Automotive: after the departure of Ford, the end of the Indian mirage

The news, which fell on September 9, had a crushing effect on Vijay Bapodra and his colleagues. The Ford plant in Sanand, located in Gujarat (western India), and for which these workers have been working for years, will definitively close its doors on December 31, 2021. More than twenty-five years after entering the market. the Indian market, the American manufacturer throws in the towel.

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In Sanand, around 1,200 workers risk losing their livelihood before the end of the year if the company sticks to its plan. By the second quarter of 2022, factories in Chennai, southern India, will also be shut down, this time threatening to lay off more than 2,600 workers. In total, the exit of Ford could lead to the disappearance of 35,000 to 40,000 jobs in the automotive industry, a sector which represents more than 7% of the gross domestic product of the South Asian giant and generates around 35 million jobs.

In two decades, Ford has failed to capture more than 2% of the passenger vehicle market in India

“Even in our worst nightmares, we never imagined that a company like Ford could close”, sighs Vijay Bapodra, who is also the chairman of the Karnavati Kamdar Ekta Sangh, a union that represents 850 Ford workers. However, the iconic automaker has racked up more than two billion dollars (1.8 billion euros) in losses over the past ten years and, in two decades, has failed to capture more than 2% of the market. passenger vehicles in India.

“Despite our efforts, we have not been able to find a sustainable path to profitability including the manufacture of vehicles in the country”, Anurag Mehrotra said on September 9 while still managing director of Ford India. A few days later, he joined the Indian manufacturer Tata Motors. A hard blow for the employees who remain on the sidelines.

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“We have been working in this factory since it opened its doors”, emphasizes Vijay Bapodra. The farmer’s son, from Porbandar, nearly 400 kilometers away, landed his first job at Ford in 2015. “Many factory workers are children of peasants and we thought we had a bright future thanks to Ford, but now we risk having to go back to work in the fields”, dreads the young man of 29, wearing a sky blue shirt stamped “Ford”.

Six-year low

At the entrance to the factory, the display case, which used to accommodate an exhibition car, is already empty. The bad weather conditions completely erased the logo from the panel, like a bad omen. With the launch of the Sanand complex in 2015, Ford nevertheless had the ambition to produce for India and for the world. The State of Gujarat imagined itself in « Detroit if », in reference to the former American automobile capital. Six years later, Ford is far from exploiting all of its production capacities supposed to allow it to assemble 440,000 vehicles per year. “Since October, we have only been producing parts. We have stopped assembling cars. It’s already the end ”, notes Anil Zala, one of the employees of the Sanand plant.

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Automotive: after the departure of Ford, the end of the Indian mirage

The Inside News Hyderabad