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Car confidential: Reasons to be cheerful

Buoyed by a slug of new metal, Ford dealers have reasons to be cheerful, says Roelant de Waard, the chairman of Ford of Britain.

The S-Max and Galaxy MPVs, Transit, Focus cabriolet and Ranger pick-up land in showrooms this year; the crucial Mondeo flagship follows in 2007.

De Waard only took over on February 1, but already he’s consulted a handful of dealers. “I was pleased to hear how optimistic they were about the business. It’s a great starting point.

“Last year, our market share stabilized, and this year has begun well. Our dealers have genuine confidence in the product. They have seen everything that’s coming soon.”

At Geneva, Ford shared the S-Max and Galaxy with the public, two cars that hold the key to the Mondeo MkIII.

Ford’s strategy – unsurprisingly – will be to price the next Mondeo aggressively but profitably, while still being able to boost quality and reliability.

An impossible dream? By sharing the CD architecture of the new MPVs and building all three cars on the same line, improved economies of scale should benefit Ford, its dealers and customers.

With Volvo and Land Rover joining the party, the alliance could get close to one million units per year from the architecture.

“Improved quality is great for the customer, but also a concern for dealers as they get less ,” says de Waard. “We’ve also just extended our warranty, which will have the same effect. But there’s only one way forward and that’s having the highest quality vehicles. Dealers understand this trend will not be reversed.”

As well as feeling fancier to the touch, the bigger new Mondeo will be stacked with upmarket kit: active cruise control, adaptive damping and tyre pressure monitors.

Optional four-wheel drive and big transverse engines – the 222bhp 2.5 turbo five, Volvo’s new 3.2-litre straight six petrol and a 200bhp fivepot turbodiesel – reveal Ford’s aspirations. But the majority of models will be front-drive and four cylinder: 1.8 and 2.0 petrol and diesel engines.

But quality is nothing without desirability, aided – Ford believes – by its new kinetic design language. Big wheelarches, exaggerated headlamps pushed out to the wings and a swollen grille all figure. “The Mondeo gets a lot of what you saw in the Iosis concept car, but it’s a different animal,” says design chief Chris Bird. “Too stylish and you might not get widespread acceptance.”

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