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Ford not focused on market share: Graziano

Happy camper: Ford’s marketing manager David Katic said the company is satisfied with sales of its EcoSport crossover, despite it trailing rivals including the Holden Trax.

Top-three spot not a target for Ford Australia as it moves to full importer in 2016

Ford logo28 Nov 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

UPDATED: 09/12/14FORD Australia claims to no longer be interested in a “top-line” market share and is not working towards a return to a top-three position, preferring instead to rebuild its model range and reputation with customers as it transitions to a full-line importer in 2016.

Less than a decade ago, Ford was aiming for outright leadership and looking to return its market share beyond 14 per cent, having slipped to 13.1 in 2005.

However, the company’s grip on the new-vehicle market has steadily eroded since then, dropping below 10 per cent in 2010 – the mark that previous senior management have highlighted as a minimum level for the Blue Oval brand in Australia – to 7.7 per cent last year.

To the end of November, Ford’s share has this year fallen further to 7.3 per cent, keeping it a long distance behind market leader Toyota (18.2) and the three brands locked in battle for the remaining positions on the dais – Holden (9.7), Hyundai (9.1) and Mazda (9.0).

Speaking with GoAuto at the recent FG X Falcon launch – the last hurrah for the locally built sedan, which reaches the end of the line in less than two years’ time – Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano said the company was not working to return to being one of the top-three automotive brands.

“We don’t set those kinds of targets,” he said.

“What we are looking to do is ensure we have got the right experience and the right products that our customers are demanding.

“We have a lot of new product that we are launching and that’s what we are focused on right now – launching those products with excellence.

“And ultimately, as I have said before, the consumer will decide what market share is for any company out there and I think we are in really good shape with the number of new products that we have got coming in to build on the outstanding portfolio of products we have today.”

Ford Australia marketing manager David Katic also emphasised that the company’s focus was not on high sales volumes or improved market share, but improving its overall customer experience.

“We are, quite frankly, not interested in top-line market share because we know that can be bought,” he said.

“We are interested in, one at a time, building our brand – and to build our brand we have to expand our product range, we have to deliver an outstanding consumer experience, and that is what we are investing in.

“The top-line market share, some people get hung up and say, ‘Wow you only did 7.3 last month’, but for us we are not focused on that and that is very much the ‘One Ford’ philosophy.

“When Allan Mulally took over I remember someone asked him if he wanted to return to number one, and he said, ‘I want to build the best products and I want to serve customers well’.

“It sounds simple but it has worked for us globally. We went from losing $US12 billion in 2006 to regularly making $6 or $8 billion a year and we are one of the most profitable (car) companies in the world.”

The latest JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) study also shows that Ford has fallen below the industry average for new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the aftersales service process, placing equal sixth place among the mass-market brands – behind Mazda, Subaru, Toyota, Holden and Hyundai.

In terms of outright sales, Ford is down 8.2 per cent this year as its Australian-built models continue to struggle: Falcon sedan and ute had fallen 38.5 and 39.3 per cent respectively to the end of October, with the Territory SUV down 31.1 per cent.

Among the imported models, Fiesta and Focus sales are both down by 22 per cent – Ford is hoping a Focus upgrade will lift sales in the New Year – while the Kuga compact SUV is up 55.5 per cent.

The Ranger utility is also in positive territory, second only to the dominant Toyota HiLux, and the new EcoSport crossover is averaging around 175 sales this year – nowhere near its main rivals, but not a bad result by any means, according to Mr Katic.

“On the contrary, we are quite happy with EcoSport – it’s doing exactly what we want it to do,” he said.

“We are just building brand credentials, because if we are right and that segment grows, then we will have one of the early players in the segment.

“The Australian market is so competitive – about 65 brands – it’s hard to get brand breakthrough in a segment, so it’s important to get into a market first and establish a presence.

“So that’s the strategy with EcoSport and it will build over time. If you look at its sales performance every month this year, it is literally going up, so it’s going exactly to plan.”

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