DEARBORN, Mich. - Stephen Odell, executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa (MEA), sat down with key U.S. media Wednesday and provided an update on Ford of Europe and MEA through the first half of 2014, as well as a look into the remainder of the year.
"I’d like to start by saying we are very pleased with where we are on our European transformation plan which focuses on product, brand and cost," Odell said. On the first point regarding product, Odell reconfirmed that Europe is on point to meet the "at least 25 new products in five years" plan.
"And these are major programs too, not just minor refreshes," Odell said.
Launches that took place in the first half of 2014 included Ford Transit, Transit Courier and Ford Tourneo Courier. The excitement continues in the second half with the new Ford Focus family – including a diesel ST variant for the first time – the Ford Mondeo range, and two electrified vehicles, the Mondeo Hybrid and C-MAX Energi PHEV.
Odell added that Ford Kuga production has been ramped up to meet demand and the first 500 Ford Mustangs reserved within the first 30 seconds of becoming available even though pricing had not yet been released.
Despite the rush to reserve a Mustang, Odell made sure to clarify it is not the volume of sales that any one product delivers that matters most right now, rather it’s the continued profitable growth of the entire fleet that will set Ford apart from the competition in Europe.
Odell also commented on the success of the 1.0-liter EcoBoost® in Europe noting one-third of all Focus and Ford Fiesta sales in Europe are equipped with the 1.0-liter. The 1.0-liter EcoBoost was recently awarded the International Engine of the Year award for an unprecedented third consecutive year.
All of these positives have resulted in a 6.6 percent increase in year-over-year sales for Europe, slightly ahead of the industry average, with more details provided in the Ford of Europe sales press release that also was released Wednesday.
In regards to the Middle East and Africa business unit, Odell said that there would be a significant Go Further event taking place in South Africa on July 17th that was sure to deliver some exciting product news.
Following his brief summary, Odell responded to questions from the media. Below are some of the questions he addressed.
Q. Will Chevrolet’s departure from Europe impact Ford’s business?
A. "The market in Europe is still very competitive. Having one less competitor helps but is not expected to have a significant impact on Ford’s business."
Q. Southern Europe seems to continue to struggle – what are your thoughts on the various regions?
A. "Spain and Italy are starting to ramp up. Germany has flattened in the last few weeks. The U.K. looks strong. The issue inhibiting a faster recovery is unemployment. The unemployment rate is above 20 percent in some areas and can be more than 30 percent for people under the age of 30. These fundamentals need to improve before we will see more significant growth."
Q. Can you provide a summary of MEA performance and challenges?
A. "In MEA it is important to notice and recognize the fundamental differences in regions," Odell said citing the political and labor unrest in various regions. "But these areas offer fantastic opportunities too. We already get five-six percent market share in MEA, but the good news for MEA going forward will be that we have the trucks and crossovers that are popular now but that we also have the more fuel efficient options we think they will be looking for in the future as regulations similar to CAFÉ begin to arise."
Q. What could derail Ford’s European success?
A. "Clearly, Europe has not recovered as fast as the rest of the world from the economic crisis. No one predicted the events of 2007, but our goal is to face reality, know what’s going on (politically, economically) externally, and be prepared to adjust accordingly."
Q. Is there a push for electrification of cars in Europe?
A. "Look at the fuel efficiency we have been able to get from petrol and diesel. Look at the demand in the market. Electrified vehicles represent about 5-6 percent of the market. The good news for us is we can source and offer all of these technologies through our vehicles so we don’t have to be dedicated to one technology. We have a good balance."