Ford Europe eyes higher 2014 sales on new models, market upturn

Ford is counting on new models and a stabilizing European car market to increase sales in the region this year, after shrinking demand inflicted a small drop in 2013 deliveries.

A 19.4 percent surge in December sales in the so-called Euro-19 markets, including all major countries plus the Baltic states, limited the annual decline to 2.1 percent or 1.08 million autos, Ford Europe said on Wednesday.

The U.S. carmaker is planning to launch at least seven new vehicles in Europe this year, including the Indian-built EcoSport affordable sport-utility vehicle (SUV), the Mondeo mid-sized car and the Transit van.

"We are determined to build upon the solid foundation we've built in 2013," Ford Europe sales chief Roelant de Waard said in a statement.

New or revamped vehicles accounted for over 40 percent of Ford's European sales last year, the carmaker's regional chief, Stephen Odell, said. Ford has raised to 25 from 15 the number of new models it aims to introduce in Europe over the next five years.

Cologne, Germany-based Ford Europe expects Western European registrations to grow in 2014 after stabilizing at 13.5 million last year, Odell told Reuters last November, restating a 2015 profit goal.

Ford's share of Europe's five biggest markets - Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain - rose one percentage point last year to 8.2 percent, the company said.

The carmaker predicted last October that its European business would post a smaller pretax loss in 2013 than the $1.75 billion deficit recorded in 2012 - a marked improvement on the $2 billion loss forecast in January 2013.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford will publish 2013 earnings on January 28.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Mark Potter)