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Ford of Europe launches redesigned Mondeo model

From The Detroit News| March 06,2007

Ford of Europe is cranking up its publicity machine to push the virtues of its new Mondeo large family sedan, but despite its eye-catching looks and improved quality, the new car isn't likely to come close to the sales performance of its predecessor.

But analysts say sales of the Ford Mondeo will likely peak at no more than 190,000 a year in Europe. The previous model sold close to 300,000 a year before sliding back down to 131,700 in 2006, according to data published by Automotive News Europe.

The Mondeo includes 4-door, 5-door and Station Wagon variants. There are diesel and gasoline, four- and five-cylinder engines ranging from 1.8 liters to 2.5 liters, five- and six-speed manual gearboxes and a six-speed automatic.

Ford has tried to move the Mondeo upmarket by including as standard equipment such traditional luxury features as electronic stability control, which helps prevent rollovers. Other premium extras include adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, hill-launch assist, and tire pressure monitoring. Prices have not been announced.

The Mondeo goes on sale across Europe in June.

John Fleming, President and CEO of Ford of Europe unveiled the new car at a media event Monday on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show.

"This new car is so important, so critical to our business and to our four million customers," Fleming said in a speech. He didn't mention sales targets or possible prices.

Andrew Wright, British based senior analyst of European vehicle forecasts for Northville-based CSM Worldwide, expects the new Mondeo's annual sales to peak at 190,000 units in Europe next year. But despite impressive improvements in quality, buyers are unlikely to be moving over in droves from the leading vehicle in the sector, the Volkswagen Passat.

"It's got nothing to do with merit," Wright said. "The appeal of the Ford badge doesn't do it really, and I believe that will hold true for the new one too."

Jonathan Poskitt, a Europe-based senior analyst for J.D.Power and Associates' Automotive Forecasting, is less optimistic, forecasting peak sales of between 170,000 and 180,000 units.

Poskitt said the large family sedan sector has been in decline, following the success of minivans and SUVs.

Some industry experts had suggested that the adverse publicity in Europe about the extra pollution pumped out by SUVs might halt the decline in favor of cars like the Mondeo and Passat.

"In Europe it is the compact SUVs which have been doing well, and this will continue," Poskitt said. "It's the larger SUVs (like huge Range Rovers, Audi Q7s) that have the CO2 emissions problem."

"I don't buy this bad rap," he said. "Some are trying to demonize SUVs by suggesting they are more polluting but this isn't justified by raw data."

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