Opinion: is Ford of Europe a bit stuffed? | Top Gear
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Opinion

Opinion: is Ford of Europe a bit stuffed?

Something is afoot at Ford. And Paul Horrell has a very bad feeling about the whole situation

Published: 29 Jul 2022
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Pains me to say this, but I think Ford, in Europe, is a bit stuffed. Ford used to be the people’s champion. It had loads of cars in the top 10 sellers. It won rally championships. We adored generations of hot hatch Cosworths and STs and RSes. Even when Ford would launch an everyday car – a Mondeo say – we’d stick it on the cover of the magazine and run an eight-page road test inside, because everyday Fords were anything but mundane to drive.

But Ford is about to roll over and play dead. Or at least mortally wounded. It has lost its sparkle. The Mondeo, once a dominant force in family cars, has departed. The Galaxy too. The S-Max will surely follow. When did you last even see a newish one? Ford wants to migrate you into a seven-seat Grand Tourneo Connect instead. Me neither.

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And here’s the shocker: reliable sources tell me that the Fiesta will go out of production next year. With no replacement. Ford simply can’t turn a profit on it. The Focus will join it in the graveyard soon after. These have been bestsellers for decades. Our driving test cars, our first cars, our neighbours’ cars, our hire cars, our hot hatches of choice. But Ford sales are wilting because it seems everyone now wants some premium badge, or a Korean nameplate with spectacular warranty.

In March, Ford sold 17,834 cars in the UK. Kia sold 17,820. You can just imagine the panic at 5.29pm on Thursday 31 March, as 15 Ford employees were told to rush online and hit the buy button on one of their own cars. Meanwhile Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW all hit almost bang on 15,000, so others are snapping at Ford’s heels.

Now, it’s not like Ford has a wholly bare cupboard. It has announced – huzzah – electrification. Like everyone else. From next year, it’ll build an electric crossover at its Cologne plant. But this is not an all-Ford car. It uses the bones of the VW ID.4. In 2024 there’ll be a battery version of the Puma. And a coupe-crossover related to the VW ID.5. And the Mustang Mach-E will still be imported from America of course. And you’ll find electric Transits and Tourneos.

Which sounds healthy, until you start to look for the gaps. No direct replacements for any of the hatchbacks. It’s only electric crossovers. And vans, some with extra windows, some with engines for the time being. There won’t even be a new Kuga because of the VW-based car. VW will even manufacture much of the underpinnings for Ford. Cologne will just do the top hat.

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I’m old enough and sentimental enough to look at Ford’s contraction rather dolefully. If you’re young you probably don’t care. You learned to drive in a Kia Stonic. But it looks overwhelmingly like Ford will have to shut a big plant. If you live in Valencia or Saarlouis, that’s bad for your local economy.

Of course Ford says it’s doing this to cut CO2 emissions. Admirable. But too easy. Any business can cut CO2 by simply closing down the shop.

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