Peugeot has joined the sector with the recently launched 607 and Renault will enter with the soon-to-be-launched Avantime and Vel Satis to take on products from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Ford pulled out of the big car market two years ago when it abandoned the controversially-styled Scorpio. At the time it was believed Ford would replace the Scorpio with its American Lincoln brand. However, that came to nothing and Ford of Europe chairman Nick Scheele told Fleet NewsNet: 'There will never be another large Ford in Europe again.
'Our view is that the segment has gone to premium and near-premium manufacturers. These are user-chooser cars and customers have moved away from the mass volume marques in this sector.' While leaving the volume executive market to Vauxhall with the Omega and French and German manufacturers, Ford believes the recent launch of the new and enlarged Mondeo will fill the void left by Scorpio.
Scheele said: 'We think the Mondeo is the right car for Europe. To go above it would push us into territory occupied by Jaguar and Volvo. We have to recognise reality. We want to play a major role in the fleet market and to do that Mondeo had to be enlarged. It had to have greater road presence, be better appointed and have better diesel engines. We believe the car now meets all these requirements.'
But at General Motors' subsidiary Vauxhall, chairman and chief executive Nick Reilly said Omega was selling very well and added: 'We see a role for that product in our range, particularly in the fleet segment, and we will produce a replacement.' Following next year's launch of the Vectra replacement, which Reilly said would retain the Vectra name, although Fleet NewsNet had been told the codename Epsilon would be used, the new Omega will be Vauxhall's next major launch.