DELHI — Wonder if Henry Ford ever thought he’d need to learn Hindi, or any of the other 30-some languages spoken in India?

The fact is, the subcontinent remains a vexing market for the iconic American automaker.

Ford entered India 14 years ago, but has been on a bumpy road ever since: in 2008, the company sold 30,000 cars — 10,000 fewer than in 2007. “There’s always been a high level of expectation with the brand to become bigger in the market than it is at this stage,” said a blunt Nigel E. Wark, the head of marketing, sales and service for Ford India.

But that might be about to change. The company’s commitment to India remains strong, Wark said. It’s pledged a $500 million investment in the country and is still on track to live up to that, despite its economic woes in the U.S.

The big mystery — and big hope — for the company is the “small car” it says it will be launching in 2010. This is finally the model that Ford feels will be the properly “localized” ideal that has otherwise eluded it here. Wark said the small car will be perfectly suited for Indian motorists: It will be priced in the entry level segment (reportedly about $7,500) and will be produced in large quantities not only for India, but also for export to other Asian countries, at the automaker’s sprawling 200,000-capacity manufacturing plant in the south Indian city of Chennai.

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