Europe: Ford lobbies for Britain to remain part of EU image

The second largest US automaker is treading on glass as it has decided to lobby Britain to remain in the European Union, potentially trespassing inside a divisive political issue which could impact the brand’s consumer potential.

Ford believes the United Kingdom should remain a part of the European Union because it’s healthy for business, but campaigners arguing for the opposite strategy say a free-trade agreement might be negotiated fairly quickly and business would return to the usual stance. The UK is one of the major European markets for German carmakers, including the luxury peers BMW, Porsche, Audi or Mercedes-Benz – besides the mass-market brands such as GM Europe’s Opel-Vauxhall, Ford, France’s Renault and Peugeot-Citroen, and Italy’s Fiat. Other car companies have been more refrained on commenting the conundrum, with the referendum to have the people cast their opinion whether to stay or leave the European Union set sometimes before the end of 2017. So far both sides appear to be on par and have since increased their campaigning.

General Motors for example has been less adamant about the future of its local brand – Vauxhall – which has two large facilities in England. “We will not turn our back on England,” commented for Reuters GM Europe CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann. Even Nissan, led by Carlos Ghosn, and the brand that operates the biggest plant in the UK, has backtracked on previous allegations that it would reconsider investments if the country left the EU. “We really believe that the UK being part of the E.U. is critical for business,” instead said back in March on Britain’s BBC the Ford of Europe chief Jim Farley.