A journalist stands in front of the Ford Focus ST.
Ford still expects a tough 2005 in Europe
By Michael Smith / Reuters
GENEVA - Ford Motor Co. expects a tough market in Europe this year after its market share dipped in January and February, the U.S. auto maker said on Tuesday.
"I have not got any more confidence, because we have had a couple months of the market being relatively quiet, and that is a concern," Ford of Europe Chairman Lewis Booth told reporters on the sidelines of the Geneva car show.
Ford Europe, which is battling high metal prices and stiff competition, did not wind back forecasts for the year, reiterating targets for net operating profit of $100 million to $200 million in 2005.
However, pressure would remain on costs, Booth said.
"We are expecting this year to be really tough in Europe. We still don't see a recovery in the German market at all," he said, adding Britain was also softer than expected.
"We can't decide whether that is a trend or a temporary blip."
He also said sales in the Turkish market were expected to decline 20-25 percent.
He blamed pressure on high commodity prices and a "free ride" for Japanese competitors making inroads due to favourable currency exchange rates.
He said Ford Europe would focus on costs this year but said there were no job cuts planned after reorganising capacity to be more in line with demand. Ford Europe now operates at full capacity.
Staff reductions would take place through natural attrition, he said.
Booth said high metal prices remained a concern. "I was completely paranoid last year. When I stop being paranoid I should move on," he said.
He would not comment on whether Ford would consider partnering with Italy's Fiat but said the Italian car marker may be a "little bit bruised at the moment".
Fiat settled a deal to dissolve its partnership with General Motors last month.