Print 103 comment(s) - last by StanO360.. on Apr 22 at 12:08 PM

  (Source: Paul Stamatiou)
America's second largest automaker is targeting smaller vehicles, gunning hard for baby boomers and Gen Y buyers

At a press event on Friday, Ford Motor Comp. (F) unveiled its new advertising plan to target 160 million Americans that fall into either the "millennial" (aka "Generation Y"; born in the early 1980s to early 2000s) or "baby-boomer" (born between 1946-1964) generations.

I. Ford Guns for Gen. Y, Plugs Zipcar Partnership

Ford's new campaign will focus on the so-called "super segment" which includes small cars, midsize sedans, and small utility vehicles.  The segment accounted for only 35 percent of Ford sales in 2004, but as customers have moved towards smaller vehicles Ford today sees it account for 50 percent of sales.

The automaker has excelled in recent years, behind only General Motors Comp. (GM) in U.S. sales.  In fact, all of the U.S. automakers have done well -- Chrysler LLC is in third place, while Toyota Motor Comp. (TYO:7203) and Honda Motors Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7267) have fallen behind in U.S. sales.  Strong growth in the super segment has saved Ford, sustaining its U.S. growth, while sales have slumped in Europe.  "Super segment" models include the (re-introduced) Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Escape.

The automaker acknowledges that the large millennial generation represents a risk, with more of them living with their parents or having lower incomes, but says it's confident it can appeal to them as they settle down and have children.

Ford's Group Marketing Manager Amy Marentic remarks, "Millennial want a vehicle that looks great, but at the same time are sensitive to things like value, fuel efficiency, technology.  [They're] not going to be brand loyal to what their parent did.... When they drive up to the club they want to look fabulous... Just like their cell phone, just like their shoes... they want their car to make a statement about them."

The company views its partnership with Zipcar Inc. (ZIP) as a crucial piece of effective advertising to Generation Y buyers.  Ford Sales Analyst Eric Merkle says that when Gen. Y buyers graduate from colleges they're used to driving Ford via Zipcars, which mostly are Ford Focuses, with a few Escapes mixed in.  

Zipcar is a key partnership for Ford's Gen. Y appeal. [Image Source: Kelvin Ma/Bloomberg]

He says that some will move to cities -- where more Ford Zipcars await -- while others will opt to move to the suburbs and buy a vehicle for commuting.  He says those buyers are more likely to buy a Ford.

In total, Zipcar's Ford fleet logged 2.2 million driver hours last year, with about 700,000 drivers.

II. Manuals Seeing Strong Sales Among Younger Drivers at Ford

In an interview Eric Merkle was asked about how Ford would react to manual drivership decreasing in younger buyers.  Mr. Merkle disputed that premise stating, "Oh no, [Millennials] do really like to drive manuals.  I really think that you're starting to see the manual starting to come back."

He supports his claim with sales figures.  He says approximately 12 to 23 percent of Ford Fiestas sold per month (as many as 1 out of every 5 sold) and 9 to 17 percent of Focuses sold per month come with manuals.  

Manual Transmission
Around one in five Focus and Fiesta buyers pick manuals some months.
[Image Source: Automobile Magazine]

While he did not cite a breakdown by generation, the Focus and Fiesta are cars that are thought to do quite well with Gen. Y buyers, so his claim may well be accurate.

Ford views its chief competitors in the super segment -- particular in the manual sales -- as Mitsubishi Corp. (TYO:8058), Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (TYO:7270) subsidiary Subaru, and Volkswagen AG (ETR:VOW).

III. Ford Blasts Back at Critics of MyFord Touch

Mr. Merkle also commented, "[With Sync/MyFord Touch] we didn't want the vehicle to become the cell phone; we wanted to integrate seamless with the cell phone."

I asked Ms. Marentic about Ford's struggles with harsh criticism from J.D Power and Associates and Consumer Reports regarding its graphically overhauled MyFord Touch infotainment system.

MyFord Touch
MyFord Touch in the F-Series. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

She defended Ford's strategy, acknowledging that much like the smartphone, the system started with some bugs, but has gained from continual patches/improvements.  She also asserted that Ford's customer satisfaction surveys consistently rank vehicles sold with MyFord Touch above those not sold with it.

I asked her why the disconnect then, by Consumer Reports, when they are supposed to predict how consumers will react to a vehicle in terms of satisfaction.  She responded, "That's true.  That sounds like a good question for Consumer Reports."

Responding to my inquiry about whether the criticism would soften amid competitors like GM introducing similar technologies in their vehicles, she predicted it likely would, commenting, "As the first mover you get a lot of love, and you get a lot of criticism.  But everybody's going there [to infotainment].  It is the future."

IV. CAFE Quandaries and Looking Ahead to the 2014 Fiesta Mix

I asked Ms. Marentic if she worried about the demand for smaller vehicles to backfire if it flips in coming decades, as automakers may have grown more complacent with regards to tough CAFE increases, such as President Obama's 54.5 mpg 2025 target.  She said she didn't think so, arguing that Ford is always an industry leader in fuel efficiency.

The advertising campaign will kick off not long before the new 2014 Fiesta ST -- a performance-geared variant of the popular front wheel drive (FWD) subcompact  -- hits dealerships the new Fiesta ST "hot hatch" hatchback will be driven by a 1.6L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, with 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, feeding into a six-speed manual transmission with overall steering ratio of 13.6:1 and increased roll stiffness at the rear axle.  The hatchback is currently the sales leader in Europe in its segment.  

2014 Ford Fiesta
2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Ford will also introduce a new fuel efficient 1.0L inline 3-cylinder EcoBoost Fiesta later in the fall. The engine block of the I3 is light enough to carry onto an airplane (around 50-60 lb, according to estimates).  

Ford Fiesta
Ford Fiesta's 1.0L engine block takes a trip through airport security as a carry-on.
[Image Source: Ford via AutoBlog]

The petite engine is expected to produce around 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque.  It bumps the highway fuel economy to 40 mpg.  The new 2014 Fiesta models pack an improved MyFord Touch screen.

Ford's hybrids (Fusion, C-Max) have been seeing strong sales, although its Focus Electric battery electric vehicle has seen tepid sales, forcing deep discounting.

[A special thanks to web-designer and photographer Paul Stamatiou for the shifter shot.  

Sources: Ford [1], [2]

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: March of progress
By inighthawki on 3/23/2013 3:49:35 AM , Rating: 0
I'm not sure what your point is. I never said that manual transmissions were unsafe, or that they were inherently "dangerous," I was simply stating that to an unskilled driver, it does require thought and thus not all of their attention is always put on the road, whereas with an automatic this is never the problem, because you can devote your entire attention to what is around you. Once you learn to drive a manual transmission well enough, there is no longer a gap between the two, but manual at that point provides no extra benefit as other posters have tried to claim.

Previous posters below me try to argue how its more engaging and thus they are more into what they're doing, yet then try to counter my own examples by saying "It's second nature I don't even think about it anymore" - a direct contradiction. An automatic transmission provides the driver with just as much opportunity to be aware of his or her surroundings.

The fact that you're trying to compare what I'm saying with "the danger of trying to change radio stations" suggests you are not understanding the point of my posts.

RE: March of progress
By hduser on 3/23/2013 5:03:00 AM , Rating: 2
You really don't know what driving is. With a manual, the mundane things like shifting and gear selection becomes second nature. But you do have to think ahead about gear selection and executing a perfect upshift without jerking. If you've executed a perfect heel toe downshift it is very rewarding. The biggest compliment from a passenger you will get will be "Oh, I didn't know that your car was a stick."

I've had used both transmission over my life. I'm currently driving an auto but I sorely miss a manual. I find that I am a better driver with a manual as my mind is consciously and subconsciously occupied with the process of driving. It makes you more a part of the car. An auto transmission just gives you time to think about other non-driving things like food or relationships.

The difference is that manual drivers are concerned about how you get there vs just getting there. Driving is a visceral experience and the car is more than appliance.

RE: March of progress
By hduser on 3/23/2013 11:15:42 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, this was meant as a response to inighthawki.

RE: March of progress
By chick0n on 3/23/2013 11:56:44 AM , Rating: 2
automatic is for people who can't drive for SHIT in the first place. oh I mean it's for people who is NOT supposed to drive in the first place. why? cuz they are simply retarded.

For someone to learn a manual, you can tell that person is somewhat into driving, he/she wants better control of their ride. He/she wants to be a better driver. no one would put effort to try to get more control over something unless they LIKE it.

RE: March of progress
By Griffinhart on 3/23/2013 6:18:36 PM , Rating: 2
If the learning curve were something that took years to master then I could buy into your argument. The simple fact is, it can take as little as an afternoon to learn and a day or two to get to the level of comfort where it feels natural. A week at the outside unless a person is totally uncoordinated.

The truth is, I would feel far more comfortable with a new driver in a stick than an automatic because of the little extra skill required in driving a stick.

RE: March of progress
By Jackthegreen on 3/24/2013 5:01:05 AM , Rating: 2
The learning curve can be a bit steep on a finicky tranny. My dad's manual Forester was definitely difficult to start with, and sadly didn't get any better when the tranny got rebuilt, but I agree that the learning curve isn't usually so bad so long as your teacher is competent. Heck, my dad and I still burn the clutch every now and then, but that's more an issue of the car being too quite and the repair job being sucky.

I regularly flip between an auto and a manual, and despite the issues with the manual's tranny I'd much rather drive that than the auto because it keeps me alert and thinking about the car, the road, and the traffic. The only times I've ever had problems were when I was rushing.

RE: March of progress
By lagomorpha on 3/26/2013 11:06:20 AM , Rating: 2
My dad's manual Forester was definitely difficult to start with,

Seriously? IME Subarus have the easiest manuals to drive because the clutch engagement is gradual, the gearing is short, and they have decent amounts of torque for being 4 cylinders.

RE: March of progress
By sorry dog on 3/27/2013 6:58:58 PM , Rating: 2
Once you learn to drive a manual transmission well enough, there is no longer a gap between the two, but manual at that point provides no extra benefit as other posters have tried to claim.

Incorrect sir.

1. Many drivers (if you've noticed from the passionate comments) enjoy the mechanical interaction of the manual...clutch included. To say it another way...many drivers find the driving experience more enjoyable with a manual. That IS a benefit.

2. If driven correctly, manuals in general are more durable than autos or DCT's. There's many a Mercedes diesel manual taxi in Europe with a hundreds of thousands or millions of miles to attest to that. My MR2 5spd has 335k on it...and it hasn't all been nice mileage. Most types of auto tranny's will need rebuilding before then and simply have more moving parts and are more likely to fail. For the same reason, a manual is usually cheaper to repair.

3. I've yet to drive a paddle shift car that wasn't a pain at some point to up or down shift while in a turn or while turning the wheel. If I'm jockeying the wheel around it's a pain to find paddle and not accidently hit the wiper or turn stalk next to it.

There are other reasons, but that's just off the top of my head...and there's always other small things like the ability to possibly start your car even if the battery is dead.

Anyway, why is it so hard to admit your wrong in this case??

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki