COLOGNE -- Watch out for Toyota: That's the message that Geoff Polites, Ford of Europe's new marketing boss, brings from Australia.
Polites, former head of Ford of Australia, has a lot of experience competing against Toyota, experience he feels will be useful to Ford in Europe.
With a 20 percent share of the 910,000-unit market in 2003, Toyota led GM-subsidiary Holden (17.5 percent) and Ford (15.5 percent) in Australia.
"I've tried to focus our team on the fact that Toyota is not a 5 percent market share company [Toyota's current European share]," he said.
"I want to make sure that, as Toyota grows its share in Europe, that they take it off somebody else and not us."
Polites this month succeeds Earl Hesterberg as Ford of Europe's vice president of marketing, sales and service. Hesterberg takes up the same role with Ford Motor Co. in the US.
Said Polites: "Toyota has been a player in the Australian market since the late 1960s and early 1970s. I'm used to them and their behavior and product range."
Polites has experience competing with the Korean manufacturers.
"Hyundai has been aggressive, purely based on price," he said.
Polites takes over from Hesterberg just as Ford ramps up marketing for the next-generation Ford Focus, Ford of Europe's most crucial product.
The Focus goes on sale in Germany this month and in the UK after January 1.
Ford has brought 13,000 European dealer employees to the Nürburgring vehicle-testing track in Germany to events introducing them to the car and its features.
Prices start at E14,500 for the entry-level Focus.