Ford will import the EcoSport compact crossover from India for Europe (which means both left- and right hand drive) where it will compete in a growing, but increasingly crowded segment, the automaker’s European chief said.
The vehicle will be launched in Europe in late 2013.
Reuters said the EcoSport is a key part of Ford’s strategy to hold its market share in Europe, where an economic downturn has sent vehicle sales tumbling. Ford is expanding its SUV lineup and aims to sell 1m SUVs in Europe by around 2017.
“I’ve seen competitive models, some winning European car awards, launched at extremely high discounts,” Odell said.
“There’s clearly more margin in some segments than in others, which is why we think our new products enable us to get better retail share which means better margins,” he added.
The crossover segment, a rare growth spot in Europe, enjoys better profit margins than other models, which will help Ford in years ahead. The EcoSport’s rivals in the segment include Nissan’s Juke, the Korean Chevy Trax/Opel Vauxhall Mokka and the Renault Captur launched in Geneva.
This vehicle strategy is one part of Ford’s broad restructuring plan for Europe, which also calls for the closure of a major assembly plant in Genk, Belgium, and two smaller factories in Britain, Reuters noted.
Ford also is aiming to hold its European market share this year without discounting too deeply. But that may be difficult to do if the market deteriorates further.
“We are still predicting that our share will be broadly the same as our share last year,” Odell said.
But, he added: “Share is interesting, but share doesn’t pay the bills. You have to have a business that’s profitable.”
Odell said the European market is now “running along the bottom” of Ford’s full-year forecast.
In January, Ford sales slumped 22%, worse than the 9% decline for the industry overall in 19 European countries, according to the automaker’s data. The company also lost market share in many markets, including the United Kingdom.
Odell said Ford’s lagging performance was due to the low availability of large sedans, model changeovers and Ford’s push to sell more vehicles to consumers, rather than relying on fleet sales or demonstration models.