Ford goes further with electric but Brexit presents major speed bump ahead
Ford has been stockpiling vehicles in the UK and moving engines in to Europe in advance of a hard Brexit
Steven Armstrong, chairman of Fordof Europe: “ultimately if there are tariffs that cost will get passed through the system and it will impact consumers somewhere along the line I’m afraid”
Ford’s attempt to present a visionary future for the brand, fully charged for the electric age, hasn’t been helped by the uncertainty over the UK’s Brexit plans.
Speaking at the brand’s high-profile “Go Further” showcase in Amsterdam, European chairman Steven Armstrong told The Irish Times: “We’ve been very clear from the day after the referendum that we need a deal that gives us the opportunity to continue to trade with Europe without tariffs and no friction at the border. To us, no deal is not an option.”
He said that as “a proud Englishman and a proud European” his personal choice would be to not change anything at all. “A no deal Brexit would be a disaster I think for the UK motor industry and certainly for Ford, and I really appeal to the politicians to get around the table and come up with an agreement that gets us a deal so we can continue to have access to the EU and the EU can continue to have access to the UK.”
While Ford is stockpiling, Armstrong said: “You can mitigate some of the issues on day one by stockpiling but that doesn’t protect you beyond just a few days or a couple of weeks. You can’t stockpile enough stuff to get through that issue. So what we have been doing is moving engines from the UK in to Europe and components in to the UK and also more vehicles in to the UK than we would ordinarily would have, so they are the right side of the line if we do end up with tariffs. But ultimately if there are tariffs that cost will get passed through the system and it will impact consumers somewhere along the line I’m afraid”.
His concerns were echoed by Roelant de Waard, vice president, marketing sales and service Ford of Europe, who said that “even if it’s a customs union where we have to import individual vehicles with friction at the border, the administration will be quite a bill”.
Joining the hybrid party
At the event itself Ford showcased a number of its new electrified vehicles including Fiesta, Focus and Kuga hybrids and greener electrified commercial vehicles too that will be on sale this year.
Asked if Ford was playing catch-up to the likes of Toyota when it came to hybrids in Europe, de Waard said: “I don’t think we’re so much catching up partially, we are just maybe overly conservative. On the other hand until only a couple of years ago because of the diesel scandal we were all diesel in Europe because diesel is the more economical solution and in the US people were in hybrids. Diesel has been, rightly or wrongly, voided (banned) for many cities, so that’s when you have to come up with alternatives. Luckily we have a good hybrid experience around the world and we could very quickly bring the Mondeo hybrid (to market). Our mild hybrid technology was already in the works but it takes a couple of years to develop. The timing now is right because next year is when all the manufacturers have to make a major step in CO2 reduction. This is the moment where it becomes relevant for customers, and it is the right time for us to start to promote and launch these vehicles. Customers will start to buy them, as the timing fits, before that very important 2020 year”.