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Ford expands its Vignale and high performance ranges

By raccars Published

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Ford has been working on a rationalisation scheme. Which models are to be culled?

In an attempt to save money and improve efficiency, Ford has been reviewing its model line-up and it seems that the company doesn't really like what it sees. As a result, the company plans to axe less profitable models and expand in more lucrative areas. It has identified SUVs, high performance models and its Vignale luxury sub-brand as targets for growth. An unfortunate side effect of the scheme is the loss of a number of jobs among Ford's 53,000 strong European workforce. Most of these will be in Germany and the UK in the sales, marketing and administration departments.

Last year saw Ford Europe make a profit for the first time after four pretty poor years, despite healthy sales figures. However the company believes that further cost cutting steps are necessary to ensure a lean operation and secure future development.

More SUVs

Key to improving the firm's prospects is the enlargement of its range. Currently comprising the Kuga, EcoSport and Edge models, Ford plans to release another two SUVs. The Kuga was recently revealed in updated form with a premium finish and full of modern technology. Meanwhile the MPV market is struggling, which could mean that Ford's B-Max and C-Max models may be the first to be phased out.

The Ford Vignale sub-brand

The Vignale luxury sub-brand is also to receive a boost. Thus far, only the Mondeo has received the Vignale treatment, but the S-Max is next in line and Ford plans to extend its Vignale range in order to try and soak up some of the predicted expansion in the premium sector over the next few years.

Vignale editions of the Kuga and Edge models were on display next to the S-Max in Geneva last week, although production status has yet to be confirmed. However, as with the Mondeo, the vast majority of Kuga sales are of the brand's highest specification variant, the Kuga Titanium, showing that consumers are happy to pay extra for a little more luxury.

The Vignale-badged models will all get the Sync3 infotainment system with voice control and the Vignale lifestyle app. There's also a Vignale magazine and special treatment from dealers for Vignale owners. Ford markets Vignale as extending beyond mere extra trim level and representing a lifestyle brand. Confirming its commitment to expanding the Vignale line-up, Ford has added some extra design options which will give customers more customisation choices from next year. Dealers are taking orders for the S-Max Vignale now.

High performance Fords

The firm also believes that there is a good commercial case for more high performance models. To that end, expect to see more hot 'ST' models, starting with a new Fiesta ST200, which was seen drawing a lot of attention at last week's Geneva Motor Show. The ST200 is so named for the boost in horsepower over the 182bhp standard Fiesta ST and, at 200bhp, will be Ford's most powerful production Fiesta ever.

With Eighties hot hatches, including the Fiesta, currently commanding high prices, Ford seems to be planning a future classic. The ST200 will be available from June with prices yet to be announced. Expect to pay at least £20,000. The ST200 is sure to be a big hit in the UK, where hot hatch fans have bought over 19,000 of the 30,000 Fiesta STs Ford has already sold.

The Ford Focus RS and the latest Mustang have been a huge success and have helped to boost sales of Ford's high performance models by 62 per cent over the last year. In fact, Ford is struggling to keep up with demand and has a number of outstanding orders for these two models as parts suppliers can't keep up with the expanded production schedule.

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