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Ford Europe boss: 'Green shoots' showing in car industry

By CNN Wire staff
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1843 GMT (0243 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ford Europe CEO says UK debate on EU membership not short term "inhibitor"
  • Odell also said the weak pound against euro would not deter Ford's operation in the UK
  • U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is pledging to offer the British electorate vote on Europe by 2017

(CNN) -- Ford's Europe boss says the car giant is sticking with the UK despite the slumping currency and friction with European partners.

Stephen Odell -- chief executive officer of the U.S. automaker's European division -- told CNN the debate over a UK referendum on EU membership is not an "inhibitor" to Ford's investment strategy in the short term.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is pledging to offer the British electorate a vote by 2017 on whether Europe's second largest economy remains in the 27-nation political union.

In January, Cameron said the British people should have a choice about whether to remain in the EU on the basis of a renegotiated settlement -- or to leave.

The referendum should not be held until it's clear how changes made after the crisis in the eurozone work out, he said.

Speaking from the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, Odell told CNN: "I hope sense prevails as we start to move potentially towards a referendum."

He added: "From a business perspective to elect and decide to vote to move away from 50% of your business partnership doesn't strike me as a very good view."

Odell also said the weak pound would not deter Ford's operation in the UK. Sterling is under pressure as investors anticipate new stimulus measures from the Bank of England.

"The U.K. [car] industry last year was quite buoyant because the pound was strong against the euro but I don't think that's a principle driver of our decision," said Odell.

This week Ford is launching its new Tourneo Courier at the Geneva Motor Show, with the people carrier set to hit UK showrooms next spring. Odell says Ford is already beginning to see encouraging signs in sales in the European car industry.

"There are some signs on supplier purchasing, on our own order banks that there are some green shoots..... we could start to see some sort of recovery slow in the second half [of 2013]."

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