GENEVA - Ford Motor Co. is counting on an outpouring of new models to help reverse its sliding market share in Europe.
Ford of Europe's new management team unveiled an unconventional product launch strategy that will take traditional industry terms like 'face-lift' and throw them away.
Martin Leach, Ford's new European product development chief, likened Ford's old approach to the Hollywood 'blockbuster' way of presenting movies. A product line was launched with a sedan, hatchback and wagon backed by a huge marketing push. Those products were expected to carry on in the market for a long time.
The new approach will be more like that of a 'thriller serial' approach with a constant barrage of new and exciting episodes, Leach said.
Ford's new European management team led by Chairman Nick Scheele and President David Thursfield conceived the new approach.
When Scheele came from Jaguar to take the top job in Europe last summer, he found a company with one great, hot product: Focus. He also found some pretty tired extras, especially Fiesta, Ford's entrant in the critical supermini segment.
Scheele and others in Ford decided that Focus was too good a car to fall prey to conventional thinking. He was concerned that Ford's team at the time was merely applying well-worn conventional theories to future model strategy. That is to say: introduce sedan, hatchback, coupe, and wagon, followed by compact minivan and cabriolet. Finally, launch some performance versions to give the platform life until the big face-lift was due.
'None of our product lines will remain untouched (in the offensive),' said Scheele.
Ford recently canceled the Focus-based minivan project, and rescheduled it as the vehicle that will lead off the next generation Focus platform in 2003.
'It was a pretty good product, but not a great one,' said Ford's European marketing chief Earl Hesterberg of the canceled project.
Ford products, formerly produced for the world and adapted for Europe, will now be tailored in Europe, for Europe.
Scheele announced Ford is tripling the number of new products it launches over the next five years. Ford will now launch nine new products each year over the next five years. That compares to an average of three a year for the past five years - a development cycle that has left Ford trailing its European competitors.
Ford will now do 'core platforms stretched to multiple body styles,' said Leach.
Rather than cosmetically changing the face and tail at standard intervals, Ford will look to constant updates of 'features, function and technology, and some lifestyle marketing projects aimed at specific sub-niches of the market,' said Richard Parry-Jones, Ford's global group vice president for product development.
Ford did not introduce any radical new vehicles at Geneva - just an extensively restyled Galaxy and the Maverick, a small sport-utility it conceived in partnership with Mazda. The Maverick, a rival to the Land Rover Freelander, was seen as the Escape at January's Detroit auto show.
Later this year, Ford will roll out another critically important car - the new Mondeo. Following in 2001 will be the new Fiesta. A compact minivan based on Fiesta is also in development along with a convertible and Focus-based coupe.