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E.U.:For Ford, luxury matters, Its struggling brands show ideas

September 10, 2003


FRANKFURT, Germany -- Ford Motor Co.'s European luxury unit Tuesday revealed three new production cars and a concept vehicle aimed at reversing its flagging fortunes.

Ford created Premier Automotive Group to turn its four European luxury brands -- Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin -- into a unit that would save money and eventually generate as much as one-third of Ford's global profit by selling more high-profit cars and trucks.

But PAG has been a disappointment after losing $900 million in 2002 and $88 million in the first quarter of 2003. It showed signs of improvement in the second quarter with a $166-million pretax gain on a 16-percent boost in revenue from the same quarter of 2002.

PAG has introduced a few successful models, most notably the Volvo XC90 crossover wagon and the pricey low-volume Range Rover, but suffered as its small Jaguar X-type sedan struggled in the market.

The cars introduced at the Frankfurt auto show will go a long way toward determining PAG's success for several years.

The new models include a station wagon version of the Jaguar X-type, the new $146,800 Aston Martin DB9 luxury sports car and the new Volvo S40 compact, which should sell for around $21,000 when it debuts in the United States in March.

Jaguar also showed the R-D6 concept crossover, which uses a new diesel engine vital to PAG and Ford's fortunes in Europe.

The sleek and powerful DB9 is built upon a platform unique to Aston Martin, while the Volvo S40 stems from a global Ford project that will also produce the redesigned Ford Focus and new Mazda 3. A platform is a set of systems and components intended to produce a wide variety of different vehicles at a far lower cost than developing the vehicles separately.

"Synergies and cost reduction are critical to PAG's success," group executive director Mark Fields said as he introduced the S40.

The Jaguar X-type's woes have been widely attributed to an overreliance on Ford's midsize platform, which led to a car that lacked the pizzazz of a true Jaguar.

The high-volume, low-cost C1 platform used for the S40 is Volvo's first attempt to develop a car within the PAG structure, said Peter Ewerstrand, Volvo's project director for the car. The striking compact sedan looks almost exactly like a 2/3-scale model of Volvo's curvaceous and costly S80 large car. It bears no resemblance to the new Mazda 3 or European Ford Focus C-Max minivan that share the C1 platform. Volvo will also build a station wagon version of the S40.

Despite the visual differences, which include a distinctively Volvo interior, Ewerstrand said the S40 shares entire systems with those other models.

"The sunroof is identical in all the C1 models, and the climate-control system is also shared," he said to illustrate some of the areas where the shared program saved money.

A base-model S40, starting at more than $24,000, could share as much as 60 percent of its components with the Mazda or Ford, he said, while well-equipped cars like the turbocharged 220-horsepower, five-cylinder Volvo will sell in the United States will have as little as 25 percent in common with their lesser brethren.

"It would have been borderline if Volvo could have afforded to develop this car on its own," he said.

The X-type is Jaguar's first station wagon. It gives the struggling car a second model to boost sales. Jaguar will offer the car only in well-equipped all-wheel-drive V6 models in the United States.

The Jaguar R-D6 concept car features rear-hinged "suicide doors," a sporty sloping roof and a hatchback rear opening. Its body and chassis are made of aluminum and composite materials, continuing the brand's emphasis on lightweight, high-performance vehicles. The twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V6 diesel produces 230 horsepower and accelerates the R-D6 from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in less than 6 seconds and to a top speed of 155 m.p.h.

PAG's Land Rover unit also introduced a face-lifted version of its Freelander compact sport-utility vehicle at the auto show.

Jaguar's R-D6 concept crossover has a diesel engine, critical in the European market.

(Right Photo)MICHAEL DALDER/Reuters
British carmaker Jaguar presents a wagon version of the X-type, at the Frankfurt auto show.

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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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