* Ford adds crossover, upscale versions to Fiesta lineup
* Ford Europe sales may drop 5.2 pct to 1.4 mln by 2025 -IHS
* Ford to start testing autonomous cars in Europe in 2017
COLOGNE, Germany, Nov 30 Ford wants to
raise profitability in Europe by adding higher-margin versions
of the Fiesta subcompact, its best-selling regional model, the
carmaker's top European executive said.
High-volume carmakers such as Ford have for several years
been squeezed in a downmarket expansion by luxury rivals
including Daimler's Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen's
But Ford, which already targets premium buyers with
higher-end versions of some of its larger cars under the Vignale
label, now wants to take further advantage of that opportunity
The next-generation Fiesta, unveiled late on Tuesday in
front of 2,500 staff, dealers and reporters at its Cologne
plant, will come with advanced safety features and cater to more
customers with new crossover and upscale variants.
"Having that kind of special feeling in a mainstream product
is where the market is going and where Ford as a brand needs to
go to make money in Europe," Ford Europe CEO Jim Farley told
Reuters. "We don't want to build commodities anymore."
But Farley declined to say what contribution to
profitability the new Fiesta may make. Ford has sold more than
17 million Fiestas globally since the first version came to
market in 1976.
Benefiting from costs cuts and growing sales of
higher-margin SUVs, Ford may increase profit in Europe to around
$1 billion this year, on a par with its nine-month gain in the
region and up from $259 million last year, a spokesman said.
Farley noted a full-year profit target of $600 million had
already been exceeded in June.
Ford has also positioned the 10,000-euro ($10,644.00) Ka+
city car below the Fiesta's base model to target budget
customers, Farley said.
Still, it remains to be seen whether new offerings for the
redesigned Fiesta and other models will give Ford an edge in the
crowded European market.
Ford sales in Europe may decline 5.2 percent to 1.4 million
vehicles by 2025 from an estimated 1.47 million this year,
compared with a 2 percent drop at General Motors' Opel
division to 1.14 million and a 4.6 percent gain to 2.16 million
for the VW brand, according to IHS Markit.
Separately, Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields said the
carmaker will start testing its autonomous vehicles in Europe
next year. Ford has said it plans to offer a mass-market fully
autonomous car by 2021.
($1 = 0.9395 euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)