The fact that Ford of Europe failed to produce a compact minivan to compete with the Renault Scenic and Opel/Vauxhall Zafira was a "failure to act, not a failure to see an opportunity," said Martin Leach, president and chief operating officer-elect of Ford of Europe.
Speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress dinner in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Monday evening, Leach blamed Ford's sluggish response to the trend toward compact people movers on a couple of factors.
"If you let your profit slide, you impede your ability to act. When you believe something is right, you have to act on it. That's what we did with the StreetKa," he said.
Leach showed a film clip of pop star Kylie Minogue with the forthcoming StreetKa roadster.
Leach said Ford's product-led European turnaround strategy has saved 1 billion euros in two years and will produce a small profit for Ford of Europe this year, and real shareholder value next year. That kind of improved financial position will help the company better react to trends in the future, he said.
Looking into the future, Leach pointed out six trends he believes will impact the European auto industry:
1. Third-age dominance: By 2010, 22 percent of all Europeans will be over the age of 69, he said. "They know what they want, and they're not frightened of telling us."
2. Singles world: Singles households are increasing dramatically, and their needs are quite different to those of families.
3. Gridlocked and green: By 2919, traffic in Europe will have increased a further 20 percent, creating pressure for regulatory bodies to provide infrastructure and on car companies to provide green vehicles that come "without tradeoffs."
4. Cash rich, time poor: People are working harder and longer.
5. Brand as portal: With nearly 299 names to choose from in the automotive marketplace, customers will use "primary brands as a shortcut to making buying decisions," Leach said.
6. Glocalization: Car companies must achieve global economies of scale while maintaining contact with individual customers at a very local level.
Leach reiterated Ford of Europe's current back-to-basics approach to the business, led by a wave of new products.
He said: "We're a car company, not a brand management company."