NEW DELHI – Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday launched an all-new EcoSport, a global compact sports utility vehicle, and said it will invest $142 million in the company's Chennai plant in south India to manufacture the model for the domestic and export markets.
The EcoSport is the second of eight new global models that Ford plans to launch in India, the company said in a statement, as it targets Asian and African markets in a push to increase annual global sales to 8 million vehicles by 2015.
Ford will invest $142 million in its 200,000 vehicles-a-year plant in Chennai, where the carmaker builds its Figo and Fiesta models, to buy equipment required to manufacture the EcoSport, said Michael Boneham, managing director of Ford India.
The EcoSport will also be produced in Brazil and other markets to be announced at a later time.
It will eventually be sold in nearly 100 markets worldwide.
The new EcoSport was engineered at the Ford Development Center in Camaçari, Brazil, one of the automaker's most specialized hubs for compact car development.
Ford said the EcoSport will also mark the India debut of its new 3-cylinder, 1-liter EcoBoost engine.
The all-new engine will be made available in Ford models sold in China, Europe, North America and other regions.
The EcoSport was first launched in South America in 2003 as the region's first affordable SUV. Ford said it has sold more than 700,000 units in nine years.
Ford, which sold just under 100,000 cars in India in 2011, a rise of 15 percent from the previous year, has said it expected Asian sales volumes to double to account for a third of the carmaker's global sales by 2020.
"The Indian market will be the third largest by the end of the decade behind the U.S. and China," Joe Hinrichs, group vice-president and Asia Pacific and Africa president told reporters.
"We are still bullish on India and we expect significant growth as per capita income rises in tier-II and -III cities."
India's car sales, which grew 30 percent in the year that ended in March 2011, are expected to be flat in the current financial year, an industry body said last month, as high interest rates and rising input costs bite.
The 2012 India Auto Expo, held once every two years, begins on Thursday in New Delhi.