Ford of Europe will not need to adjust its business in response to corporation’s renewed North American restructuring, FoE President and CEO John Fleming insisted at the Paris Auto Show. “The best thing we can do is focus on our commitment to a third year of profit and continue to deliver good products. We have already done restructuring and we don’t expect to do any more. All our plants are at 100-percent capacity or above,” he told just-auto.

“Yes we’re working with North American teams to see how we can help on a B or C-segment car for those markets, but it’s Mark Fields’ [Ford’s President, The Americas] decision,” he said.

He acknowledged that Mazda is close to deciding the 2007 Mazda2 model might be taken away from Ford’s Valencia, Spain, plant and built in Japan. But he said, “We can absorb that change. We can’t make enough Fiestas today. We can’t make enough Transits.”

He said that while Ford’s western European sales are down slightly, the company’s success in Russia and Turkey means overall 2006 sales are up 17,000 versus 2005.

Ford has a new focus on supplier relationships, Fleming said. “The suppliers said in no uncertain terms the relationships weren’t great. We needed to add transparency, work in partnership over material costs, listen and react.”

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The company introduced the new Mondeo in concept form at the Show. Fleming told just-auto that he was ‘conservative’ on volumes for the car because the non-premium CD-sector is in long-term decline. “We won’t ever get back to our CD peak with it.”

But Ford also now makes the Galaxy and S-Max models on the same architecture and the same line in Genk. “We can react to demand by flexing them,” said Fleming, and added that overall with the three models Ford’s CD sales total will approach the former best years.

“With the S-Max and Mondeo we’re not trying to move into the premium sector, just offer real style with real substance.” He said the S-Max is currently selling 50% conquest, and a very rich mix. Over 70% are the top Titanium trim level, and take-up of the top five-cylinder turbo gasoline engine has also been higher than planned.

Also at Paris the company showed the Iosis-X concept car, which loosely previews Ford C-segment crossover to be introduced in 2008. That car will be based on the Focus platform. It was originally planned for an earlier intro than 2008, but the cycle plan was reshuffled and it was put back.

Nissan, Mitsubishi, Renault and Honda all introduced crossovers in the segment at the show, and VW will soon have an entry. Asked whether the late entry would be a problem, Fleming said, “If it has the quality, driving quality and style I don’t think it matters that we’re late. It’s not a loyal market so if the product is right it will get customers. It’s nice to be first in a segment, as the S-Max is, but you can’t always be.”

Ford will also replace its ageing Ka minicar in 2008. It will be built by Fiat on Fiat’s Panda/new Cinquecento platform. “It will be positioned where the Ka is today, and will be strongly differentiated from the Fiats,” Fleming said.

Paul Horrell