Increase hinges partly on whether car comes to U.S.
By JENS DRALLE | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
AutoWeek | Updated: 03/26/07, 12:12 pm et
COLOGNE, Germany -- Ford of Europe's newest Mondeo doesn't go into production until mid-June, but Ford already thinks it might need a third shift at its factory in Genk, Belgium.
The new Mondeo has sparked the interest of parent Ford Motor Co., even though its Ford division sells the same-sized Fusion in North America. Any decision to sell the Mondeo in the United States would make an increase in Genk's capacity necessary.
The plant, one of the most productive in Europe, assembles the Mondeo sedan and Ford S-Max and Galaxy minivans. The three share a platform.
"Three shifts come after two, but first of all we have to introduce the model successfully to the market," Ford of Germany's chairman, Bernhard Mattes, said in an interview.
The plant has a two-shift capacity of about 300,000 units a year. Sales of the previous-generation Mondeo totaled about 300,000 units a year before sliding to 131,700 in 2006.
But industry analysts in Europe have said they expect sales of the new Mondeo to run only as high as 170,000 to 190,000 units a year, despite it being better equipped and more stylish than the outgoing model.
Mattes said Ford of Europe is looking more closely at expanding in eastern Europe than at exporting to the United States.
He foresees especially good growth potential in Russia, where Ford sales doubled last year to about 125,000 units. "As a result, we are interested in the ex-Daewoo factory in Romania," he said.
Ford of Europe's factory in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the Ford Focus is produced, is operating at full capacity, Mattes said.
Ford also is expecting considerable growth in other eastern European markets. That's one reason Mattes is confident about Ford's profit predictions for 2007.
"Ford of Europe can beat last year's profit of $469 million," he said. The new Mondeo is expected to make a significant contribution to profits.