During the 2011 Denver Auto Show this week we caught up with Robert Parker, car marketing manager, Ford Division. The title really doesn’t describe everything Parker heads up, but you can bet he is very knowledgeable about cars like the Fiesta, Focus and Focus Electric, C-Max and Transit Connect. When you have such a person from Ford standing in front of you, it is feast or famine so we jumped at the chance to ask him a few questions about the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and just for fun a couple on the Focus Electric.
First question up: How is the all-new 2012 Ford Focus being received and is it finding the target market Ford expected? Parker was candid with us and the results really do speak for themselves. As we have mentioned before Ford has gotten good at the multi-channel media approach. One channel they used with Focus was Internet television with the launch of Focus Rally: America on Hulu. For those that missed our previous report on it, the program is a reality style show that was created by the originator of The Amazing Race so you would expect that it has a similar style and setup (more here). According to Parker, “The Rally was very successful and from that program we saw 30,000 hand raisers that were following the contestants and interacting with them on challenges.” If that number seems impressive, the Hulu channel alone saw a viewer count estimated at 400K. The demographics—young males and females in their mid to late twenties interested in technology and apps and then another pocket of 40-50s looking for good gas mileage and luxury features at a good price point.
This leads us to question two: With Focus someone can buy a base model that doesn’t have the large touch screen or many of the class exclusive features like Self Park. Does that effect who actually buys the Focus since the technology is really on the $20K and up packages? Parker response was that he believed that the because Ford has offered the technology that a lot of younger buyers are looking for in a very competitive price point, as well as, offering a car that is really more about getting you from point A to point B safely, reliably and economically that Ford is position strategically in the market. “When manufacturers offer only high-end technology or only base model features is when they start to get in trouble because you aren’t satisfying a portion of the market. With Focus we have something for every level of buyer whether you want your car to interact with the apps on your phone or you just want to plug your iPod into the Aux port and go,” Parker said. So basically, Focus appears to be hitting its mark and resonating with buyers. As of the opening day of the 2011 Denver Auto Show, Ford had sold its first 2012 Ford Focus in the Denver area.
Our final question for Parker was: Do you think there will be cross-sell and up-sell from gasoline Focus to Focus Electric? “I don’t see a lot of crossover. People who typically buy electric or hybrids want that type of car and aren’t willing to settle for something different,” said Parker. This would account for the low single digit percentage of the market electric cars have in the U.S. and around the world. Something Parker did touch on that we think is important is the look of Ford Focus Electric. Ford believes that by building it based on their global C-segment design that they will not only bring it to market faster than their competitors, but also appeal to people who aren’t looking for a specially designed vehicle. The beauty of the Ford Focus Electric and Fusion Hybrid is that they follow the look of the brand and appeal to those not looking for a car that is outside the box on the design front. The real story here is that Ford is able to reach several sets of buyers with different criterion and come back with a car that can meet and possibly exceed them all while using the same vehicle design.
Be sure to check out the 2011 Ford Focus at the 2011 Denver Auto Show. Tickets are $10 and the show runs Saturday 10a.m.-10p.m. and Sunday 10a.m.-6pm. For regular AllSmallCars updates follow us on Twitter at @allsmallcars.