Asia

Ford logo21 Dec 2005

FORD Australia is hunting for more engineering work within Ford’s global network after the success of its India car project.

The India car – a Ford Fiesta sedan codenamed B376 – took four years and thousands of man-hours to develop, with input from Ford of India.

Presenting the vehicle to Australian media last week, Ford Australia president Tom Gorman said the product development team was actively seeking new projects, although he declined to name them.

Nor would he confirm how much the India car cost, but GoAuto believes it was a $200 million project.

Mr Gorman said that to bid for the India work, Ford Australia had to "sell its wares" within the group, specifically against Ford of Europe. But its recent past successes made it a front-runner.

 center image"We’re a different company today because of a successful BA launch, a successful Territory launch, now a successful Indian Fiesta launch – each one of those is a building block in constructing a house of credibility," he said.

Mr Gorman said the product development team had "immense capability and credibility now so the selling process is a little bit easier".

He said the India car had helped raise the profile of Australian engineeringtalent "not just from a cost perspective, but from a delivery perspective".

Although the India Fiesta will not be sold here, some of the engineering work undertaken relating to noise, vibration and harshness will be adopted on European Fiestas and cars sold in Australia.

The engineering experience with body sealing has also been employed on the BF Falcon and Territory, according to B-car chief nameplate engineer, Murray Dietsch.

"It was quite an experience for everyone and I say that in a positive sense," he said.

It took Ford Australia four years and about 150 engineers to develop the Fiesta sedan, with design work undertaken by Ford Australia’s chief designer Simon Butterworth and his team.

Ford’s product development vice-president, Trevor Worthington, said the project was one of the most ambitious undertaken in Australia.

"It speaks volumes about our local skill level and expertise – we have been, in effect, exporting knowledge, know-how and skills developed through our own Falcon and Territory programs," he said.

By leveraging the product development team’s 750 workforce on offshore projects, Mr Worthington hoped to avoid the peaks and troughs of the local production cycles.

Visually the car looks similar to the Fiesta hatch, except for the boot, higherride height and high-profile tyres. Apart from the core engineering issues, the engineers also had to factor in the specific cultural demands of the Indian market.

These were:
* A special place for a religious icon on the dashboard
* A wading depth up to 450mm
* Enough front and rear headroom for a turban
* A "dog bar" behind the front bumper to stop impacts with India’s many stray dogs from damaging key engine components.

Ford Australia also imported 42,000 litres of Indian petrol – 87 RON – to make sure the car’s fuel calibration was compatible with its market.

Because more than 50 per cent of Fiesta sedans will be sold to families with a chauffeur, the car’s interior packaging reflects demands for a spacious rear seat.

The car’s suspension, wheels and dampers are all heavy-duty.

Ford of India expects to sell 40,000 Fiesta sedans next year with its key rivals the Hyundai Accent, Honda City, GM Corsa (Opel Barina sedan) and China-built Toyota Vios.

More than 700,000km of durability testing was undertaken, a large proportion of which was done in India.

"Indian roads are quite unlike anything we have in Australia. Whilst they are sealed, they are generally of a poor quality, featuring coarse, uneven ‘choppy’ surfaces," Mr Worthington said.

Climatic extremes also influenced the car’s design as it had to cope with searing summer temperatures and monsoonal floods.

"A capability for Fiesta to be able to operate in, or literally wade through flooded roads for a short distance, was a unique necessity," he said.

The Indian Ford Fiesta is available with either a 1.4-litre or 74kW/146Nm 1.6-litre Duratec petrol engine or all-alloy 50kW/160Nm 1.4-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine.

The car will be built at Ford’s Chennai plant and replaces the Ikon.

Although it has just gone on sale, Indian Ford dealers are holding a two-month order bank.

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