Ford sees drop in 2011 European auto sales

* Ford says Europe auto sales inflated by discounts

* Ford expects 14 mln to 15 mln Europe auto sales in 2011

DETROIT, Dec 10 (BestGrowthStock) – A Ford Motor Co (F.N: )
manufacturing executive on Friday said he expects 2011 auto
sales in Europe to fall to 14 million to 15 million units from
annualized rates of 15 million to 16 million in recent months.

John Fleming, Ford executive vice president for global
manufacturing and labor affairs, said sales in recent months
have been artificially boosted by discounts to consumers that
obscure a true reading on new-vehicle demand.

Government-sponsored consumer sales incentives — called
scrappage programs in Europe and similar to the U.S.
“cash-for-clunkers” program of the summer of 2009 — have
largely expired. Scrappage programs in Germany, the largest
European market, expired more than a year ago.

“When you look at the numbers, you would say that sales
have held up better (than had been expected),” Fleming said.
“When you look at profitability, and see that a lot of the
European market is being driven by end-of-the-month and
end-of-the-quarter business, which is a push which is heavily
discounted, it’s difficult to know exactly where a normal
running market would be.”

Fleming spoke from an investors conference in London on
Friday that was webcast.

France is the last major European market where scrappage
incentives remain, and that program ends at the new year.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Gunna Dickson)

Ford sees drop in 2011 European auto sales