Ford's European operations are huge when measured by its number of employees: 54,000 people work in sales, development and at its 16 plants in the region. The same is not true for its profits. Ford made a pre-tax profit of $234 million last year in Europe compared with a $7.5 billion (6 billion euro) profit for its U.S business. Put another way, Ford U.S. makes $75,000 for each of its 100,000 workers, compared with $4,300 per worker in Europe.
Figuring out how to make Ford of Europe sustainably profitable has become a priority within the company again after last year’s disappointing performance. Hopes were raised in 2016 when the company recorded a $1.2 billion pre-tax profit, a stunning turnaround after losing $3.1 billion in the region between 2011-2014. Ford of Europe said two years ago that it wanted to achieve an operating margin of 6 percent to 8 percent within five years. But Europe’s uniquely tricky marketplace has proved nothing can be certain.
Rival General Motors left the market last year and there are enough similarities between the two to wonder whether Ford might follow. Like GM, the bulk of Ford’s profits are made in the U.S. Like GM, Europe looks more like a distraction than an asset, especially as customer tastes between the two regions widen. "Ford does not seem to have an economically viable business [in Europe] at present," Max Warburton, analyst with Bernstein Research, wrote in a paper published in January. "Could 2018 see it also slim or exit Europe, given its years of losses in the region?"