SANAND, India (AFP) -US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday toured a state-of-the-art $1 billion Ford Motor company plant due to open in western India, which will double the American automaker’s annual output in the country.
On the second day of a short visit to the western Indian state of Gujarat, Kerry aimed to highlight the keenness of US businesses to invest in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi vows to reform the world’s third largest economy.
The plant at Sanand will be Ford’s second in India and the first vehicles and engines are due to roll off the assembly line by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It will eventually produce 50 cars an hour in a process that will be 95 per cent automated.
Ford has been keen to produce small cars in India both for the domestic market and for export, mostly to Africa and Eastern Europe.
The 460-acre (186-hectare) Sanand plant will provide some 5,000 local jobs, adding to Ford’s current workforce in India of some 11,500 people.
On Sunday Modi promised “truly unlimited” reforms to make India’s economy a global powerhouse. He was speaking at an international investment conference in Gujarat also attended by Kerry.
Kerry told workers at the plant that with Ford’s two plants something like 30,000 jobs would be created, some of them indirectly by boosting local suppliers.
“You are defining the future for India, the United States and the world” he said, adding that his family owns a Ford hybrid.
“More and more people are now gaining purchasing power because, as the jobs grow, the economy grows, more and more trade takes place, more and more people who have been locked in poverty for too long are… able to be part of the global economy.”
Kerry had told Sunday’s conference that the US was looking forward to stronger trade and diplomatic ties with India, with American companies primed for more investment.
“I can’t think of a moment in all my years in public life when our destinies are converging as significantly as they are today,” said Kerry.
The Sanand plant will be able to make up to 240,000 vehicles a year, and 270,000 engines.
That will double Ford’s capacity in India to some 610,000 engines and 440,000 vehicles and expand exports to cover nearly 50 markets over the next five years.
But in a sign that millions of Indians still live in abject poverty, Kerry’s motorcade heading to the Sanand plant passed scores of shanty homes along the roadside.
Cows, goats and other livestock jostled for space with teeming crowds in small towns as the top diplomat whizzed by.