Kevin Griffin – Ford’s director of sales – sees the new Ford Edge SUV as another point of reference in the company’s move towards being an all round mobility provider.
It all hinges on the new Ford Pass app due this year. By Ralph Morton
WE’RE sitting down catching breakfast before dashing off to drive the new Ford Edge at the car’s international launch. The Edge is a large SUV, a market that has been booming. Without Ford – until now.
“We’re seeing MPVs decline and SUVs increase. Kuga volume has increased by 63% over two years,” explains Kevin Griffin, Ford sales director.
“We know customers are driving in that sector, so why not drive our car? We’re not generating a new segment; we are now participating in it.
“But it’s broader than that. We’ve had interest from fleets for tenders for appropriately sized vehicles – such as the police for X5-type vehicles.
“Whether we can meet that demand I don’t know, but it’s there and we can now compete.
New Ford initiatives: Ford Hub and Ford Pass
- Ford Pass is already launched in the States and it’s due here in the UK by the end of the year.
- It’s a mobile app that connects users to a variety of services – these can include journey planning, finding vacant car parking availability, or connecting remotely with your vehicle (to warm it up in cold weather, for example).
- Ford Hubs are experience centres where customers can discover more about how Ford will help with their mobility in the future, view new Ford car concepts, and experience current vehicles.
- “What you don’t need are pop-up shops,” explains Kevin. “What you do need are communication centres – and that is the essence of a Ford Hub.”
- Like the Ford Pass, the Ford Hub will be in the UK by the end of the year.
“I think there will also be huge demand for the Edge from the SME sector as well, so I see Edge doing well across the complete fleet spectrum. Edge customers are clearly more affluent – they want practicality and quality. The Edge delivers that.”
Kevin says that Ford engineers have changed the ride and handling of the One Ford US built SUV to suit European roads and tastes.
“It’s important for us to get into the larger car market,” continues Kevin. “We understand premium brands are dominant in this sector but we have a big chance to access some of that market with our well specified Titanium and Sports models, as well as the forthcoming Vignale version of the Edge.
“So far we have sold 500 Edge models although we have not delivered any yet – that starts in August – while the online configurator has seen a very positive reaction to the new car.
“Ford can get to a new level – we need to let go of what we know and come back to the customer. This idea is underpinning the Ford Stores.”
Ford now has 60 Ford Stores, the most recent was the opening of the brand new, state-of-the-art Ford Store in Epsom, Surrey, with the complete range of 22 Ford vehicles including the iconic Ford Mustang, luxury Vignale and hot shot Focus RS.
“The Mustang and Edge are important because we’re on our way to becoming a marketing destination – I know we are up against premium brands but we have products that can really compete,” continues Kevin.
“We’ve got a 53% RV on Edge – which gives it a compelling monthly lease figure. And there’s lots more to come from Ford.
“The Ford Ka+ will be quite different from the previous Ka – we don’t need the Fiat JV anymore. The One Ford direction will be invested up front to drive the brand and shareholder value.”
The new Ford Ka+ is smaller supermini for city car cash – Ford aiming for UK buyers that could go second hand but can now access a modern cost-effective Ford. Pricing is to be from £9,000; and it is nearly as large as the existing Fiesta. First deliveries are expected October.
As well as the Ford Ka+, Kevin says the Vignale Edge comes at the end of the year with a price premium of up to £3,000 over Titanium Edge. “We expect this to be 10% of volume – about 500 a year. We’re very keen for Vignale to be a demand-led car.”
The CV revolution
Away from passenger cars, commercial vehicles are also doing well for Ford. “Around 2011-12,” says Kevin, “we were at 63,000 vehicles – by the end of 2016 we’ll be at 127,000. We’ve taken the Transit brand and extended it to cover Connect and Courier. It’s been hugely successful – so we cover all bases from sub-1.0-litre van to 3.5-tonne rear-wheel drive.
“And much of this is driven by our lead in technology. For example we can move to Stage 6 emission without the need for adblue exhaust after treatment. And with the focus moving to emissions we now have available 1.0t and 2.0t petrol engines for urban deliveries, plus we’ll have automatic transmissions by the end of the year.
“And the type of business that you do in a Courier – the delivery business – they prefer an auto, and to date we’ve been out of that market. So there’s plenty more to go in the light van market.
Funding: Ford and the market
Kevin recognises that the growth and grip of the funding industry is higher than ever before.
He says that 55% of Ford’s volume goes through the retail channel with “dealers actualising that business” with strong performance on Ford’s Options and Ford Lease, which has grown both on cars and vans.
“At the other end you have the large businesses – BT and Balfour Beattys of this world who operate on vehicle tender so you are bidding for the supply of vehicles,” explains Kevin.
“Some require specialist treatment – the configuration of vans for instance – so we have a direct sales channel to orchestrate this.
“There is a grey area that sits in the middle. We do want to do business with these other people but we are very cautious about moving into this introducer channel too strongly”
“Larger corporations have some direct purchase but they are less prescriptive because we are in the world of the user chooser here. And increasingly these sorts of companies are using funding to support these vehicles along with funder supplied fleet management.
“But it’s in the middle piece – the leasing broker or PCH agreement – that seems to be really growing.” It’s a growing sector that presents Ford with something of a dilemma.
“We want to have a direct relationship with the buyer who has title and/or risk to the vehicle. A contract hire company may not be the end user but they do have the risk,” he says.
“At the other end you have the franchise network which we continually urge our dealers to invest – and doing successfully through our Ford Store initiative. These two methods are our preferred way to do business.
“But we recognise that there is a grey area that sits in the middle. We do want to do business with these other people but we are very cautious about moving into this introducer channel too strongly, because we recognise we have the dealer presence.
“Nevertheless we will deal with the leasecos who deliver into these channels, but we’re reluctant to do the direct approach. Without title, that channel can be very speculative.”
Investing in the digital interface
While Kevin says Ford remains cautious about getting into bed too snugly with the introducer channel, he does say that the new Ford Store initiative is changing the dynamic with the customer with its greater focus on customer service, and the bespoke Vignale servicing initiative.
And this changing dynamic will ramp up further towards the end of the year with the launch of the Ford Hub and Ford Pass. “It means,” says Kevin, “that we get more information about the customer, but we can also treat their needs better.
“We’ll monitor demand. Do customers enjoy the digital interface – or do they prefer visiting dealers?
“If Ford Pass is a relevant to the customer, will push on with it. There’s been a strongly positive reaction to it in the States.”
Kevin sees this as a further step in Ford’s move into the mobility space, the provision of transport services rather than owning assets.
“Ford Store and Ford Pass are all about bringing Ford and customers closer together. And with our range of propositions – including Ford Rental – we should be in a good space to meet the future transport requirements of our customers.”
And that will be all the way from an app and a Ka+ to a Ford Mustang and a 3.5 tonner LWB RWD Transit.