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J. Walter Thompson Co.'s heightened global focus on its Ford Motor Co. business is paying off.

Ford has told JWT it will handle the automaker's entry into the rapidly growing market in India. The assignment won't be official until Ford inks a deal with India's Mahindra & Mahindra for the joint production of small cars based on Ford's European Escort and Fiesta models.

JWT also is working with Ford on its attempt to win entry to the burgeoning Chinese auto market, which could lead to another assignment if Ford can successfully negotiate a joint deal there with a Chinese automaker and the government.

In addition, the agency last month assigned a representative to each of Ford's five vehicle program centers in the U.S. and Europe, where all future Ford cars and trucks will be developed for the world.

JWT's role will be to "represent the voice of the customer" to vehicle engineers and designers, said Peter Schweitzer, JWT corporate president and worldwide head of the agency's 30-country, estimated $650 million Ford account.

Donald Topping, senior partner-exec management director, has been assigned to head a strategic services unit that gets JWT involved in merchandising, direct marketing and event marketing projects for Ford.

The moves are being directed out of Detroit, headquarters for a "global business unit" established by JWT to consolidate its efforts for Ford (AA, Jan. 23).

For the India account, for instance, JWT management in Detroit will select and oversee staff who will work on the assignment out of JWT's Bombay office.

Ford plans to join with Mahindra & Mahindra to build small cars based on Ford European Escort and Fiesta models.

Ford isn't the only automaker increasing its global focus.

Shirley Young, a General Motors Corp. marketing executive who was born in Shanghai, China, is returning to her homeland to help develop the consumer market there.

Ms. Young, 60, will keep her post as VP-consumer market development for North America while taking on additional duties as adviser to Rudolph Schlais, a GM VP who is president of GM China Operations.

GM is competing with Ford for a sedan and minivan product deal in Shanghai.

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