Ford Motor Co., seeking to boost its image and its prices in Germany, is up against car buyers like Stefanie Weiland.
"Ford's reputation over here is deplorable," said Weiland, 46, a former Ford owner, as she shopped at a Volkswagen showroom in Berlin. "I want a car to still be in good condition, both visually and in technology terms, after 10 years. That's what you get with a VW; these cars are unbreakable."
Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally is aiming to replicate in Germany what he achieved in the US: use fuel economy and technology including voice-activated stereos to command more respect and cash from car buyers. Ford says its retail prices lagged VW by an average of 6.3 per cent in the past eight months.
The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker ranks fifth in sales, with 7.5 per cent of the German market, according to J.D. Power and Associates. That's less than half the 20.8 per cent for Volkswagen, founded in 1937 with a name that means the "people's car". Ford also trails Daimler AG's Mercedes Benz, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's BMW, General Motor Co.'s Opel brand and Audi, Volkswagen AG's premium line.
To take on VW, Ford is promoting its ties to Germany and trying to position itself as a technology leader. This month, it outfitted 1,100 German sales people with iPads loaded with a special Ford sales application that demonstrates fuel-saving technology. It is doubling the size of its stand at the Frankfurt auto show in September, adding a test track and hands-on displays that will make it "an adult science museum", said Jim Farley, Ford global marketing chief.
"We're a discount brand to Volkswagen, the data is pretty clear and compelling," Farley said in an interview yesterday. "We feel that the product facts are not in line with the perceptions of our brand."
Ford ran newspaper ads touting the 40 million vehicles it has built in 80 years of car-making in Germany. At press conferences at its plants in Cologne, where Ford also has its European headquarters, and Saarlouis, Ford has highlighted that it employs 29,000 Germans and is the largest US investor in the country.
"One of the things we need to do is stop being shy about all of the things we've done in Germany," Stephen Odell, chief of Ford of Europe, said in a July 8 interview. "In Germany, we're possibly considered less German. Maybe that's our fault."
Ford's outsider status is partially to blame for its transaction prices lagging VW in Germany, said Colin Couchman, a European auto analyst for IHS Automotive. German consumers view VW and other indigenous automakers as having better craftsmanship and more high-tech engines and features than Ford.
"The Ford brand is seen as wholly mainstream, whereas VW has a more upscale image," said Couchman, based in London. "Opel is very much seen as a German brand. But Ford is still seen as an American brand."
Ford's ranked near the bottom of a 2010 German survey of the most exciting automotive brands by the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch-Gladbach.
From / Gulf News