Ford CEO Alan Mulally hosted a new model extravaganza in Amsterdam for thousands of dealers and journalists at which he outlined how the implementation of the company’s “One Ford” programme would be accelerated in Europe.
Under “One Ford”, Mulally has striven drastically to reduce complexity in Ford’s business, in particular by reducing the number of platforms and separate models the company uses in different regions of the world. The proportion of “global” as opposed to Europe-specific cars sold here is expected to rise from 43 per cent to 71 per cent in five years as dozens of all-new models and variants on existing products are flooded onto the market. The initiative represents an aggressive, up-beat, even defiant response to the weak state of the European automotive sector from which Ford itself has not been immune. As a platform for new model announcements, the Amsterdam event, held under the banner of Ford’s “Go Further” slogan probably has few rivals in the history of the European motor industry.
Mulally and other members of his senior management team also emphasised the role that technology would play in improving the performance of the company’s cars, highlighting innovations such as the impressive 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, the launch of SYNC voice recognition technology in Europe and MyKey under which parents can limit aspects of their car’s performance before letting inexperienced teenage drivers loose at the wheel.
All three of these innovations will be available in the first car Ford presented at Amsterdam, the updated Fiesta. There, the company said the 1.0-litre EcoBoost should produce a 20% improvement in fuel consumption, but also announced that the Fiesta would get a normally aspirated version of the 1.0-litre with outputs of 65 and 80 horsepower. Also seen at Amsterdam for the first time: the new Fiesta ST. With its 182PS engine, that’s expected to be good for an acceleration time from rest to 100km/h of 6.9 seconds.
Next up was the handsome all-new Mondeo, which Ford showed off in four and five door as well as estate versions. Ford has high hopes for this model which will offer innovations such as inflatable rear seat-belts. But the big news is that the new Mondeo will adopt the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, testing the limits of engine downsizing in big cars. There will also be a Mondeo hybrid that will join the electric Focus and C-Max Energi to form a complete line-up of fords with alternative drivetrains.
In the SUV sector, Ford showed off the new Kuga but also confirmed that it would in future sell a family of SUVs in Europe, where this is the only segment that is really showing any growth. Slotting in below the Kuga within the next eighteen months will be the intriguing EcoSport (which will get the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine). The EcoSport was first introduced in Latin America in 2003 but the latest version has been developed as a global product for wider sale under “One Ford”. Final specifications for Europe have not been settled yet but there was an EcoSport at Amsterdam; it shares the stylish global Ford “family look” but there was a feeling that cabin trim might need to be smartened up a bit in order to appeal to European customers. The Ford SUV range in Europe will in future be rounded out to the top by the US Edge model and the company is aiming for SUV sales of one million in Europe in the next six years.
And one final surprise on the car side – Ford confirmed that its popular US performance model, the Mustang, will come to Europe.
Ford will also completely renew its commercial vehicle range by turning the Transit from a single model line into a range of vehicles. The current Transit will be replaced by two separate vehicles – a full-size Transit that will replace larger versions of today’s model of that name in Europe, as well as many of Ford’s North American vans, and the Transit Custom, which will replace the smaller vehicles in the today’s Transit line-up. They will be joined by a third Transit, the smaller Transit Connect
There will also be a distinct range of Tourneo people-carrier models, distinct from the car-based B-Max, C-Max and S-Max; while based on the commercial vehicle lines, they are likely to be much more car-like than previous van-based vehicles of this type – at least if the initial experience of the Tourneo version of the new Transit Custom is anything to go by. Besides the Transit Custom Tourneo there will be a Tourneo version of the Transit Connect, and also of a new smaller vehicle the Courier; this was shown in people-carrying form at Amsterdam but should turn up as a straight van as well.
The new model plans appeared to be well received by the Ford dealers who made up the bulk of the audience at Amsterdam yesterday, although there were some calls for more smaller and affordable models. Dealers will also be called upon to play their part in delivering greater success for Ford in Europe, which wants them to move away from a traditional “transactional” relationship with car buyers in favour of “customer engagement”.