California Autos Examiner

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ford Shouts From Mountain Tops: We CAN Make Money On Small Cars + Pre-sale Strategy for Fiesta

It has been a frequent refrain from the company and this article in the WSJ is just another one to add to the pile. With Ford betting big on small cars, it has to prep both analysts and customers alike that small cars, dripping with style and loaded with option are worth just as much are their larger counterparts. Ford needn't worry about me because I'm already convinced of this. What's interesting in the article is that Ford's Jim Farley cites Toyota's Scion as a beacon of hope for boldly designed and creatively marketed cars. Given the lackluster performance of Scion lately, I'd have set that example aside.

Farley also mentions that the Fiesta will use a pre-sale strategy for the Fiesta akin to what Penske has done with smart. Farley says that the Fiesta's pre-sale approach will NOT be exactly like smart's. I'm not quite sure what that means. One of the things smart did was a "road show" where prospective buyers were able to drive the car before it was officially on sale (but that's been done by many manufacturers). The biggest aspect of smart's sales strategy here in the U.S. is the $99 reservation program. Basically you plunk down a refundable $99 to get your place in line and configure a smart to your liking. Closer to delivery time, you re-confirm your model/color/option choices and then await delivery at your dealer. Once the vehicle has arrived you can either purchase the car or "orphan" the vehicle and get your $99 back. I like this approach as I think it gives customers a real sense of "ownership" even before they technically buy the car. I'd like to see smart refine the process and even allow folks to track their smart on the assembly line.

It's doubtful that Ford will allow customers to configure cars, have the factory build them and then ship them to local dealers without dealer intervention but what a refreshing approach if they did? We'll have to see what sort of pre-sale tricks Farley and his team are planning.

No comments: