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Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally is expected to announce in India today that the automaker will build a new small car there, the Ford Figo, for sale in India and for export within the Asia-Pacific region and to Africa.

On Friday, Mulally will be in China to break ground for Ford’s third factory in that country.

The moves reflect Ford’s growing commitment to two of the fastest-growing auto markets.

Ford had said it would build a new small car in India, but had not identified the model. The Figo, a four-door hatchback, will be built in Ford facilities near Chennai. A $500 million expansion to support the Figo doubled capacity to 200,000 annually and added engine-building capability.

India will be the sole source of the Figo. Ford already builds the Ford Ikon there, the Fusion (a smaller hatchback designed for India), the previous-generation Fiesta and the Endeavor SUV, plus diesel engines for the vehicles.

Ford of India was established as a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra in 1995 to build the Ford Escort. Ford wants to establish the Chennai plant as a regional center of excellence for small-car engineering and production. Small cars represent 70 percent of auto sales in India, which is marked by congested urban driving conditions.

The Ford Figo “shows how serious we are about India,” Mulally said in a statement. “It reflects our commitment to compete with great products in all segments of this car market.”

The Figo shares some underpinnings with the Fiesta, but is slightly smaller, said Ford spokesman Todd Nissen. Although the Figo’s design was to be unveiled in Delhi today, Ford is keeping many details under wraps until closer to the car’s production launch early next year. One detail being shared: Figo means “cool” in colloquial Italian.

The Chennai plant introduces green techniques such as a new paint process that applies primer, base and clear coats without curing until the end, reducing emissions by about 20 percent.

A second engine plant is under construction to build gasoline and diesel engines for vehicles sold in India, Asia Pacific and Africa. Production will begin later this year, giving Chennai the capacity to build 250,000 engines annually.



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