TopSpeed interviews the 2011 Ford Fiesta’s brand manager
Recently TopSpeed had a chance to chat with the 2011 Ford Fiesta’s brand manager, Sam De La Garza. The 2011 Fiesta won’t appear in American showrooms until the Summer of 2010, but Ford is taking a very unique approach to building up interest in its new subcompact. In addition to the usual website that most manufacturers setup for future models, Ford is making a social media push in the hopes of getting the Fiesta noticed by prospective customers and also finding out what those customers like and dislike about the car. Click on through to find out more about the car, its features and where Ford sees the Fiesta fitting in the marketplace.
Ford has not had a subcompact entry in the United States since the Festiva/Aspire model that was offered in the 1990s. As the Oldsmobile slogan used to say, "The 2011 Fiesta is not your father’s Festiva." To help make the point, Ford is getting the Fiesta into potential customers hands. A program called the Fiesta Movement has 100 young, hip social media stars driving European market Fiestas as their primary car for six months. The participants, called "agents," file monthly reports with Ford but more importantly they Twitter, blog and post YouTube videos about their experiences. All of this content is tagged "Fiesta Movement" and is automatically linked up to the Fiesta Movement website. Ford expects these agents to log over 1,000,000 miles by the time that the program ends. Agents pay nothing to use the car and their fuel expenses are covered by Ford. In addition, Ford has teams touring the country with the goal of having 100,000 people test drive a Fiesta. The Fiesta teams file nightly reports with Ford detailing participants’ reactions to the vehicle.
The North American version of the Fiesta has yet to be revealed, so there has been a lot of speculation as to what changes will be made to the vehicle. In TopSpeed’s interview with Mr. De La Garza he mentioned that while there will be some changes to the Fiesta in order to meet U.S. requirements, it won’t be a bait and switch scenario where the entire Fiesta is completely decontented to reach a certain price point. This should alleviate the concerns of some observers who fear that cheaper, hard plastics will be installed in the U.S. model to save costs. In addition, Mr. De La Garza said that Ford sees an opportunity to lead the segment with certain features. For example, subcompact cars currently offered in the U.S. lack the availability of options like moonroofs and leather. Ford isn’t committing to offer these features, but Mr. De La Garza says that the Fiesta will offer a wider band content than consumers are used to seeing in subcompacts.
Ford is committing to launching the Fiesta with two bodystyles, a sedan and a five door hatch. Ford chose these two configurations because they are the most popular and most practical. Ford is forecasting an even distribution of sales between the two styles. When it comes to a three door model, Mr. De La Garza didn’t completely rule it out but seemed much less optimistic that it would be offered in the U.S. When asked why all the Fiesta Movement cars were five speeds, Mr. De La Garza said that currently no automatic transmission is offered with the 1.6 liter engine. Ford felt that the 1.4 liter, equipped with an automatic, would not provide the right experience for American drivers so it opted not to bring those models over for evaluation. When asked if the automatic the U.S. Fiesta would be equipped with the was the recently announced dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission featuring dry clutch technology, Mr. De La Garza declined to answer. However, De La Garza did say that he looked forwarding to making some exciting announcements closer to the launch date. At launch all U.S. Fiestas will be equipped with the 1.6 liter engine. When asked about diesel and hybrid models, De La Garza stated that in the United States, Ford was putting most of its focus into EcoBoost engines. Mr. De La Garza did not commit to a performance EcoBoost equipped model Fiesta in the United States, but he did point out that Ford is entering two Fiestas in the 2009 Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb as a hint of its intentions. It should also be noted that on its Fiesta website, Ford asks buyers if they’d be interested in a turbo kit.
When it comes to fuel economy, Ford wants the Fiesta to lead its segment. To that end, Ford’s target for the Fiesta’s highway mileage is 40mpg. Ford estimates that the average transaction price for the Fiesta will hit somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000. As mentioned before, Ford does hope to offer some premium features in the Fiesta, so the pricing band may stretch from $13,000 to around $18,000.