Q&A: Ford Focuses on Golf, Astra buyers

Ford-Werke observed VW and Opel launches, took notes

Ford-Werke boss Bernhard Mattes says Ford plans to sell 500,000 units of the new Ford Focus worldwide. He says the new Focus is positioned well against the Volkswagen Golf V and Opel Astra. He spoke with Automobilwoche's Wolfgang Eschment at the introduction of the Focus in Siena, Italy.

The new Focus is the last of several new compact cars, the Golf V and the new Astra. Is this an advantage?

We had the chance to observe our competitors' development during our last engineering stage and also their market launches and price structures. That helps with our own decisions. However, generally our models' life cycles are not dependent on those of our competitors' models. The launch of the new Focus is happening according to plan.

The bottom of the model range costs 845 euros less than a VW Golf. Have you saved money on equipment and materials?

No, we offer a complete car with further developed quality levels in terms of elegance and materials. We were able to make use of the advantages of our increased efficiency within production and the advantages of our "global shared technology" system. Here we can use modules and components from models across the whole range of the group's brands. The flexible production at the Saarlouis plant also saves costs. There we can vary the production volumes of the different body shell versions for the Ford Focus and the Ford Focus C-Max according to the demand without carrying out major conversions.

That means you will be able to make more money with the new car?

Of course. We want to grow in a profitable way and the Focus will play a major part in reaching this goal. That also includes the bottom of the model range.

What if your competitors VW and Opel react to the low price for the Focus by lowering their own prices or offering more equipment? Will you make a move in the same direction?

No. We believe that we have positioned our car well. The overall offer is right. The price positioning should only happen once: at the beginning and it should be right from the first moment onward.

What are your sales targets?

We plan to sell around 73,100 units in Germany in 2005 and we hope to sell approximately 500,000 cars a year worldwide.

Do you think that you can surpass 8 percent German market share by the end of the year?

This will depend on how the market develops. In August both our market share (7.8 percent) and volume were higher than during the same period last year. 15,106 sold cars equals an increase of 6.1 percent. My aim is to improve sales during the third and fourth quarter so that by the end of this year we achieve a better annual result than in 2003.

How are orders for September and October?

We are satisfied, although customers' reluctance to spend their money is still noticeable. However, the level of demand for the previous Focus that is now running out, the C-Max and also for the small cars Fiesta and Fusion is good now.

At Opel and VW there are big debates about the German plants. Is there need to discuss this at Ford?

We finished our restructuring program last year and realized the new collective wage agreement this spring. This is all set and therefore there is no need for further negotiations

How secure are the German Ford plants?

We need them. The Cologne and Saarlouis plants are reaching their capacity limits. In Cologne we have invested a lot in a flexible production and have reached our capacities for Fiesta and Fusion with 1,850 units a day. In Saarlouis the new Focus is having its production start-up.

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