By Jeff Gilbert, CBS Detroit
FRANKFURT (WWJ) – As the big Frankfurt auto show opens to the public, Ford says it’s greatly expanding its product plans in Europe.
“It’s now 25 new vehicles, with the same new starting point, September of last year, through to the five year period,” says Ford of Europe President Stephen Odell.
New products, says Odell, can command higher prices, especially in a difficult market like Europe.
“I won’t be specific about what we added, but it does really prove that when you’ve got the portfolio to leverage, you can go in and pick things that are really appropriate,”said Odell.
Ford is showing a new S-Max at the Frankfurt show, which will hold its press preview days on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, before opening to the public on Thursday. Ford also has a new Mondeo with a Europe only Vignale trim. That’s a special upscale designation for people who want something more high end.
“We’re very comfortable that the Ford bandwidth in Europe has the opportunity to move up, without becoming something else.”
Barb Samardzich, Vice President of Product Planning for Ford of Europe says it’s important to have the product available when sales rebound.
“The economy will turn around,” she said. “We have to keep the investment up in our product lines.”
Another issue in Europe, says Samardzich, is the fact that the downturn is uneven. The German market, for example remains relatively strong, while Greece, Spain and Portugal are seeing much more difficult times.
Overall, Ford’s view is, at the very least, the steep declines in the European car market have ended.
“A number of key indicators are doing more than suggesting, indicating, that we are at bottom, and maybe there’s upward light at the end of the tunnel,” said Odell.
Odell says Ford is committed to making a profit in Europe in 2015.
But, Odell says in a market that’s fallen significantly over five years, recovery doesn’t come overnight.
“It’s great that it looks like it’s flattening off. But, remember it’s five million units less than it was in 2008. Believe me, I’ll get excited about signs of recovery. But, we also have to realize how far it’s fallen.”