According to Green Car Reports, the Ford Motor Co. has an image problem. While the automaker produces some of the more fuel-efficient vehicles on the market, public perception is that Ford’s fuel economy efforts are lacking. The automaker’s own consumer poll found that 68 percent of U.S. consumers see Fords as gas guzzlers.
No Fiesta for Focused consumers
Despite the fact that vehicles such as the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus consistently rank at the top of the class for fuel economy, Ford’s consumer poll indicates that consumers don’t associate the brand with the growing green transportation movement. Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley is having trouble finding the silver lining in this dark cloud.
“There are 240 million people driving vehicles in America, and only 32 percent have a good opinion of Ford on fuel economy,” Farley noted while at the Barclays Capital 2011 Global Automotive Conference. “That means 68 percent don’t.”
Solid earnings figures
Ford has earned $6.6 billion over the first three quarters of fiscal 2011, thanks to sales of the fuel-efficient Fiesta subcompact and the versatile Explorer sport utility vehicle. Sources indicate Ford’s U.S. sales are up 11 percent this year through October, outpacing the auto industry’s overall gain of 10 percent. Yet the negative public perception surrounding Ford fuel economy indicates to Farley that the automaker isn’t doing enough.
“Fuel economy is ground zero in pricing power in the U.S. for Ford,” Farley said. “If you can change perceptions on fuel economy, you can change pricing power across your whole lineup.”
Turning the tide
Fuel economy is not a foreign concept to Ford. The 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid ranked in the top five for mpg among vehicles in its class, while the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid ranked in the top 10. Both the 2012 Focus SFE and 2012 Fiesta SFE exceed 40 mpg for about $20,000.
EcoBoost engine technology – which uses direct-fuel injection and turbochargers to improve mileage by as much as 20 percent – should help shift public opinion. The debut of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric should also help sway favor, much as the Chevrolet Volt EV did for General Motors.
“But we have a long way to go,” Farley said. “Those that own fuel economy in the U.S. own pricing.”