Ford of Europe Chairman, Nick Scheele, today announced his plans to return the company to profit by 2001.

Speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Montreux, Switzerland, he confirmed a five-year plan, featuring the launch of nine new or facelift models each year, to spearhead the company's drive for sustained profitable growth in Europe.

Supporting this new model offensive, Nick Scheele pledged clearer and more effective brand communication.

"Our European management and workforce know this is the time for action," said Nick Scheele, "and we are responding at many levels to bring Ford of Europe back to profit by 2001. Our design and development teams are working flat out to bring more exciting models to market. But beyond this dynamic cycle plan, we believe we need clearer values behind the blue oval and we are working on a far more appealing consumer package," he added.

Scheele announced a further $1billion cost reduction target by the end of 2001. "Significant steps have already been taken to improve efficiency in Europe, including a reduction in over-capacity and fixed costs," he said. "Although the company still faces a significant challenge in terms of asset utilisation, we will not try to save our way to success. Our transformation will be driven by a flow of exciting new products and technology, but we will accelerate our cost reduction activity and improve our efficiency by 50 per cent by the end of next year."

More efficient, flexible and versatile distribution was a further key element of Ford's new business strategy. With the pan-European dealer network remaining at the core of Ford's distribution systems, Scheele announced a drive for improved efficiency, with fewer direct dealers operating larger territories. Streamlining had already taken place at national level, he said, by combining regional back-office functions in Nordic, Benelux and Central Europe markets.

He also plans to harness the strength of Ford's global e-commerce partnerships and pledged early new e-initiatives to help shape the changing face of consumer demand.

"The consumer is central to our transformation plans in Europe," he added. "In addition to our exciting new model cycle plans, we will develop smart new ways to do business and provide top satisfaction. By 2005 we aim to lead the industry in consumer satisfaction."

"Ford is committed to becoming the world's leading consumer company providing automotive products and services," said Nick Scheele, "and we in Europe will play a leading role in this strategy."