Ford's Vignale to join European upmarket car chase

Wed Sep 4, 2013 12:09am EDT
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By Christiaan Hetzner

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Ford (F.N: Quote) has drawn on the latest European design trends with its new luxury concept car, tempting the driver with a quilted cream-colored Nappa leather interior to complement its chrome and mocha-hued bodywork.

The Vignale, which makes its first public appearance at the Frankfurt auto show next week and launches in Europe early in 2015, is the latest attempt by a mass-market carmaker to woo affluent customers more interested in a lifestyle than a bargain.

Looks can be deceptive, though. While suggestive of an expensive Italian marque, the Vignale is little more than a pimped-up version of the four-cylinder Ford Mondeo still favored by many a mid-level manager or sales rep.

Ford is targeting the market for mid-size aspirational models such as the BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) 3 series, Audi (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) A4 and Mercedes (DAIGn.DE: Quote) C-Class.

"This prevents defection of Ford customers who believe they need to go somewhere else as they progress in their careers and make more money," Ford's European sales chief Roelant de Waard says of the new premium line.

The concept, which does not sport the Mondeo badge anywhere on the car, is due to be rolled out across multiple vehicles as a new sub-brand akin to Ford's sporty ST nameplate.

The company remains tightlipped about the Vignale's price tag, but de Waard said it would offer a suitable product at a lower price for customers who find the premium German manufacturers too expensive.

This would suggest a price tag in Germany higher than the 29,450 euros ($38,700) for a Mondeo Titanium, but less than the 33,230 euro Mercedes C-Class.   Continued...

New Ford vehicles occupy the lot at Koons Ford dealership in Fairfax, Virginia, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst