PARIS (Bloomberg) -- Ford is forecasting sales growth in Europe next year as demand for new models helps narrow its losses in the region, but it has pushed back its profit forecast from next year until after 2015 as a slump in Russia continues to hit sales.
"Our expectation is to get back to profit as soon as possible" in Europe, CEO Mark Fields said at the Paris auto show. "We do expect to improve next year pretty significantly, but still at a loss" in the region.
Ford cut its global earnings forecast on Sept. 29 and said its European operations will miss a target of becoming profitable in 2015 because of a drop in Russia's car market and low interest rates in the region that are raising pension costs.
"A little bit of weakness in the past couple of months" in European demand also prompted the company to scale back forecasts, Fields said. As recently as July 24, Ford said it would make a profit in Europe in 2015.
Ford's sales in EU and EFTA markets rose 7 percent in the first eight months to 634,687, according to data from industry organization ACEA. That gave Ford a 7.3 percent market share.
Car-industry executives are predicting Europe's automotive market, which reached a two-decade low in 2013 after a six-year slide, will expand by at least 3 percent in 2014. In contrast, industrywide demand in Russia is estimated to fall more than 10 percent as that country's territorial conflict with Ukraine hurts economic growth.
August sales in Russia were down 26 percent, pulling down the country's eight-month volume 12 percent to 1,582,713 vehicles, according to Moscow-based lobby group the Association of European Businesses.
Ford is forecasting that Europe's car market will expand to between 14.8 million and 15.3 million vehicles next year from 14.5 million to 14.6 million deliveries in 2014, Stephen Odell, head of the company's business in the region, told reporters in Paris.
Fields said demand is "probably not getting back to pre-crisis levels any time soon."
"It all comes back to making sure you have compelling products to grow your slice of the pie, and that's our intention," Fields said. Russia remains likely to become Europe's biggest car market "somewhere down the road," and Ford is taking "the long view" as it continues to invest there, the CEO added.