Even as the first Figo rolled out of its assembly line at Maraimalai Nagar near here, Ford India has said that the domestic public launch of the much-awaited small car will happen before the first quarter of 2010.

Addressing a press conference post-roll out of the first vehicle, Michael Boneham, President and Managing Director of Ford India, expressed the optimism that the full capacity of the plant would be used up in five to six years.

With Figo production just going on stream, Ford India plant has a capacity to churn out two lakh units a year, up from one lakh vehicles. Simultaneously, Ford India has commenced production of Ford Figo 1.2 litre petrol engine at its 40,000-sq. ft. flexible state-of-the-art engine-making facility at Maraimalai Nagar. The facility is capable of churning out 10 different engines.

Ford, it may be recalled, has committed an investment of $500 million for its small car project and for the engine facility. Mr. Boneham said 90 per cent of the money had already used up by the Indian subsidiary of Ford Motors.

Ford India said it would launch 1.2 litre petrol and 1.4 litre diesel versions of Figo. With the new engine plant going into production, the engine capacity of Ford India will go up to 2.50 lakh a year from the existing 60,000. Seventy-nine per cent of the diesel engine parts and 60 per cent of the petrol engine components are sourced locally. Ford Figo will have 85 per cent local content.

Raj Nair, Vice-President of Ford Motor (Asia Pacific and Africa operations), said the engine facility at Maraimalai Nagar “is an investment-efficient location”. He said Ford India would also be exporting engines to South Africa and ASEAN.

Mr. Boneham reiterated that post-Figo roll-out Ford India would launch a new product every 12-18 months. To a question, he indicated that Ford India’s new launches could focus on the dominant segment of the Indian market, that is, small car which comprised 70 per cent of the market. “If you have to be a main player in India, you have to be there (in the small car segment),” he said.

Mr. Nair said Ford could make incremental investments in the country as the Indian subsidiary progressively launched new products in the market.

Mr. Boneham said Figo was conceived with an eye on the domestic market. Nevertheless, he indicated that Figo could be exported to countries such as South Africa as early as middle of 2010. To a query, he said Ford India would export fully-built units. On the Figo price, the Managing Director said that it would be competitively priced. He declined to bet on sales numbers for Figo. Mr. Nair said, “We don’t determine the sales volume. It is determined by the customers.”