DYAN SENEVIRATNE chats with DAVID M. WESTERMAN, Managing Director, Ford Malaysia & Asia Pacific Emerging Markets
On 10th June 2014, Ford Motor Company celebrated the grand opening of its new, world-class facility in Colombo and a renewed focus on the Sri Lanka market. Encompassing its showroom, sales and service under one roof; indeed the new location strengthens the eminent global automaker’s presence in the island. This new facility includes a 12-vehicle, 6,000 sq. foot showroom and 14-vehicle service capacity to meet the full-range of customer needs. So, Ford has now come to stay in Sri Lanka.
David Westerman: Together with our partner, Future Automobiles, we are proud of this new facility that will help us to provide world-class service to our growing number of Ford customers in Sri Lanka. Every aspect of this facility has been designed to help provide an unmatched customer and ownership experience, with convenience, efficiency and comfort. Additionally, Ford is currently experiencing our largest expansion in more than 50 years and we anticipate that between 60-70% of our global growth by 2020 will occur in the Asia Pacific region, which includes the markets I currently represent – so it’s exciting times for Ford!
Dyan: Exciting indeed… All Ford lovers in Sri Lanka would cherish this moment. More so since Future Automobiles with construction of this 3S facility has followed Ford Motor Company’s aggressive expansion in Asia Pacific which is your ‘home territory’ – what’s the area specifically and how many markets do you oversee and what plans have you hatched for Ford Sri Lanka? David: It ranges with the 22 ‘Emerging Markets’ from Mongolia to Singapore to Sri Lanka and then extends all the way to French Polynesia – it’s a large swath of territory and is one of the best positions to be in with arguably the fastest growing automotive emerging markets and Ford is in the thick of this mix.
Dyan: What were your initial feelings? Were you apprehensive or gung ho about entering SL market?
David: [smiles] I was super gung ho and quite frankly, I should know why we aren’t doing even better than what we have been doing in Sri Lanka; of course we couldn’t have a better partner in Sri Lanka – in Ashok and Softlogic. Also Ford has our best product line up in decades, with three great passenger cars, three fantastic SUVs; a tried and tested commercial vehicle; a tough and hugely capable Pick-Up truck and an iconic sports car – a speedster which is due to be introduced to Sri Lanka next year; yes, let me reiterate with such a strong product line up, coupled with the launch of this world-class facility: the Ford Center would really be the take-off point for Ford in Sri Lanka. Once again I want to thank Ashok and his Softlogic Group for displaying such faith in our Ford Brand. There will be exciting times for Ford, its present and loyal customers and those who would embrace Ford: we’ll be there to serve all their automotive needs via this world-class centre not only in Colombo as we have planned to expand Ford’s service network island-wide with four additional service points that will further enhance the Ford ownership experience for customers throughout the length and breadth of this beautiful island.
Dyan: We are all thrilled with these developments. David, for the sake of our readers could you please be more specific with the Ford product range that has been introduced and what Ford hopes to bring soon?
David: The Ford showroom in Sri Lanka has already had a glimpse of the compact Figo, the globally acclaimed Fiesta and the all-new Ford Focus passenger cars; then the Ford Everest family SUV and the all-new Ranger Pick-Up truck – arguably the best Pick-Up currently and the workhorse Ford Transit van.
Dyan: There are also two fabulous mouth-watering SUVs I could see in this unique new Ford showroom
David: Yes, of course, I was just about to describe these two fantastic SUVs – let me do so now: the all-new Ford Kuga SUV features eye-catching new styling and design and is available in Titanium and Titanium Plus models, both equipped with Ford’s 1.6-litre’ EcoBoost’ engine that delivers surprising power and fuel efficiency. The Kuga is also equipped with a segment-leading safety package and an array of ‘smart-technologies’ including Ford’s ‘intelligent’ All-Wheel Drive system and Torque Vectoring Control for more precise handling; an unique voice-activated Ford SYNC connectivity & Keyless Entry…
Dyan: Indeed a tempting option for all with unimaginative SUVs to consider swapping with a Ford Kuga.
David [laughs] then there’s also the all-new Ford EcoSport that combines the agility, affordability and fuel efficiency of a compact car with the versatility and spaciousness of an SUV for an urban lifestyle.
Dyan: How would it fit in with the Sri Lankan market: demanding style, frugality, space and presence?
David: That’s an interesting question! Well the answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’! As it’s really a perfect match for the Sri Lankan market. This EcoSport urban SUV is spacious enough for five adults and their gear. With a high driving position, rugged capability, superior fuel economy, easy handling and smart features, the well rounded EcoSport is the right vehicle for both city streets and rough roads. It’s as comfortable wading through flooded areas as it entertains the driver with hands-free music selection & phone calls.
Dyan: That’s oodles of kit, capability & tech packaged in captivating designs – both the Kuga & EcoSport SUVs are sure bound to capture many Sri Lankan hearts and minds before long. I’ll keep an eye there! A point I wish to clarify where ‘EcoBoost’ power trains are concerned – will they be fitted to all models?
David: For the present the world-beating Eco-Boost engines would be available in the newly designed Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost with 123bhp, 66mpg or 26km/Lt and Kuga with 177bhp, 45mpg or 18km/Lt. Yes the award-winning EcoBoost technology will be fitted to more Ford models in the future as we go on.
Dyan: These are fantastic numbers; I could vouch – at least for the Fiesta and its incredibly smooth and surprising punch for a mere 3-cylinder 1.0litre engine as I personally drove on all possible roads in Ford organized ‘Media Drive’ in Chiang Mai Thailand. Will be etched in my mind forever. Amazing Ford Fiesta.
David: Yes, it has an astonishing engine; it’s the size of a carry-on bag, yet equipped with power, fuel efficiency and performance that’s mind boggling. No wonder it won back to back, Engine of the Year, both 2012 & 2013. In fact the same engine is on display along with unveiling of the new cars this evening
Dyan: The 126bhp coupled with at least 26km/Lit means that that the all-new Fiesta’s EcoBoost would thrash the claimed fuel efficiency of all ‘Hybrids’ currently on Sri Lankan streets. So bring it on Fiesta! David in your area of 22 markets – emerging markets, how many Ford models are available for sale?
David: Well there are as many as 40 name-plates; we strive to match the needs of the specific market with the numerous models on offer, yet by and large the best-selling Ford is the class-leading Ranger.
Dyan: Yes, the Ranger Wildtrack with its 3.2 litre and over 200bhp and 400 Newton Meters of torque is a brute of a Pick-Up – it’s incomparable, really.
David: It’s so versatile to take on whatever gradient; go through whatever rugged terrain in the jungles or cross water; whilst offering state-of-the-art technologies & comforts associated with a passenger car – a Pick-Up truck ‘at home’ off-road or visiting the swankiest restaurants in town – confirms why it’s one of the best-sellers in the Asia/Pacific region. The Ranger, like all Pick-Ups sold in the region is made in Ford’s facility in Thailand; yet coming right behind the Ranger is the Fiesta – the No.1 selling small car in the world and the Focus is the No. 1 selling vehicle overall in the world. So the Ranger, Fiesta and Focus are Ford’s best sellers. We at Ford are really proud of these achievements – over a long period of time; and we’ll improve these figures, even in Sri Lanka with even better models and smart technology we’ll be offering in the months ahead.
Dyan: We in Sri Lanka then are privileged to have Ford here. Coming back to the Asia/Pacific region, where are the countries that manufacture and export Fords?
David: Ford has three major manufacturing hubs, namely in China – essentially for their domestic market; India – much of it for domestic use but a growing number are now exported and of course Thailand, a major manufacturing hub which exports much of its production – Rangers and Fiestas. By the way Dyan, you must have noticed that huge billboard featuring the Ford Mustang by the side of this new Ford Center – that Mustang virtually jumps out of the billboard – it is so striking, to say the least isn’t it?
Dyan: That was going to be my next question: when will the Ford Mustang be introduced to Sri Lanka?
David: Well Ford has a 113 year racing pedigree that dates back to before the founding of the company, Ford boasts more than 1,000 NASCAR and 176 F1 victories. The most iconic speedster, without a doubt, is the Ford Mustang which epitomizes Ford’s DNA, will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, i.e. 1964 to 2014. To commemorate this, Ford Motor Company has confirmed that the iconic Ford Mustang will come to Sri Lanka next year. This will be the most advanced Mustang yet, with a sleek new design for the fastback and convertible, the car is backed by world-class performance and state-of-the-art connectivity technologies. It will be introduced in 110 Ford markets across the globe and Sri Lanka will be one of them! Truly the Mustang is the perfect fit for Sri Lanka’s well known love of motor racing. We can’t wait to launch this iconic car in Sri Lanka. With your splendid highways, it will be a dream to drive! The Mustang will be available with two engine options – namely a 305bhp V6 and a stunning 500bhp V8!
Dyan: That’ll be the day: to see, touch and indeed drive the Mustang on Sri Lankan roads! On behalf of Motor magazine… I could say that we are also thrilled that a world renowned automotive brand such as Ford has further fortified its presence here by launching this wonderful 3S facility and along with Suminda De Silva at the helm as CEO we could look forward to some exciting days ahead both for Ford and Softlogic’s Future Automobiles. David it has been a wonderful privilege and pleasure to have met and spoken to you and being privy to all such marvelous news regarding Ford!
David: I must thank you for coming over and conducting this punchy and engaging interview which I enjoyed very much as it elicited so much that I had to say – you did it very well indeed. Thank you.