Ford expects UK sales to fall following Brexit vote

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. on Friday said it expects a weak exchange rate to hurt sales in the United Kingdom following the Brexit vote last month.

If the pound stays weak or gets weaker, analysts have said sales could fall as much as 10 percent — from about 3.1 million vehicles to 2.8 million vehicles — in the U.K., Roelant de Waard, vice president of marketing, sales and service for Ford of Europe said on a conference call with reporters. He said it’s “too early to say it’s a significant problem,” and that sales in July were relatively flat.

“It’s warranted for people to be cautious about the marketplace, but we shouldn’t forget half of the country is extremely happy at the moment because they won the vote,” he said. “We haven’t seen a dramatic change in demand. The one thing that could dampen the market is if the exchange rate gets weaker.”

He said Ford exports about 1.6 million engines from the U.K. but hasn’t made changes to its production plans, and has no plans for any layoffs or job cuts as a result of the Brexit vote.

The uncertainty comes as the Dearborn automaker reported a 7.5 percent sales increase through the first six months of the year in its 20 traditional European markets. Ford sold 718,700 vehicles in its traditional 20 European markets through the first half of the year and its market share was 7.9 percent.

“Customers across Europe are buying nicer Fords — from performance heroes like Mustang and Focus RS, to our new flagship Edge SUV, to more upscale Titanium and Vignale versions of our mainstream vehicles,” de Waard said in a statement. “Just as importantly, we have become Europe’s commercial vehicle leader with our Transit and Ranger line-up.”

Ford was Europe’s best-selling commercial brand in the first half because of its Transit vans and Ranger pickup.

Another strength for Ford of Europe is its performance car lineup, which includes Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus ST diesel, Focus RS and Mustang Ford sold twice as many performance cars year-to-date in Europe than they did last year, de Waard said as sales rose 116 percent year-to-date.

The automaker has a number of vehicle introductions that should help sales through the remainder of the year.

“The second half will be another exciting product story for Ford of Europe,” de Waard said in a statement. “With the Edge coming out now, the updated Transit vans with our all-new EcoBlue engine and the new ST-Line, we will continue to surprise customers. We are also excited about the KA+, an entry-priced small car that offers outstanding interior space, fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price.”

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