This is how Ford plans to become your favourite fleet supplier
Apart from its van division, Ford has not been faring well in Europe in recent years. It is currently in survival mode: it is decimating its industrial footprint while laying off 12,000 employees and has been limiting investments to strictly business-critical projects and line-up renewals, such as the new Focus and Fiesta.
They represent the majority of Ford’s sales in Europe, which is clearly turning its back to classic car silhouettes in favour of crossovers. Indeed, the lack of modern B and C segment crossovers is costing Ford customers in Europe, even though the old Kuga is still performing relatively well.
New Kuga and Puma: hybrid crossovers
The arrival of the new Kuga and its baby brother Puma will surely change things for the better and make Ford rise on the sales ladder in 2020. Both crossovers will come as hybrids, but very different ones: the Focus-based Kuga is offered as an HEV and a PHEV, whereas the Fiesta-based Puma sticks to the lowest degree of electrification. Indeed, it resorts to a 48-volt system with a belt-driven starter-alternator to make its petrol engine a mild hybrid.
These products are prone to please European fleets. They won’t suffice to reach the European CO2 target of 95g/km by 2021. Ford’s volume weighted average CO2 emissions amounted to 123.7g/km in 2018 according to automotive consultancy Jato. Even if one in every five Fords sold would be a plug-in hybrid Kuga in 2021, the average would still be above 95g/km.
Partnership with VW for EVs
It’s all-electric vehicles that Ford needs – and it has none for the moment. The Focus Electric introduced in 2013 was doomed to fail with its small battery pack and it quietly left the scene in 2017. As to the all-electric Mustang-inspired D-segment crossover Ford is readying for 2020: it might be a halo car and attract new corporate car drivers to the brand, but its pricing and limited availability will probably limit its impact.
A competitive volume EV in the C segment is arguably a sine qua non to survive in Europe, but Ford cannot go it alone. Fortunately, it has found a parter in Wolfsburg: Ford has gained permission to tap into Volkswagen’s warehouse and use VW ID building blocks to create their own line-up of zero-emission vehicles.
Under the latest terms of their partnership, the Blue Oval will gain access to Volkswagen’s modular electric toolkit (MEB) to design new electric vehicles for its European operations. VW will supply MEB parts for Ford’s EVs and reckons the deal will provide it with a sizeable scale advantage. Ford said it expects to sell over 600,000 MEB based cars on the Old Continent over a six-year period starting in 2023.
That’s too late to help bring down its volume weighted CO2 emissions, which will be assessed and penalised in 2021, but it is likely to give Ford a new lease on fleet life in Europe.
Staying the LCV leader
One thing the other OEMs are jealous of, is Ford's know-how and market dominance in the light commercial vehicle department. Without its vans, Ford would probably have considered retreating from the European market by now, following GM's lead.
In 2018, Ford was Europe's number one LCV manufacturer for the fourth consecutive year, grabbing over 14% of the 20 European markets it is present in. It can pride itself on a broad and competitive line-up, but needs to tackle the challenges its customers are faced with: congestion, pollution and inflating costs.
It believes the answer lies in e broad electrification, ranging from mild hybrid powertrains across the board all the way up to a plug-in hybrid option for the Transit Custom and even an all-electric variant for the big Transit in 2021. Let's not forget Ford is already building experience through its partnership with the DHL DP-owned Streetscooter. The Work XL is based on a regular Ford Transit and is produced in Ford's Cologne factory at a rate of 3,500 units per year.