Ford Australia’s product onslaught
Ford Australia will roll out 20 new or refreshed models by 2020, rejuvenate its customer-service model by borrowing from Apple, and attempt to reverse nine years of sales decline.
FORD AUSTRALIA says it won’t measure the success of its new wave of product launches, 20 new or refreshed models by 2020, by whether it can outsell Toyota. Rather, it’s using the current sales leader (Toyota) to emphasise the value proposition that Ford products represent.
A spate of recent press releases and TV ads have all been aimed at comparing Ford product with competitors and, nine times out of 10 that competitor has been Toyota. But at a Ford Go Further event in Melbourne yesterday, Ford Australia boss Bob Graziano downplayed suggestions the Blue Oval was aiming to be number one in the market.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to talk about the new products, the new technology we’re bringing, many of them class-leading technologies,” Graziano said.
Ford might be attempting to reverse years of sales decline in Australia, and while no-one’s suggesting Ford could overtake Toyota and claim the number one sales spot in Australia there are areas where it can start to make up ground on all the segment hard hitters, and not just Toyota.
Indeed, the Ford Australia need only look across the ditch at New Zealand to see the potential the brand has to win over buyers. For instance, with one month left of selling, the Ford Ranger seemingly has an unassailable sales lead (290 units) over the Toyota Hilux, ending that model’s 32 years at the top of the segment (5626 Vs 5336). Here in Australia Ranger has shaved 38% off the HiLux’s sales lead since 2011.
More than that, the Ford Ranger is hot on the heels of the Toyota Corolla and will likely finish the year in New Zealand as that country’s second-best selling vehicle. So, it’s not totally beyond the realms of possibility that Ford could drastically make up ground against the heavy segment hitters here in Australia.
“Ford is aggressively transforming our company with great new products and even more investment in our Australian development operations to offer one of the freshest, most exciting line-ups in the industry,” said Graziano.
“This is our long-term plan as we strengthen our line-up even more with 20 new or freshened products by 2020, responding to customers who seek out the newest products with freshest innovations.” At least 10 vehicles will be global models across passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles.
And while Australian manufacturing will end in 2016, Ford says it will continue to invest in its “Australian product development operations to serve the local market and others around the world”. This local development arm has been responsible for the Ranger and Everest.
According to Ford, it invested $340 million into product research and development facilities in Australia (in 2013), “bringing the company’s total R&D investment in Australia over the past seven years to more than $2.2 billion. This investment makes Ford the largest automotive R&D investor in the country”.
Beyond its new products and local R&D investment, Ford says improving customer service will be key to improving customer loyalty and sales. To that end, the Blue Oval has taken a leaf out of Apple’s playbook and will employ “non-sales-oriented concierges to welcome customers and ask how they want to engage with the sales staff”.
“Ford’s new vehicles are widely being credited for competing with the best products in the world,” said Graziano. “We now are taking a similar approach to innovating and transforming our dealerships to make it easier to buy and service these great vehicles.”
According to Ford, 20 dealers across Melbourne and Sydney will have completed their phase one transformation with a further 80 dealerships completing the work by the end of 2015.