Peter Fleet

Peter Fleet

Ford forecasts that 'modest' economic growth in Europe will leave the European light vehicle market still under its last peak (in 2007) at the end of the decade.

Speaking to just-auto from Cologne, Peter Fleet, Vice President of Sales, Ford of Europe, said that Ford estimates the European light vehicle market at 14.6m* units in 2014, some 760,000 units ahead of 2013.

"We expect the European car market to continue to grow in 2015," Fleet said. "We are looking at a range of 14.8-15.3m."

Fleet also said that Ford projects a modest economic recovery for Europe that will take the European light vehicle market to 16-17m by the end of the decade. "That is still lower than the 18m units we saw in 2007," he said.

Fleet also acknowledged that competitive conditions remain extremely tough across Europe, where Ford is aiming to turn around its loss-making European subsidiary.

"It remains a fiercely competitive market environment. Manufacturers are taking very aggressive actions to achieve sales," he said. "It makes it a very challenging competitive environment for us and reinforces the need for us to focus on channel management for our sales. But 74% of our car sales in 2014 were to retail and fleet customers (the balance in the rental and demonstrator channels) 0 up one percentage point on the previous year. That 74% is ahead of the industry average. That is a good sign that, combined with the strength of our new products and the appeal of the Ford brand, we can get our value proposition right and gain share with real customers.

"It is easy to drive share up when channel mix is weak, but we have increased share while also focusing on the quality of the business we are doing and the channel mix."

Ford of Europe said it increased sales and gained market share in 2014 on strong demand for its new cars and commercial vehicles. Ford sold a total of 1.16m vehicles in its 20 traditional European markets in 2014, an increase of 7.3% over the previous year. Ford said its total vehicle market share in Europe rose by 0.2 percentage points to 8.0% in 2014 - its highest level since 2011. Ford remained Europe's No.2 top-selling vehicle brand in Europe.

Fleet said that in 2015, Ford will see the benefit of the "new [facelifted] Focus and new Mondeo, and the launch key new vehicles such S-MAX, C-MAX, and the all-new Mustang."

Fleet also confirmed that an all-new Ford Galaxy seven-passenger vehicle will go on sale in mid-2015.

* Ford of Europe reports its sales for the 20 European main markets where it is represented through National Sales Companies. The Euro 20 markets are: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland.