In moving up a notch to become Ford of Europe's new president, Steven Armstrong remains on familiar ground.
The 52-year-old Englishman has spent over half of his life with Ford and has been chief operating officer for Ford's European operations since last year, serving under Jim Farley who moves to Detroit to oversee global markets including Europe for the U.S. automaker.
Armstrong believes Ford has the right products for Europe and is now the right size after cutting capacity with moves such as shutting its car plant in Genk, Belgium, and in 2014 and cutting hundreds of white collar jobs in the region last year. Ford posted a record $1.2 billion pre-tax profit for 2016 in Europe.
In Europe's crowded and highly competitive market, Ford start began restructuring ahead of many of its rivals, Armstrong told Automotive News Europe in an interview at the Geneva auto show in March.
"We are benefiting from that now and proving that you can be a profitable volume player in Europe producing cars people want to buy," Armstrong said.
Ford of Europe's product launch cycle means it is in a good shape. "The strategy of finding ways to differentiate our products is helping us to drive better margins and giving the customers the opportunity to buy a Ford that best fits their needs is working," he said.
'One Ford' fan
Armstrong is a firm believer in the "One Ford" strategy introduced globally across the automaker by Alan Mulally when he became Ford CEO in 2006. Under Mulally’s plan, the automaker focused solely on the Ford, selling fringe brands such as Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover. Armstrong oversaw Volvo's sale to China's Geely Automotive Holding.
"The One Ford plan was about getting a better leverage and synergies globally across the Ford products. It is what has given us a platform to be able to launch the great vehicles we have today," Armstrong said.
New Ford CEO Jim Hackett is not expected to drop the One Ford strategy, although his latest appointments, including Farley's move to the company's headquarters in Dearborn, show his determination to speed up decision-making to tackle the industry's new challenges such as ride-sharing services and autonomous cars.
Armstrong's first crucial challenge will be the launch of the latest generation Fiesta, Ford's best-selling model in Europe and also the region's top-selling subcompact car. The Fiesta will go on sale in the summer.
Armstrong will benefit from his predecessor decision to increase the Fiesta's appeal by adding Ford's top-of-the-range Vignale trim line to the car. The move that should help to boost the company's margins in Europe's most competitive segment.
Armstrong is a strong believer of the Vignale strategy. Ford launch the upscale trim line in 2015 in its larger models such as the Mondeo sedan and S-Max minivan in a bid to attract stop its more well-off customers defecting to premium brands.
"We found that a lot of customers were specifying right up to the top Titanium trim level with all the extras across our product range, so we saw an opportunity to add in the Vignale line to give customers the opportunity to step up," Armstrong said.
Vignale's sales penetration is around about 10 percent of the automaker's European product mix, he said. This is line with Ford's expectation and shows that Ford does not need its Lincoln premium brand in Europe, he said.
"We don't have any plans to launch Lincoln here. Lincoln is doing a great job of refreshing its product lineup in the U.S. and launched very strongly in China," Armstrong said.
Armstrong is proud that Ford sold Volvo to Geely with a plan that would help ensure its survival. At that time, he was Volvo's chief operating officer.
"If you look at the product portfolio that Volvo had from when Ford exited until recently, those products - the XC90, the 70, 60 and 40 families - were directly funded by Ford before we left," he said.
Part of the agreement with Geely was to make sure that Ford left Volvo with a viable plan, because "we didn't want to abandon it, so we left them with a good strategy to work from."
Armstrong is happy that Volvo is now thriving under Geely. "As a former Volvo person, I share this thought with many of my Ford colleagues: It's great to see them being successful in their positioning," he said.
"I love to see the Volvo team at an auto show, have a cup of coffee with them and a chat. The energy on their stand is infectious. It's great. And I'm pleased that they've done well," he said.
Armstrong's tenure at Volvo earned him an Automotive News Europe Eurostar in 2005 for improving the Swedish automaker's supplier relations.