FORD is expecting two of its best years in 2008 and 2009 with a fresh product line-up and booming retail sales. Last month, with sales of 83,600 including LCVs, was the company’s best ever since the switch to twice-yearly plate changes in 1999, said chairman and managing director Roelant de Waard.
With demand booming, the real challenge is manufacturing capacity, de Waard, said at the launch of the Kuga crossover, pictured right.
‘We have spent the last five years establishing flexible manufacturing in Europe and now we can match supply to demand,’ he said. ‘Getting that balance between supply and demand is good for manufacturers, dealers and customers. It means no distress marketing which means better residual values.’
It also means less stock pressure on dealers. Another challenge will be increasing diesel engine production. ‘We still see diesel as the best way to meet C02 targets,’ he said.
De Waard expects Ford to grow its market share in 2008 with absolute volume rising towards 450,000, including LCVs, and the overall market falling slightly. In 2007, Ford sold 442,017 cars and LCVs, according to SMMT figures. In 2009, when the new Ka is launched, ‘everything will be new and we will have full availability of all derivatives,’ said de Waard.
‘Ka is an interesting one for us – it almost has a life of its own with a very loyal customer base,’ he said. Ka sales in 2006 and 2007 were around 27,000, accounting for around 20 per cent of its segment.
Generally, the decision to move out of short cycle rental business is paying off. ‘We’ve doubled retail sales of Mondeo year-on-year. These are people buying cars with their own money,’ said de Waard.
‘Our S-MAX strategy of offering only well-equipped versions with limited options is working very well – 66 per cent of sales are retail and 60 per cent are conquest from other brands.’
The Kuga, which goes on sale in June, is built at Saarlouis in Germany where capacity has been increased from 290,000 to 330,000 on three shifts. Annual Kuga production is set at 65,000 and with Focus at full demand that’s unlikely to change.
It will be available in Zetec and Titanium trim and 2.0 litre TDCI power from launch and is priced from £20,500.