Ford will have bought its way into a leading position in central Europe if it acquires Daewoo Motor. Ford does poorly in the region, while Daewoo is dominant.
Ford has won the exclusive right to negotiate for bankrupt Daewoo Motor, beating out rivals including General Motors with an estimated $7 billion offer.
In 1999, Daewoo had a 19.4 percent share in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, according to HWB International. That topped archrival Fiat, which had 17.4 percent in the combined markets. Ford had only 4.9 percent of sales in the five countries.
Daewoo is especially strong in Poland, where it has a 28 percent share of the market and builds the second and third best-selling cars, the Matiz and Lanos.
Daewoo could become for Ford what Skoda already is for Volkswagen: a producer of high-quality vehicles central European consumers can afford and that also appeal to western European buyers.
Under Chairman Kim Woo-choong, Daewoo bought old, inefficient plants in former communist countries such as the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
By buying these plants, most of them in markets protected by stiff import tariffs, Daewoo automatically became a major player. But it also bought some of the problems that left it financially crippled.
Daewoo has two factories in Poland and made 183,422 cars there last year.
Central Europe was one reason Ford bid A7.4 billion for Daewoo, said Ford spokesman Paul Wood. 'Daewoo is an attractive global brand,' he said.
Ford has been trying to improve its sales in central Europe under new sales chief Barbara Kux, hired from Nestle last year.
Ford recently closed its factory in Plonsk, Poland, in a drive to reduce excess capacity.