The fortunes of Ford of Europe will in future be closely linked with those of Ford Motor Co’s Premier Automotive Group, according to Automotive News Europe.

Under Ford’s latest management changes Mark Fields, CEO of PAG, becomes executive vice president in charge of both Ford of Europe and PAG.

David Thursfield, Ford’s outgoing international operations chief, did not have time to oversee these two operations because he was also busy running global purchasing and Asia Pacific.

The first quarter showed both PAG and Ford of Europe were profitable, but not profitable enough.

Ford CEO Bill Ford didn’t want any more unpleasant surprises after Ford of Europe’s $US1.1 billion loss in 2003.

Fields will be based primarily in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, but will keep his London Ingeni studio office.

Ford’s leadership at Dearborn will now focus on Europe as a single entity.

Combined, all Ford brands including PAG models captured 11.8% of the European market for the first quarter. That share is lower than Ford brand alone had during its glory days.

There was a time when Ford of Europe was the cash cow of Ford Motor Co. As recently as the late 1980s, Ford of Europe delivered more than £1 billion profit to the parent company.

“The dividend back from Europe to Detroit was vital for funding global projects, effectively North American ones,” said Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Research at Cardiff University in Wales.

But times have changed. Ford has lost market share in Europe. Japanese and Korean competitors have gained. Competition is brutal. Despite a widely praised line-up of vehicles, Ford is just hanging on to its 9.2% of the market.