• Heavyweight champions: fleet looks to grow profit, market share of commercial vehicles

    2006 Ford Transit

Commercial vehicles are making a significant contribution to the vitality of Ford of Europe, with key new models rolling into the showrooms this year.

"We want to grow our commercial vehicle business in Europe," says Peter Fleet, Ford of Europe’s commercial vehicle director, Marketing, Sales & Service. "We believe we have the products and the dealer network to do just that."

More and better dealers are fundamental to success, and the Commercial Vehicle team has developed an industry-leading network of commercial vehicle specialists. At the end of last year, the company had appointed just fewer than 400 CV specialists throughout Europe. By the end of this year, another 100 CV specialists will have been appointed taking the total to around 500.

Clear results can already be seen in rising levels of customer satisfaction; 45 percent of CV customers are now completely satisfied with their service experience, up from 34 percent in 2004.
Fleet says these specialists provide outlets that offer the exact services and facilities commercial vehicle customers want. "From having a parking space big enough for the largest Transit to installing service ramps that can take the heaviest vehicle. They also have people in the sales teams who know all there is to know bout the product."

"We demonstrated last year that we could grow our CV sales volume by 9 percent, increase our European CV market share by 0.1 percent to 9.1 percent and make more money for the company. And that’s what we intend to continue to do this year."

With the new Transit, 2007 Transit Connect and All-New Ranger models entering the market, 2006 is a crucial year for Ford and its dealer network.

Growth is targeted across all model lines. Last year, Ford’s commercial vehicle share improved by one-tenth of a percent, to 9.1 percent. That was a solid performance, but more is expected this year, and much of the responsibility rests on success of the Ford Transit.

"There is growth in the larger 2-ton panel van segments, some of that driven by more internet home deliveries, some of it driven by the need for heavier operators to come down in size and weight to meet increasing congestion and pollution restrictions in city centers," says Fleet. "That’s good territory for us because that has always been a core strength of the Transit. With the new Transit we also want to conquest customers in the 1-ton, predominantly front-wheel drive market."

Like the car sector, the commercial vehicle market is highly competitive, and it is not only Ford that is unveiling exciting new products; key rivals, like Mercedes and VW, are also introducing important new models.

Ford has a two-pronged strategy to defend and improve its share in its largest markets, while capitalizing on sales opportunities in key growth markets such as Russia.

"If you ask me where some of our best commercial vehicle dealer facilities are right now, you might be surprised to find Moscow in the answer! Last year we sold 3,600 CVs in Russia, up from 1,500 in 2004," adds Fleet. "So you’ve got huge growth coming in markets like that, and the dealers are willing to make substantial investments in their facilities."

Fleet says Ford has also seen tremendous growth in Spain where Manuel Delaguardia and his team increased volume by a third last year to 30,000 units. "Within the European 19 markets, Spain is now second only to the UK in terms of total CV volume," he said.

With such success stories and a strong flow of new models, Ford’s CV business is clearly important to Ford of Europe’s future.

Transit Stays Ahead

The newest version of Ford’s flagship, the Transit, was unveiled to loud applause at last months popular Birmingham Commercial Vehicle Show in the UK. The newcomer is off to a good start, but it has a lot to live up to. Transit is Europe’s top-selling medium commercial and has been dominating the sales charts for more than 40 years.

The iconic medium commercial has succeeded by giving customers what they want and the new model maintains the winning formula with an extensive range of bodies, engines and payloads. The new Transit aims to woo more customers with confident and contemporary styling, new TDCi power trains, improved driving dynamics, enhanced safety with standard ABS, higher levels of security and more car-like features for the driver.

"Transit’s uniqueness in the market comes from the breadth of range that we offer," says Fleet. "It comes in front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, short, medium, long, extra-long, low, medium, high-roof versions, and it offers numerous diesel and petrol powertrain options, as well. That range is undeniably its greatest strength. Very close to that though is its strong and enduring reputation for dependability and durability. You can trust Ford Transit to do exactly what you’re asking it to do."

"Our artisan customers, such as the professional trades, are looking for a modern business partner. Artisan customers expect their van to deliver the basics on load space, reliability and cost-of-ownership. But they also want their van to express professionalism, success and good judgment to their customers. Increasingly they also want car-like features and driving dynamics. Equipped with the optional Professional Pack, which can include body-colour grille, alloy wheels, metallic paint, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Quickclear windscreen, 6-CD auto-changer, Bluetooth and satellite navigation, we have just the product that our customers want."

Ranger Widens Appeal

The Ford Ranger has a dual personality, appealing to those who need its workmanlike qualities and the growing band of motorists who like its road presence and see it as a desirable everyday, or recreational, vehicle.

Manufactured in Thailand, the All-New Ranger goes on sale in the summer and will be progressively rolled out across European markets.

The new model comes with more practicality, durability and comfort. There’s also more style inside and out, an uprated cabin and a new 2.5-litre Duratorq TDCi engine. To refine its renowned ruggedness and durability qualities, Ford subjected the new Ranger to rigorous testing on four continents.

Over the past two years, sales in Europe have climbed by 50 percent, and the newcomer will ensure that the momentum continues.

"Ford of Europe now sells about 23,000 Rangers a year, but the potential is still greater," says Fleet. "We overtook Toyota in European sales last year, which is no small thing to achieve."

Refreshed Transit Connect

The Transit Connect has received a major freshening. Significant improvements include the introduction of Stage IV TDCi Duratorq diesel engines with power outputs of 75 and 90PS. In addition there will be a new 110PS TDCi Duratorq engine available for the first time.

The interior and exterior have received detailed changes across-the-board and in-car entertainment has been significantly enhanced.

New models are also being introduced, including the 5-seat, short wheelbase Tourneo Connect GLX and the long wheelbase Tour neo Connect LX, which is available in 5- and 8-seat versions.

"Transit Connect is a great success story; we now sell over 100,000 units a year," says Fleet. "Transit Connect’s strength comes from the fact that, unlike its competitors, it’s a proper commercial vehicle, engineered from the ground up as a commercial vehicle. It isn’t a car-derived van. One of our largest markets is Spain where we have enjoyed enormous growth. In that market, it is used not just as a van, but often as a dual-purpose people-carrying vehicle."

Fiesta SportVan

The Fiesta SportVan was launched at last month’s Birmingham CV Show. It will go on sale towards the end of year. It is powered by a 1.6 DuratorqTDCi 90 PS engine. Features include power assisted steering, anti-lock brakes and a Durashift 5-speed manual transmission. It will be marketed as a window van or panel van, with availability varying by market.

Heavy Trucks, too

In Western Europe, Ford is best-known for its light and medium vans, but in other parts of the world the blue oval is just as likely to be found on the bonnet of a heavy truck.

The Ford Cargo truck range is manufactured in Ford Otosan’s efficient Inonu plant near Istanbul. Cargo trucks dominate the Turkish market, last year accounting for one in every three heavy truck sales. They are also exported around the world and by 2008 will be available in some 30 markets. Important sales regions are Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia. They go on sale in Russia later this year.

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