Ford Motor is developing a family of electric vehicles aimed at European markets.
The automaker is working on the vehicles at its European development center in Cologne, Germany, Ford of Europe President Stuart Rowley told journalists on a conference call Thursday, June 27.
No timing for any launch was given, but a source close to the automaker said the vehicles would arrive "in the next couple of years."
Rowley would not comment on size or body styles.
Next year Ford will begin European sales of an upscale electric SUV said to be inspired by the Mustang sports car and potentially called Mach E. The vehicle will imported from the U.S.
The new EVs will be built in an unidentified plant in Europe. Ford would not comment on whether the new family of EVs would use VW’s MEB electric platform as part of a collaboration between the two companies, whose relationship includes working together on commercial vehicles.
VW has said it’s keen to widen the customer base for MEB outside its own brands as it seeks to spread the high cost of electrification by improving the economies of scale.
In January, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said EVs could be a fruitful area of collaboration between the two companies.
“Both the EV and AV [autonomous vehicles] are big costs for investment,” Hackett told investors during a conference call. “Both are really important to both companies’ future. That is part of the incentive to find ways to cooperate.”
At first, Ford was slow to offer electrification in Europe, after slow sales of an all-electric version of the previous Focus. But the company recently announced plans to offer three plug-in hybrids in Europe. PHEV versions of the new Kuga compact crossover, Explorer large crossover and Transit Custom van are expected to be on the market by early next year, while a full-electric version of the Transit will be launched in 2021, Ford has said.
Automakers are being forced to ramp up electrification plans in response to tough new European legislation beginning in 2020 that sets average carbon dioxide targets of 95 g/km, down from an average of 120.5 g/km last year.
However, automakers fear that the push from legislation won’t be matched by customer demand for EVs, which are more expensive than vehicles with an internal-combustion engine.
“Electrification is going to grow over the years, but it’s not going to grow to the extent all the experts are telling you," Ford’s former CEO, Mark Fields, told a mobility conference in Israel in June.
Fields said that would be a problem for automakers already struggling to create sustainable profits. “They are going to have to first restructure the margins of the business,” he said. “And on top of it, you’re going to have to incentivize demand.
“If you throw in, during that time period, a recession that’s going to happen at some point, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the OEMs.”
Ford of Europe plans to cut 12,000 jobs, or around 20 percent of its workforce on the continent, by 2020 as it seeks to improve margins and cut losses. It will close or sell six plants by the end of next year, including the Bridgend engine plant in south Wales, a transmission plant in France, a transmission joint venture with Magna International in Slovakia and two assembly sites and an engine plant in Russia.
Ford also announced last week that it would introduce two more SUV nameplates in Europe within the next five years. The vehicles are expected to be built in Europe, rather than imported, the source close to the automaker said.