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Ford India managing director Philip Spending
"We created unique features"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 17:57 GMT
India prepares for Ford icon
The Ford Ikon: Designed with the Indian consumer in mind The Ford Ikon: Designed with the Indian consumer in mind

American motor giant Ford has launched the first car designed specifically for India, in an effort to grab a major share of the country's growing auto market.

The Ford Ikon was unveiled in the capital, Delhi. Company officials said they recognised that global models would not necessarily work in the Indian market which needed a more tailored car.

The Ikon is an expression of all that we have learnt in India
Ford CEO Jacques A Nasser
"We have made our mistakes and learnt quickly," president and chief executive officer, Jacques A Nasser, said.

"We have put in a lot of effort to reposition ourselves," he told the media at the launch.

Ford first entered the Indian market in November 1995, with its popular Escort model. But sales failed to take off, with only about 15,000 cars sold each year.

Company officials said they decided to design a car bearing in mind the cost-conscious Indian market and the poor quality of local roads.

Specific needs

Based loosely on the Ford Fiesta, the Ikon has many extra features to take account of the fact that Indians who can afford its $10,000 price tag would probably use a chauffeur.

Congratulating the first Ikon owner Congratulating the first Ikon owner
Designers examined various local factors and conditions. Ford India managing director Philip Spending told the BBC that a product manager even sat in the back seat wearing a turban, to check height specifications.

The Ikon is aimed at the mid-size car market, which is fiercely competitive. Honda, Mitsubishi, Fiat, Hyundai and General Motors all have models in the same category.

The best selling car in the class is produced by Maruti Udyog Ltd, a joint venture between Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp and the Indian Government.

Growing market

Mr Spending said his company would look to sell at least 20,000 cars by the end of 2000.

Car sales in India have picked up recently, after a stagnant period, as the economy has improved.

The Ikon is produced in Ford's Indian plant, based in the southern city of Madras.

"Our factory in Madras has an annual production capacity of 100,000 cars so India will be a major export hub," Mr Spending said.

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