Ford's Russia unit looks to exports to offset slump in home market

Mon Dec 7, 2015 11:11am EST
 
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By Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Winning

MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. carmaker Ford's (F.N: Quote) Russian unit is considering expanding exports as weak sales in its home market look set to continue for another year at least, its chief executive told Reuters.

Russia's auto industry is a major casualty of the economic crisis precipitated by the collapse in oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

Car sales are down over 30 percent year on year in the first 10 months of 2015 as consumer purchasing power has been eroded and business activity contracted.

That has prompted local carmakers to eye exports to minimize losses, while Ford's rival General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) quit Russia.

"Export is something we're looking at," said Mark Ovenden, president and CEO of Ford Sollers, Ford's joint venture with Russian partners. "I'd like to look at it beyond a few thousand (vehicles) ... and see whether there is a more strategic export opportunity for us."

Ford Sollers already exports into former Soviet countries such as Kazakhstan in small volumes, but Ovenden said the company could also target markets in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Ford has a presence in Eastern Europe with a factory in Romania but it does not produce all of the models there that it produces in Russia, where it makes the Fiesta, Focus, EcoSport and Transit, among others.

It is considering all of its model types for exports as well as engines made at a $275 million powertrain plant it launched in the Russian republic of Tatarstan this year.   Continued...

 
Mark Ovenden, chief executive of Ford Sollers, U.S. carmaker Ford's joint venture with Russian partners, poses during an interview with Reuters in Moscow, Russia, December 4, 2015.     REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev