Ford vows to boost customer service

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By Kap Maceda Aguila

ON the heels of 8.7% sales growth in 2017, Ford Company Philippines, Inc. cornered 8.6% of total vehicle sales with 36,623 units moved — good for third place behind Toyota Motor Philippines and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. Ford executives were in Manila on Feb. 5, disclosing that the Asia Pacific-wide growth was driven by the firm’s so-called “big three” nameplates: the Ranger pickup and the Ecosport and Everest SUVs.

But even as the Dearborn, Michigan-headquartered global auto brand revels in its 2017 success, Ford Asia Pacific president Peter Fleet conveyed cognizance of the work that needs to be done to further drive positive performance. He said the company needs to “strengthen customer service capability across the region… lessen cost of ownership, while increasing transparency in pricing.” The executive promises that Ford will “respond to customer complaints in a faster manner.”

Meanwhile, Ford ASEAN President Yukontorn Vickie Wisadkosin reported that the Southeast Asian market registered a “very strong year” for Ford — with Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam leading in sales performance. The Ranger pickup proved the “biggest contributor,” while the Everest is “doing very well in the Philippines.” The Ranger is once again expected to sell, particularly with the introduction of a new power train and the new Raptor variant.

Said Ms. Wisadkosin; “The Ranger is doing very well for us in ASEAN, and also had record sales for us in Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam — including Myanmar and Cambodia as well. Another major product for us is the Everest which has been doing very well here in the Philippines. It has also contributed to a strong 2017 for us.”

Ford Philippines has a strong retail channel, acknowledged Mr. Fleet, and promised to push through this “a range of exciting utility and performance vehicles.”

Ford Philippines defied expectations of weaker demand owing to the implementation of the new excise tax, which generally jacked car prices up at the outset of 2018.

“(While 2017 was) a pretty good year, this is, in fact the fifth consecutive year of sales growth and record sales… What is interesting is that we continued that trend in momentum in January,” shared Ford Philippines Managing Director Bertrand Lessard. “If you recall, by the end of December, there was this race against the excise tax [implementation]. We were fearing that in the month of January, we [would be] slowing down because of that. It didn’t happen because we had another record sales in [that] month. We finished with 2,737 units — the best January ever for the Philippines.”

Ford Philippines will put passenger cars like Focus and Fiesta on the back burner for the meantime, as consumers have shown a continued predilection for SUV. “We want to focus attention on the fastest-growing segment, the SUV. It’s where the market is growing,” revealed Mr. Lessard. Still, there are no immediate plans to push Ford’s previously popular Escape product.

“At this point we’re already covering the whole scope with what we have now,” he maintained. “The Kuga [or Escape] is covering almost the same thing as the Everest.”

Aside from the Ranger Raptor, Ford is slating the 2018 release of the Ecosport [during the first half], the Ranger and Everest with enhanced power trains, the Explorer, an aluminum-body Expedition, and a Mustang convertible.

Mr. Lessard explained that the customer service and ownership thrusts began last year, and a report on results will be presented the end of the first quarter of 2018. “We’ll come back to you with the final program that says we’re going to reduce the customer dealership or cost of ownership significantly but we will do that with the dealer.” He hinted that they are “progressing very well.”

One of the end goals of Ford in the region is to have “the same consistent experience from showroom to showroom,” concluded Mr. Fleet.