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Financial Times
By James Mackintosh, Motor Industry Editor

Ford is setting out to "sex up" its European cars after making them dull for the past five years to foster an image of reliability.

The US carmaker believes it has succeeded in shaking off its reputation for poor quality and plans to bring out new models with less Germanic features and more style to attract customers.

Lewis Booth, who arrived this summer as president and chief operating officer of the European operation, told managers: "In terms of rational values we are among the best. But we need sex appeal."

Ford's needs more attractive cars after its five-year old turnround plan succeeded in making its vehicles function better and win awards for reliability but failed to increase sales.

Ford of Europe lost $1.2bn before tax in the first nine months of 2003 and also shed market share to Japanese rivals.

The company is now attempting to make its vehicles less bland, even at the risk of losing some customers.

"We have got a very rational brand and it is driven by dependability and driving dynamics," said Derrick Kuzak, head of product development. "What we need to add is a personality, emotion."

He has adopted what he calls the "100 metres test", that from 100 metres any model should be recognisable as a Ford.

This is similar to Renault's insistence that all its vehicles should be instantly recognisable - something that has led to the bulging rear end of the Mégane.

However, Ford will not be making such an aggressive statement with its cars, as it believes too many would be alienated by such an extreme "love it or hate it" approach. "We want to make more lovable cars," Mr Booth said.

The company already has one vehicle designed as an image leader, the sporty StreetKa, promoted by Kylie Minogue. But its mainstream vehicles do not stand out on the road.

The initiative harks back to the early 1980s when Ford led a design revolution in the European car industry with its aerodynamic Sierra. It may surprise those who expected Mr Booth to concentrate on cutting costs.
 

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Stacy94PGT said:
He has adopted what he calls the "100 metres test", that from 100 metres any model should be recognisable as a Ford.
Oh wonderful, now where have I heard this statement before....... Hmmm lets see - it wouldn't be from a country that has the designation "AU" by any chance would it?
 

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And it has been recognisable esp. the last model!
 

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The AU doesnt look that bad though, and i think that Ford's need to be recognisable as Fords rather than just another car.
 

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Disregarding what I said earlier, I'm not worried at all what Ford Europe comes up with because I know that they will make sure that all the design elements of the car are executed properly - unlike the AU Falcon which had good design elements but weren't integrated as well as they could of been.
 

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I wasn't bagging the AU looks, just saying that it's very easily spotted.
 
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