It appears as though Ford of Europe has decided to enter the political fray where British membership in the European Union is concerned.
Even as other dominant brands are taking a wait and see approach, Ford has said it favours an EU with Britain still a member. Company officials say their stand is purely a business decision. Ford argues that Britain remaining in the EU is necessary if the country is to remain the European leader in manufacturing and industry. Company officials are concerned that a decision to leave the Union would hamper trade between Britain, Europe and other parts of the world enough to negatively affect business. Having said that, Ford has no plans to leave Britain regardless of the vote.
GM Europe, maker of the Vauxhall nameplate and Ford’s number two competitor in Britain, says it remains committed as well. They are in the midst of developing plans to build two new plants in England and company officials say those plans will not change. Other carmakers including Renault, BMW, Audi, and Porsche have made a point not to get involved in the discussion if at all possible.
Public Perception vs Free Trade
Ford is likely not alone in its view of the EU and British membership. Yet other carmakers appear not to be willing to discuss the matter for fear of negative public perception. We have a habit here in the UK, of not taking too kindly to companies that insert themselves into political issues. Herein is the danger for Ford. As both sides in the EU debate begin cranking up their campaigns to win the hearts and minds of voters, could Ford’s reputation be damaged by being part of the discussion? Or perhaps the strength of their brand is enough to overcome any negative perceptions.
In the end, analysts are pretty firm in their agreement that any move by Britain to leave the EU would have very little effect on car companies. It all comes down to their dependence on the British market. Companies such as BMW and Audi rely heavily on their British customers to sustain their operations outside of Germany. And because Germany is the primary controlling force in the EU, there is little doubt that trade agreements would be put in place very rapidly to protect the car market. Those trade agreements would benefit Ford as much as any other European player. As the Europan Union debate continues Jennings Ford Direct will keep you updated.
The current issue is not unlike the 2002 question of whether or not Britain should adopt the EU’s single currency. Back then the biggest car makers were pushing in favour of the proposal, arguing that the industry would leave Britain if the euro were not adopted. It was not, yet car manufacturers have done just fine ever since.
Ford has voiced its opinion on the EU in Britain. Some will agree, others will not. But in the end, it will likely mean very little. Ford will continue to dominate the British market until it stops producing cars people want.
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