Will small car buyers find Ford?
In an industry down 12 per cent, sales were up 7, resulting in a 15 per cent marketshare—the automaker’s best here in seven years. Ford even beat out General Motors in truck sales for the first time in a decade.
All good news for fans of the Blue Oval. But between a shift in consumer tastes, and tighter fuel economy regs on the horizon, small cars—the part of the market the Detroit Three handed over to the imports decades ago—are the future.
So how will Ford handle the shift away from its current best-selling pickups and SUVs to small, European cars, like the new Fiesta, Focus and C-Max making the auto show rounds?
“Our focus for 2010 is to introduce the car side of Ford to customers,” Ford of Canada CEO David Mondragon, (above) told The Crank during last week’s Detroit show media days.
Mondragon admits that changes in Ford showrooms will be necessary. Salespeople use to selling trucks and SUVs will have to readjust their mindset for a new type of customer.
“I don’t know if the demographic makeup of our dealers match up with the type of customers that are—or will be—coming to our stores,” said Mondragon.
He expects cars like the subcompact Fiesta to attract more diverse customers than what are currently shopping at Ford dealers, including more females than ever before.
One way to win back customers who would never consider a Ford small car is value. Based on the way the 2011 Fiesta will be sold, Mondragon is confident it will be a hit. You will be able to load up your Fiesta like a Mini Cooper with ICE and leather seats. But the base car is where Ford’s marketing will be the loudest.
“Versus some of the ‘beer cans’ on the road that our competitors sell, our base model Fiesta will not be a ‘stripper’—its apples and oranges,” explained Mondragon.
For example, starting at $12,995, the five-door Fiesta will come with ABS, tilt/telescopic steering, front-, side-, curtain and knee-airbags, and a six-speed manual transmission—all as standard kit.
Yaris, Fit and Accent are all at least about a $1,000 more.
And based on some drive time this summer on a pre-production Fiesta, the Ford may be the most fun-to-drive in its class.
But is Ford’s newfound small religion enough to get import buyers back into its showrooms?
The product looks good. So does the pricing-versus-content ratio.
But is that enough to get you to consider a new Fiesta over established import small cars?