Ford CEO denies lulled into false sense of security

Matt Clinch and Nancy Hulgrave
Ford did 'not have false sense of security': CEO

After ripping up profit forecasts and seeing soft September U.S. sales data, the CEO of the Ford Motor has hit back at critics by telling CNBC that the carmaker is not being complacent about its future.

Mark Fields, who was given the top job only in May this year, said that he is "very confident" in Ford's long-term strategy and disagreed that any short term problems were clouding this outlook.

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"We're executing our plan...(it's) absolutely not a false sense of security," he told CNBC at the 2014 Paris Motor Show on Thursday.

Ford CEO Mark Fields with the S-Max at the Paris Motor Show

"We're looking at that business environment and dealing with that reality and I think we're doing that very proactively and positively."

The company cut its profit forecasts for 2014 on Monday blaming higher warranty costs and weakening conditions in South America and Russia. 2014 pre-tax profit is now expected to total around $6 billion—down from forecasts of between $7 billion and $8 billion.

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Shares slipped more than 7 percent and the newsflow didn't get much better with September U.S. auto sales on Wednesday for Ford showing a fall of 2.7 percent, less than expected. General Motors, the Fiat-Chrysler Group and Nissan all reported year-on-year gains, meanwhile.

'Huge opportunity' in luxury cars: Ford CEO

Fields, who was originally chief operating officer at the carmaker before taking over from Alan Mulally, said that Ford was being realistic and the sales numbers didn't show the whole picture for the company, adding that there are some products at Ford that showed promising sales growth.

"We have a number of years of growing our revenues, growing our profitability. It's still going to be a strong year in 2014 and in 2015 we expect to continue to grow our revenues, our profitability and our market share with all the great products that we're introducing," he said.

Ford launched an update to its F-Series truck at the event but Fields was quick to point out that it was hoping to grow its luxury segment despite offloading Aston Martin and Land Rover at the end of the last decade.

The company is now squarely focused on its Lincoln products while rival Jaguar Land Rover has thrown its hat in the ring with a new 2015 Jaguar XE model. Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, said he was "convinced" the punt on the luxury car would work after the company invested $2 billion to introduce advanced manufacturing techniques and new jobs at its U.K. facility.

It now looks like Sweden's Volvo is also opting to jump on that bandwagon with a more "premium" set of products. Hakan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo, unveiled a high-end XC90 SUV at the show and called it a "step forward" for the company.

Volvo's future is as premium brand: CEO

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"I think the future for Volvo is being a premium brand and the important thing is of course to deliver value corresponding to that brand," he told CNBC Thursday. He added that he would not "alienate" loyal customers, however, with a range of price points for each model.

The future of the luxury space could be about to get a little tight if more manufacturers follow this trend, but Fields is adamant that there is "huge opportunity" for his firm which has just launched luxury products in China.

"There's a huge opportunity around the word in the luxury segment and we're just getting started on our transformation on Lincoln into a world class luxury brand. And we're seeing some initial success on that with some of our models," he said.

"We're very excited, we know it's early days."