By on April 15, 2010

Who was Europe’s leading brand in March?

Volkswagen? Wrong.

PSA? Wrong.

Renault? Wrong.

It’s Ford. That at least according to a press release out of Ford’s European HQ in Cologne. According to that, “Ford was No.1 in Europe in March with sales of 192,500 vehicles, a 16.1 per cent increase – or 26,700 vehicles – compared to March 2009, and the company’s tenth consecutive month-on-month volume increase.”

Further according to the presser, Ford’s “market share was at a twelve-year high of 10.4 percent and the company’s best share in its main 19 European markets since August 1998.”

We immediately went to ACEA to read about the European revolution. However, official ACEA data are not available yet, Ford had jumped the gun, and we are unable to verify the #1 claim.

Most likely, Ford engaged in a little bit of new math. The industry around the world, along with ACEA, counts cars by company, not by brand. In February, Volkswagen Group led the European market with a share of 20.8 percent, followed by PSA Group with 14.9 percent and Renault Group with 11 percent. The Ford Group (including Volvo) ranked 4th with 10 percent.

As far as Volkswagen is concerned, they did not suddenly stumble from a 20.4 percent share to less than 10.4 in March. According to VW’s March report, they “improved their market share” in Europe.

So what happened? Is Ford lying through their teeth? Well, looks like they applied a little new math. Instead of comparing groups, they most likely compared brands. The Volkswagen brand (not counting Audi, Seat, Skoda, and a cast of thousands) had a share of 11.1 percent in February, the Ford brand (sans Volvo) had 8.4 percent. If the Ford brand surpassed the VW brand in Europe, then that alone would be quite some feat.

According to the press release, “Ford was the No.1 best-selling brand for March in the UK, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, The Netherlands and Turkey.” That’s not where the war for Europe is won. You need to be No. 1 in Italy, Germany, and France to make a lasting impression.

However, “Europe” is a matter of interpretation. It can be the Euro zone, it can be the EU, it can be EU plus EFTA, it can be the EU plus Russia, or it can be a “Europe” as defined by a company. Guess we’ll have to wait for the official ACEA numbers. They should be here tomorrow, latest on Monday.

One thing is clear: The Ford Group has not suddenly leapfrogged Renault, PSA, and Volkswagen. Be careful when you read reports of Ford’s sudden ascendance to the European top spot in other publications. You’ve read it here first. It’s bunk.

PS: The man who’s responsible for most of the Ford miracle, marketing boss Jürgen Stackmann, is leaving the blue oval, reported Autombilwoche [sub] two minutes ago.  Where is he heading? To Volkswagen.  He will assume a “significant role” in Wolfsburg.  Stay tuned.

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29 Comments on “March Surprise: One Of Detroit’s Three Beats All Of Europe...”


  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Not only that. I would like to see Ford Europe’s financial figures. A look at http://www.autoebid.com shows you can buy Ford’s with MASSIVE discounts. How will that affect Ford Europe’s bottom line? Also, it might explain why so many people buy them. You can buy a top of the range Ford Fiesta for £12,470. That’s 24.85% off RRP. If the engine wasn’t so woefully inefficient, I’d certainly snap one up.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    The numbers can be parsed six ways to Sunday but there is no denying that this is great news for Ford. They are clearly on a significant roll at home and in Europe and at the expense of other brands.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Good job Ford! Keep on moving up.
    Let the deniers bitch and moan all they want.
    Top selling BRAND is a common metric.
    Maybe if they were partially owned by two governments like VW they would have even more sales. But I doubt it.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Ford (Europe) is a completely different company than Ford (US). If they were serious about kicking some butt here in the Colonies, they would scrap US casr and start selling the European versions.

    Twotone

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      They will be shortly, starting this year fiesta and then the focus, c-max. kuga and by 2014 the mondeo should have replaced the fusion and taurus (wouldn’t be surprised to see an s-max sized mini-van based on the mondeo platform if minivans take off during that same time frame). All part of “One Ford”.

      The secret is to depreciate (and perfect) the new cars platforms and tooling in car heavy europe before bringing over the same platforms, processes, etc to truck heavy US

      They are however doing equally well here in the US with the older platforms.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I very much doubt they could replace the Taurus with the Mondeo — the Taurus is a *far* bigger car, a full foot longer than both the Fusion and Mondeo.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      The Mondeo is made off the EUCD modular platform (see the volvo S60 and S80, the S80 used to be on the D3).

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      How ironic that the article is about Ford Europe and an American Mustang is the article picture. They sell how many Mustangs there? Five? Six? LOL!

      Yes, please phase out the American Fords and bring in more of the Euro-Fords. Look nice, decent mileage, and sporty handling/performance.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    They sold 68,000 Fiestas in March. Perhaps it’ll overtake the Golf to be number 1 in Europe for the Month?

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Reading the press release, they say Ford was the best selling brand in Europe, and they even define the markets in the press release.

    From the press release.

    Notes to Editors:

    Ford of Europe’s market share refers to the 19 European markets (Euro 19) – excluding Turkey and Russia (as the other main markets) and excluding the 30 European Direct Markets (EDM), where we base our share on non-domestic sales volume and hence no total industry share figures are available. Sales data (reference: registrations) for specific car lines refer to Euro 19.
    We also report our sales performance (passenger cars and commercial vehicles) for the total region for which Ford of Europe is responsible (51 markets in total), here however as retail sales (as total industry registrations numbers are not available).
    The Euro 19 markets are: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Ford reports sales for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through our Finnish National Sales Company, so sales data for the Baltic states is also included within Euro 19.
    European Direct Markets are: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Gibraltar, Kazakhstan, Kyrgysztan, Libya, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

    It is quite an accomplishment to have the Ford brand be the top seller in Europe. Quite impressive.

    • 0 avatar

      As I said: New math. Even better: New geography!

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I am just pointing to the fact is was already there. I don’t know if the Euro 19 is a common metric, I don’t live there. But, it does look like for Ford is moving in the correct direction there.

    • 0 avatar

      A Euro 19 makes as much sense as a Euro 3 or a Euro 275.

      There is a Europe 27 – the EU has 27 members
      There is a Europe 16 – the Eurozone, the countries that have adopted the Euro as a currency.
      There is the EFTA – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein which have not joined the EU
      For historical reasons, there is a Europe 15 – the old Western European states

      Other than that, there is pretty much only the geographical Europe: EU, EFTA plus parts of Russia (and formerly Russian states) to the Ural and parts of Turkey to the Bosporus. Everything beyond is considered Asia.

      ACEA, of which Ford is a member, reports European numbers by:

      EU27
      EU27 + EFTA
      EU15 + EFTA

      In Europe these days, “European sales” are commonly understood as EU27 + EFTA.

      It would help if companies would stick to agreed-upon formats in their reporting. Not counting clearly European markets such as Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine, but then reporting sales performance “for the total region for which Ford of Europe is responsible (51 markets in total)” may make sense for Ford of Europe, but you can’t call that Europe by any measure. Especially when you say “Ford was No.1 in Europe in March.” Anyway, we’ll see when the official ACEA numbers come out. Should be any day now. Who knows, Ford as a single brand may be #1 in EU27 + EFTA.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Far too complicated. Way too many ways to count countries in Europe.

      Would you mind posting the ACEA numbers when they come out? The Euro 19 looks like all of the big markets, except parts of Russia and Turkey.

    • 0 avatar

      ACEA numbers are a monthly tradition at TTAC. They’ll be here the minute I have them.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      “Euro19” could potentially make geographic sense (although why would you include Czech Republic but not Slovakia, for example?), but as it’s a an area no one else uses for measuring sales, it smells like PR.

      It’s like reporting that you are #1 in US sales, and then specifying that it’s for the 48 contiquous states, plus Guam and US Virgin Islands, but excluding Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska.

      As Mark Twain said, there are lies, there are damned lies and …

  • avatar
    b1msus93

    “Is Ford lying through their teeth?”

    The press release starts with
    Ford – Europe’s Top-Selling “BRAND” in March

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    Maybe a side effect of the German market tanking? That’s going to hit VW harder than Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      The German market is just back to pre-Abwrackprämie levels, after the whole craze in 2009.
      Read about it here:
      http://autobirdblog.com/news/by-the-numbers-german-car-sales-down-26-6/

  • avatar
    Madeleines Petite French Cakes

    Do Europeans even think of Ford as “American” anymore. It’s been in Europe since 1909.

  • avatar
    jcap

    Yeah, in Germany the general public thinks of Germany as the hub of the automotive world.. and the media buys into that.
    So since Ford opened its operations in Cologne before WWII most people think its a German company, the media refers to: “Ford from Cologne” (not Dearborn,MI)
    This may have changed since the US company’s have made a lot of News through their financial difficulties.
    Strange things happen if people don’t really care about an issue.
    For instance Off-road vehicles are commonly called Jeep in Germany but very few people know that Jeep is a Brand.

    • 0 avatar

      It hasn’t changed. Ford is perceived as a European brand. Pretty much immune from the American disease. So would be Opel btw, if they wouldn’t let it hang out so much

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      Sorry, Bertel, but I’ve been meaning to pick you up on this one.

      How (or more accurately, Why?) is Ford perceived as a European brand? By what possible metric? Because Ford Europe is headquartered in Germany and builds cars there? Well, by that same logic we should be able to consider Toyota a European brand as its European division is headquartered in Belgium and they build cars in the UK, France and the Czech Republic. Or Nissan? Whose European division is headquartered in Switzerland and they build cars in the UK and Spain? I don’t understand the reasoning.

      It actually gives you an insight into one of the failings of the European mind-set. Ford come to Europe, build cars and Europeans like and buy them. However, the idea of an American company coming to Europe and winning Europeans over is too much for the Europeans to handle, so they somehow, twist it in their heads that Ford is actually European.

      I don’t like Ford, I may doubt their profitablity on each sale (see above) and I doubt their cars, but what I can’t deny are Europeans buying them in large quantities. Accept it, an American company, came to Europe and did well. Credit where credit is due.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      @Cammy
      How (or more accurately, Why?) is Ford perceived as a European brand?
      Because they have been here for so long. There are people in Cologne who work at Ford like their parents and grandparents did.
      If you click on “Über Ford” (About Ford) on Ford Germany’s website, the first thing you read is: “Am 18. August 1925 wurde die Ford-Werke AG in Berlin gegründet – und seitdem haben über 30 Millionen in Deutschland gefertigte Ford Fahrzeuge den Asphalt erobert.”
      (On August 18th, 1925 the Ford works in Berlin were founded – since then, over 30 million German made Ford vehicles have conquered the tarmac.”

      Then they’re going on about how they moved their headquarters to Cologne in 1930 and basically are a defining component of the Rhineland are now.
      You have to click through until the Aachen research center page to read something about a place called “USA”.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      Hello, Mirko,

      Everything you said may be true, but doesn’t work. The US army have had stations in Europe since the Second World War, so because they’ve been here for so long, does that make them part of the armies of Europe?

      Also, everything you mentioned is just marketing spin (“We’re European, too!). Marketing spin which, may I add, isn’t too dissimilar to what Toyota did in the United States when they initially sold the Tundra. Because they’ve been in the United States for so long, have many factories there, support many jobs and are part of the United States’ landscape, they can be considered an American brand? Same logic.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      @Cammy
      Also, everything you mentioned is just marketing spin

      You are absolutely right: It is. Your question wasn’t “Why is Ford an European brand” but “How (or more accurately, Why?) is Ford perceived as a European brand?”

      The difference with the Toyota Tundra situation is time and nothing else. Americans didn’t grow up with pictures of grandpa in a Tundra in the family album.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    Still, will be interesting to see how VW spins this as a step towards their own world domination.

  • avatar
    jcap

    @Cammy
    Of course we know that Ford is an US Brand, nobody is denying that.
    Every German interested in the car Business knows that.
    Its just interesting that such an iconic American Brand is, through spin and its long local history, capable to sell itself as a German brand to the gullible Masses.
    Exactly what Toyota tries in the States.

    We are just making the point that this spin helps their sales in Germany.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    Cammy – probably the key reason why Ford is perceived as a European brand is the simple fact that they started manufacturing vehicles in Europe from as far back as 1908 when they built a plant in Bordeaux, France (which they flogged just over a year ago – it was a transmission plant). For a very long part of Ford’s history, they ran pretty much independently from Dearbourn control and have nearly always been led by British or German execs. I’ve no idea what proportion of the European workforce has American citizenship, but I expect it’d be low single digits. A very small amount of vehicles are imported from the US.

    Compare that to say Toyota in Europe. First plant set up in 1989 I think. Even today, about 10% of the workforce is Japanese (with top management being a great majority of Japanese) and the imposition of ‘Toyota Way’ [aka, strongly rural Japanese conservative culture and work ethic). 40% of the cars are still imported from the Far East.

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