alan mulally

Ford Chief Says European Auto Market Turning Corner

After six months of dropping sales rates and registration of new cars, Mulally says it the eurozone auto industry is primed for a rebound.

BERLIN - The European auto market, which has been hard hit as the eurozone struggles with its debt crisis, may be close to turning the corner, Ford (IW 500/8) chief executive Alan Mulally said Friday.

While acknowledging that Europe was still in a pretty severe economic situation, Mulally said "it looks to us in the automobile industry that we might be near the bottom."

Registration of new cars, a proxy for sales, fell by 6.6% in the first half of year, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, with only Britain among major markets to see a significant expansion.

Vehicle sales in Europe are currently running at about 13.5 million units a year, well below the 18 million unit sales rate in 2007.

Nevertheless Ford is confident enough of the future to accelerate development and introduction of new vehicles in Europe, said Mulally.

Europe continues to be plagued by too much auto production capacity, but Mulally said Ford had taken decisive action to match production to the lower demand.

The company is to close next year two plants in Britain and one in Belgium. Together they represent about 18% of Ford's capacity in the eurozone.

"We think we are pretty right with where we are today," said Mulally.

"But in Europe and all over the world we continue to look at the industry, the demand, the economy and match our production accordingly," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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