Ford Adds White-Glove Service in Europe to Compete in Luxury

Ford Motor Co. is adding upscale design details along with luxury service as it tries to win back customers at the premium end of the European market.

Ford is showing a concept of the Mondeo Vignale, with 20-inch (51-centimeter) alloy wheels, quilted leather seats, chrome detailing and a white-glove level of service. The so-called trim level on the Vignale, positioned above the titanium trim level, will be offered first with Mondeo in 2015, then will be added to other models in the region, the company said.

German luxury brands have cut into Mondeo’s sales in Europe as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s Audi have added entry-level luxury models while Ford doesn’t have a separate luxury brand in the region. The company’s Lincoln line fell 6.4 percent this year through August in the U.S., and its sales peaked in 1990.

“With the Titanium mix being so high, we knew there was something we can put above it,” Stephen Odell, Ford’s head of Europe, told reporters at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Ford, working to break even in Europe by mid-decade, is trying to reverse a decline for Mondeo. The model’s sales plunged to 86,675 last year from 293,654 in 2001, according to researcher LMC Automotive.

The Mondeo Vignale will compete for Mondeo customers looking for more as well as for customers considering sedans from German automakers, said Roelant de Waard, vice president of marketing for Ford of Europe.

Extended Decline

The European market is slogging through a six-year decline. European first-half car sales fell 6.7 percent to 6.44 million vehicles, according to the Brussels-based ACEA industry group.

Ford dealers will offer a luxury level of service for Vignale models, including free car washes and picking up and dropping off vehicles when they need servicing, the company said. More than half of Ford’s large-car customers in Europe buy higher-end trim levels, the company said. Not all Ford dealers will carry Vignale, Odell said.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally is looking to the Mondeo to replicate the success of its U.S. version, the Fusion. Deliveries of the mid-size sedan surged 13 percent this year through August. Fusion has reduced the lead of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry, the nation’s top-selling car. Fusion commands a premium of more than $2,300 per vehicle compared with Camry.

In the U.S., Ford leads major automakers in market share growth through 2013’s first eight months.

Ford depends on its profitable North American operations to make up for losses in Europe, which totaled $810 million in the first half. The automaker in July narrowed its loss forecast for Europe to about $1.8 billion from $2 billion. In 2012, it reported a loss of $1.75 billion.

Ford rose 1.4 percent to $17.55 in New York, the highest closing price since January 2011. The shares have gained 36 percent this year, outpacing the 18 percent increase for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.