Ford shifts into higher gear

Ford claims to have sold more than 30,000 units in the Middle East in 2003, a 25% sales growth over 2002.

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By  Shilpa Mathai Published  December 31, 2003

Ford claims to have sold more than 30,000 units in the Middle East in 2003, a 25% sales growth over 2002. Jim Benintende, managing director of Ford Middle East says the company is chasing a 10-20% growth in 2004. Benintende attributes the record sales to new product introductions, regional dealership network expansion and major customer satisfaction initiatives, as part of its Ford Drive strategy. “Despite the difficult market conditions, we achieved record sales in terms of units sold,” Benintende told Arabian Business. “We are focusing on a product led expansion in the region and a number of launches are in the offing. We now have full product line up from entry level to luxury models and can compete in all segments and levels.” He also says that Ford will score over other brands, as there will be no price rise in its products unlike other European competitors. He claims that automotive prices will increase by less than 1% in 2004 after 1.5% in 2003; this compares to a 10-15% price rise for some marques. The Crown Victoria continues to be a best seller for Ford in the region, but Benintende is confident that Mondeo will be just as popular. The company is expanding its commercial vehicle line up and the 2004 Ford FT 150 has just debuted in the region. “This is the first year we have seen the full impact of Mondeo. We are expanding our fleet of commercial vehicles and expanding interest into the commercial and personal segment,” explains Benintende. “The F 150 is an outstanding product with crossover appeal. Ford sources its commercial vehicles from Thailand, small cars from Europe and large vehicles and SUVs from the USA, but rules out local manufacturing in the region for the time being. “We can also import from Turkey and South America,” maintains Randy Ortiz, executive director and general manager of Ford Motor Company’s worldwide direct market operations. “We’re agnostic about the source of vehicles, we can source vehicles from [across the world] depending on trade pacts and the currency market. Vehicles that best fit a market are introduced depending on their viability. The Middle East is a focus market and we will offer the best of what the company has to offer globally and introduce it here.” According to Ortiz, Ford’s plans for the Middle East are unfolding well and he labels the Drive campaign launched in 2001 as being “exceptionally successful.” The Ford Drive campaign was a major strategic marketing move to aggressively re-position the brand in the GCC. Through the campaign, the company tried to capitalise on the brand loyalty it enjoyed in the past and to re-build that attachment. “Extensive and diverse research we carried out thoughout the GCC taught us a great deal about customers in the region, their attitudes, their values and needs,” explains Benintende. “We found that there was a lot of brand equity for Ford in the region. However, and equally important, we learned that people did not feel the same way about the Ford brand over the years. Therefore, we had to be more focused. We had to bring a new overall Ford brand experience to GCC consumers.” Company officials claim it struck an emotional connection with consumers, because it was an honest message. Ford has said it will build on the campaign consistently and add new elements to keep the message fresh.

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