A major challenge facing Jacques Nasser will be sustaining Ford of Europe's recovery.
Ford of Europe's future rests heavily on the success of the Focus.
Ford is just beginning its European turnaround. European operations rebounded from a $291 million loss in 1996 to post a $273 million profit last year. Profits for the first half of this year continued to rise. Earnings were $310 million, from $157 million a year earlier.
In an interview this summer, James Donaldson, Ford of Europe's president since January, said the company is 'a long way away' from its profit targets of a 5 percent after-tax return on sales.
Donaldson said he has taken Ford of Europe 'back to basics with a vengeance in Europe' to boost quality and productivity, cut costs and improve the core products.
Ford's biggest problem in Europe has been its lackluster products, especially the three high-volume cars: the Fiesta, Escort and Mondeo. It has had hits with niche cars such as the small Ka, Puma coupe and Galaxy minivan.
Ford needs the Focus to be a hit. The Focus replaces the Escort in Europe and North America.
'If they don't do well with the Focus, it will be extremely difficult for Ford to dig its way back,' said John Lawson, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney in London.
Donaldson and other Ford of Europe executives say that they got the basics right on the Focus, and that it will be a hit.
As for the rest of Ford's product line, there are plans to revamp the passenger car range and add derivatives to each nameplate.