“Our network has real added value”
On the occasion of the Ford network convention held until tomorrow in Le Bourget (93), Louis-Carl Vignon, head of the French subsidiary, looks back on the good results experienced by the brand in 2022, the product strategy and partnerships. including the network.
Journal de l’Automobile: In a market that fell by 7.8%, Ford was one of the rare brands that thrived with a 7.6% increase in registrations. What are the reasons for this success?
Louis-Carl Vignon: With 47,095 registrations, we really had a great year, especially in the most profitable channel, individuals. This represents a market share of 3.7%, whereas in the overall market, we are at 3.3%. This channel covers 53% of our mix, which is above the market average. By mechanical effect, the share of sales to professionals contracted to 29%.
These results illustrate the strategy of Ford France that we presented to the network just one year ago. Especially to favor the most virtuous channel individuals and for professionals, craftsmen, liberal professions or VSEs-SMEs. At the same time, we have a complete offer in particular range of recent SUVs that are popular among customers. This bodywork represents 75% of our sales while the market is at 45%.
JA: What is the best selling model in your range?
L.-CV: The Cougar With 20,511 units, it became Ford’s sales number. He passed the Fiesta which sold three times less than our bestseller. More importantly, the Puma is not just a vehicle of conquest with a rate of 60%. But it is also a model of renewal. Customers who own a Fiesta, Focus, or even a Kuga, renew with a Puma.
“Sales of E85 models represent 70% of our mix”
JA: To what extent does your E85 offering contribute to Ford’s good results?
L.-CV: Since its launch in summer 2021, it is a strategy, from which the French subsidiary originates, that is bearing fruit. Today, sales of E85 models represent 70% of our mix. And they will continue to increase because for order intake, the rate has gone up to 80%. Three high-volume models feature biofuel, the Puma and the Focus in mild hybrid, and the Kuga as a plug-in hybrid.
This offer where we are the only one, with the exception of Jaguar Land Rover, has allowed us to strengthen ourselves among individuals, but also among professionals. They see this energy as a real alternative to diesel. We have also come to the end of the process, as we have removed diesel from our portfolio, except for the Focus.
JA: What is Ford’s market share in the utility vehicle market?
L.-CV: In a market down 19.5%, Ford fell 7.6% to 27,123 registrations. Above all, we are the first imported brand. Our market share of 7.8% is the best in decades. We can even talk about the historical part of the market! Our pick-up, for example, has been top for eight years in a row. 2022 is a very eventful year. We launched the E-Transit, the Ranger Raptor and most importantly, our Ford Pro offering in March. It is a one-stop shop that offers our customers all the services they need, with a particular focus on billing solutions and fleet management software.
In addition, we have products available for our customers who are workers, our main customers. Finally, our products are close to the performance of a private car in terms of comfort. And our personalization policy, especially the Sport or Trail versions, is really attractive. They represent 20% of our mix. We also did a lot of upstream work with bodybuilders. For example, Ford has a 40% market share in the transportation of people with poor mobility.
JA: What is the network situation like?
L.-CV: The network consists of 226 dealerships led by 46 investors. At the same time, Ford remains the leading network for imported brands with 350 agents. Admittedly, our network was 450 agents three years ago. But at the same time, we have 600 Motocraft and this brand is only developing. It is also the third franchise behind Motrio and Eurorepar.
JA: What profitability will he expect ?
L.-CV: In 2022, the average profitability of the network will be 1.5%. This is a great result (compared to 0.5% in 2021, Ed) and more importantly, I see no difference in profitability between large groups or smaller operators.
Also read: Ford’s top 10 distributors in 2021
JA: What is Ford’s strategy regarding future distribution contracts?
L.-CV: Ford’s vision is to move the network towards the commercial agent contract. But not at any price. We have a very practical approach and our approach is simple: we believe that the network has real added value because employees are integrated into local life. They are the ones in the field, who know their customers, their territory. Also, I believe that the most important change is not in the dealership, but in the manufacturer.
“We believe the network has real added value because employees are integrated into local life.”
JA: Is there a planned transition date for the agent contract?
L.-CV: From 1eh In March of this year, the Netherlands will be subject to this new regime. It is a market perfectly suited for a test because it is highly electrified, the range is simpler and fleet activity is very important there. The first market with high volumes is Germany, in 2025. For France, the calendar refers to 2026.
JA: What is the short-term product plan?
L.-CV: Over the next two years, we will launch seven new 100% electric models, both PCs and VUs. And in this same period, if I include all new features, including restylings or versions of existing models, 21 models will arrive in showrooms. By 2025, we aim for 60,000 registrations and we are committed to ensuring that the 100% electric mix represents one in two sales to go to 100% by 2030.
JA: Do you think the market is ready for electrification?
L.-CV: When I see the major infrastructure investment campaigns, especially those carried out by motorway companies to equip their service areas with charging stations, I say to myself that we are in the process of tipping over . A major motorway concession company also estimates that by the end of the decade, the fleet of electric vehicles will be 15 million units.
Today, customers no longer talk about autonomy, but about speed and availability of recharging. In addition, long-term leasing is a perfectly suitable tool for the electrification of the vehicle fleet. This makes it possible to produce electric vehicles, which ultimately ensures greater accessibility of the models and extends their life cycle.
“Therefore, we will offer an entry-level model, positioned below the Puma, which will be available, even initially with a combustion engine and shortly, in a 100% electric version.”
JA: Ford has shown a new product strategy, especially the end of the sedans, particularly the Fiesta. What answers do you give to the network that is afraid of losing customers?
L.-CV: From a macroeconomic point of view, the A segment is missing, and the B segment, that of the Fiesta, tends to decline, at least in many European countries. When we discontinued the A-segment models, the Ka and the Ka+, the network regretted that they no longer had entry-level models. But neither he nor we, the manufacturer, made money in this segment. The time when the Fiesta reached 50% of our volumes is over.
Today, as we have seen, it has been replaced by Puma and the SUV once again represents 75% of our sales. However, Ford must remain a volume brand. Therefore, we will offer an entry-level model, positioned under Puma. It will be available, though initially with a heat engine and shortly, in a 100% electric version.
JA: Is that a rearrangement of the set?
L.-CV: Effective. Our offer will be organized around four pillars that each time represent an iconic European or American model. The first “Wild Performances” included all models of the Mustang family. The second “Urban Escape” will include models of the Puma or Kuga type. The third “Active Adventure” will focus on the Explorer. Finally, the fourth will depend on the Bronco and the Raptor.