AMSTERDAM - Ford has appointed its Netherlands importer to handle semi-official imports of Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable cars into several European markets.
Hessing De Bilt has been handling Ford's imports to the Netherlands and Belgium. The company will now import the Taurus and Sable, which Ford does not sell in Europe. The company will make 84 modifications to the car to bring it to European specification. Frits Hessing, CEO of Hessing De Bilt, will then file official papers with the European Union and become the legal manufacturer.
The vehicle identification number on the chassis will have a Ford chassis number, but a prefix for Hessing.
Hessing De Bilt has opened a special conversion shop in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It plans annual conversions of 2,750 units with its workforce of 35. The plant is designed to handle a volume up to 20,000. Hessing expects to add another model that has been sold only in North America.
Hessing plans to sell about 750 of the cars in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The target is 2,000 for Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Russia and Israel. Russia will get only Ford Taurus models, as the brand is known there. The Netherlands will get Mercury Sables, as Hessing thinks the Ford marque there is perceived as too down-market.
The European-type approval program for the Sable and Taurus has been carried out in cooperation with the privatized Dutch road testing and homologation authority RDW. Two dozen cars were tested over 11 months, Hessing said.
Ford Motor Co. gave its approval to the homologation program but did not take part in it, nor does it accept any legal liability, Hessing said.
Many of the 84 modifications are minor.
For example, the fenders need 2mm more overhang over the wheels, and the interior heater switches in the console were 3mm too high. Extra reflectors were installed at the back of the headlamps to meet European lighting regulations.
A complete emission test and crash test program is part of Hessing's commitment.