Ford may have had one starry eye on the launch of its Fiesta RallyeConcept at this year's British International Motor Show but it was also looking clearly into the future with the presence of its prototype Focus Fuel Cell.

With this other eye on a more environment-friendly future there was even the hushed revelation from Mark Jones, a fleet brand manager for Ford in the UK, of an LPG Focus appearing on the scene next year.

While such energy efficient models are clearly part of the longer-term strategy for Ford it has already made major moves in this direction with diesel, which is having a great impact on fleet sales. The changes to benefits-in-kind taxation on company cars have led to diesel engines taking greater prominence within Ford's fleet business. “It's been a quantum leap and it's dramatically changed the landscape,” said Jones.

He added: “Since we introduced a new diesel engine over the past 12 months ago for the Fiesta, Fusion and Mondeo sales for diesel have gone up 65 per cent. This is from a combination of people converting from petrol and new customers.”

Ford's fleet operation has also been able to adapt to the increasing desire for the 'downsizing' trend by the company's “speccing-up of smaller models”. Jones added: “Fleet customers no longer have the problem of 'having this but sacrificing that'. Diesel now has petrol-like performance, small cars now have big-car comfort and safety features.”

Ford has continued to introduce further advanced small car ranges and launches at this year's Show included the two-seater Streetka, which will be on sale by Spring 2003 at prices ranging from £12,495 to £13,745 on-the-road.

Published : 23/10/02 Author : Melanie Carter

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