Customers will increasingly call for the latest technology packages, Ford’s Roelant de Waard told Paul Myles.

With a plethora of connected car and autonomous technology waiting in the wings to enter mainstream consumer vehicles, there remains the question whether any of it will boost car sales.

Yet, while many in the auto industry scratch their heads, Ford is clear in its belief that this technology could become as much of a sales pitch as the usual tick boxes of performance and fuel efficiency.

TU-Automotivecaught up with Ford’s European head of marketing, sales and services, Roelant de Waard, at this year’s Geneva Motor Show to find out what power the tech can bring to marketing the carmaker’s products. He told us: “Well, firstly technology can definitely sell cars and we saw that when we introduced SYNCin the US.  That there was a significant preference for vehicles with SYNC, it’s clear customers expected, wanted and will pay for it.

“However, technology as a differentiator? Probably not, although speed to market is probably a more important feature. Also, it’s not just about individual functionality but more about making the technology easily accessible through a good human interface.

“If you make it easy for the customer, then that will be a differentiator.  We believe that the combination of SYNCwith an open platform where we can integrate our own apps with a third parties, such as Apple and Google, to port into it but also connect it with our own FordPass app is, for us, the strategy to go forward. To give customers the choice to use the apps they love they can but also we provide new functionality through the app, for example, to book a service or find parking. So you need to make this kind of thing easily accessible.”

Investment is the key to achieving future sales success in a market being fought for by both traditional carmakers and digital giants, said de Waard. “The real challenge, of course, is the level of investment needed for not only a new vehicle but all the technology that comes with it. If you look at all the investment Ford has done in the last couple of years in advanced technologies on autonomous technology, in particular, but also electrification and smart mobility there is a barrier of entry for smaller organisations. However, as we have seen with the likes of Tesla, for example, there will be new competition and there will also be competition from tech companies. Whether they really want to sell cars, I don’t know, but they certainly want a part of the revenue of mobility.  So competition is always around the corner but we are investing heavily to make sure we are very credible and the most integrated offer to keep mobility life simple for the customer.”

With the expected shift in urban mobility to car sharing, would this pose another major challenge to make the consumer aware of the brand? Not necessarily, according to de Waard who explained: “We have a mobility solution running in San Franciscoat the moment with Chariot, a Ford Transit shuttle service and, maybe, the media selection will not be the traditional one. Maybe you don’t go on TV to build that brand but that is now becoming true for selling vehicles.  Building a brand, these days, is very much a matter of digital marketing including social and of course word-of-mouth. In the case of smart mobility it is very important and the app is very important.  Positive experience and sharing experience – it all starts with happy customers.”

[Mob.Myles.2017.04.28]

Autonomous Vehicle & ADAS Japan 2017

15 May 2017 - 16 May 2017, TOKYO, JAPAN

Autonomous Vehicle & ADAS Japan 2017 is an information and networking platform that brings together key stakeholders in the ADAS and autonomous value chain to discuss the biggest challenges, understand how the technology is evolving, and establish partnerships to enable the next phase of driving safety and autonomy.