Ford sees indications of stronger British economy

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A STRONGER British economy will help Ford Motor to improve on its dismal European results this year, Alex Trotman, president of the US car giant, said yesterday.

Speaking in Detroit, Mr Trotman said: 'The UK was the first European economy to go into recession and may be the first to come out.'

Mr Trotman, who is in line to succeed Harold Poling as chief executive when he retires later this year, added: 'The British recession has been particularly hard on us because it is our largest market.'

There are indications of a turnaround in the UK, he said, although the 1993 outlook for Europe as a whole 'is for no or low economic growth - a difficult year with not much looking bright in any of the markets'.

His upbeat assessment came as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders prepared to publish figures showing that car sales continued their strong rally in December.

The figures, which are due to be released tomorrow, are expected to show that sales last month rose 30 per cent on their level a year ago, leaving registrations for the year unchanged at about 1.59 million.

The modest revival in car sales since the late summer has encouraged analysts and industry observers to speculate that recovery will be stronger this year than had been expected.

Ford, however, is thought to have ended what has been a miserable year by losing its UK market leadership in December for the first time in eight years, falling into second place behind Rover.

In the late 1980s the UK was Ford's most profitable and important European market. But in 1991 Ford plunged to an operating loss of pounds 523m in the UK and last year's results are expected to be even worse.

Ford is pinning its hopes for a better 1993 on the new Mondeo 'world car', which is launched today.

The car, a replacement for the Sierra, will go on sale in the UK in March.

(Photograph omitted)