Ford Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair says sedan sales are suffering most from rising demand for crossovers and SUVs.
“Almost worldwide we see an increase in desire for utilities and the segment that's suffering the most is the sedan whether it's the CD sedans or even C and B sedans [midsize, compact and subcompact sedans],” Nair told Automotive News Europe.
He said that sedans will not disappear but he believes that crossovers and SUVs and variations of both are going to steal the majority of their sales from sedans.
He also cautions that trends vary between markets so while demand for minivans is falling sharply in Europe, they remain significant in other markets.
SUVs and crossovers are winning at the expense of minivans in Europe right now, although Ford initially stumbled in the region with its EcoSport small SUV, which was developed in Brazil and is built in India.
At first, European buyers were not impressed and the vehicle had to be substantially re-engineered and redesigned for local tastes.
“The initial EcoSport offering was for the value segment. It was not intended to compete with very high-end premium B-sized SUVs" that are common in Europe, Nair said. “But that's not a deficiency in the One Ford strategy or a deficiency in the platform and the capability. If anything it may be a deficiency in how we communicated what that vehicle was originally about.”
Nair is a strong believer in One Ford, the automaker's effort to have a single global approach, and says the plan is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of buyers in various markets.
“We differentiate aspects of the same architecture and platform and even the same nameplate. Look at some of our vehicles that have a common nameplate and you will see they are tailored quite a bit to regional market requirements – for example for Europe and North America, which is the most common comparison,” he said.
He used the Focus compact car as an example of how Ford differentiates a car based on the region where it is sold. The European Focus has better bushings and more insulation than its U.S. sibling so that its ride and handling satisfy customers in the region.
“We still do quite a bit of regional tailoring,” Nair said, “even to the extent of re-engineering the suspension architecture to be different, even though it may be the same platform and the same nameplate.”
Editor's note: This story has been edited to correctly state Raj Nair's title.