The move into the red - in 1998 Ford recorded a pre-tax profit of £61 million on turnover of £6,708 million - was blamed on over-capacity in British plants and reduced sales revenues triggered by customers delaying purchases amid speculation that new car prices were set to tumble.
Ford said vigorous cost-cutting measures were unable to match the fall in sales revenue which saw a total of 464,341 vehicles sold last year. Fleet sales were fractionally down year-on-year at 220,409 (1998: 222,889), although market share was up at 21.75% (1998: 21.11%).
Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, Ian McAllister, said: '1999 was one of the most competitive and formative the industry has seen for a long time. However, Ford products have continued to attract the largest group of purchasers.
'The outlook for 2000 is that the market will remain competitive. The company will benefit from the introduction of class-leading products such as the all-new Transit and the new Galaxy and continue a strong emphasis on reducing costs.'