Ford will take inspiration from US line-up in European markets

Ford will look to build more on its American heritage with its future European line-up, according to the firm’s European boss.

The company is the only mainstream American-owned manufacturer still operating in the European market, and European boss Stuart Rowley said that gave it a point of differentiation from rivals. Major rival GM quit the UK market after selling Vauxhall. US brand Jeep does sell vehicles in the UK, but it only has a limited range of off-roaders and is now part of the Dutch-based Italian-French Stellantis group.

Ford has long had a bespoke UK and Europe line-up developed locally. Its product range has changed substantially in recent years, with the new Puma crossover now outselling the perennially best-selling Fiesta, and the firm recently announcing it was axing the Mondeo saloon.

“You’re seeing the Ford portfolio change in Europe as we make the shift and grow further in utilities [SUVs],” said Rowley during the FT Future of the Car conference. “Going forward we’ll have a more differentiated, more opinionated portfolio of passenger vehicles, that will all be electrified and we’ll build experiences around them.”

Rowley highlights the success of the Mustang, which Ford reintroduced to the UK market a decade ago, and which has now been expanded into a sub-brand encompassing the muscle car and the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV.

Ford will also offer the latest plug-in hybrid version of the Explorer large SUV, which has long been one of its most popular US vehicles, in certain European markets.

Rowley added: “We launched the Ford Explorer [in select markets], and it’s selling well. It’s a different product; it’s not for everybody but there are consumers who love that.

“Ford is the only American brand in Europe now and that’s a unique position that we can build upon. A lot of people are attracted to some of those characteristics and only Ford can bring products like that to the market.”

Rowley also highlighted the success of the Ranger Raptor performance pick-up, saying: “Who would have thought that would resonate with European customers?”

Rowley noted that import tariffs mean products not built within the UK-EU tariff-free trade area would only be offered as niche products in Europe in the future. Another challenge is the potential impact of any new products on Ford’s European CO2 emissions targets, which is believed to be a key reason the company has insisted it has no plans to sell the Bronco off-roader in Europe. A plug-in hybrid version of that machine is under development and it is possible that, like the Explorer, that could be sold in Europe in small volumes.

The Bronco could also reach the UK if Ford offered it as a fully electric model. While the firm has officially announced no plans to do so, when a Twitter user recently asked Ford CEO Jim Farley why it didn’t have an electric Bronco under development, he replied: “Why do you think we don’t?”