LOS ANGELES - California is the ultimate chinning bar when it comes to domestic car sales. And Ford is hitting the mark with the Fiesta and the all-new Focus.
Southern California is the nation’s top-selling region for the Fiesta, and the new Focus is having a positive impact in that market with year-over-year sales increases of almost 35 percent.
“We are attracting more new customers to the Ford brand, and it’s vehicles like Fiesta and Focus that are enabling us to do that,” said Ford Sales Analyst Erich Merkle.
Sherryl Brightwell, Fiesta Marketing manager, describes the Fiesta as the gateway vehicle for the Ford showroom.
“We are exposing a whole new generation of Californians to the fact that Ford makes cool-looking, competitively priced cars that are fun to drive with high fuel economy and no compromise on features,” she said.
Brightwell says California Ford dealers hold the title of being the top Fiesta dealers in the country.
“Typically Michigan or Midwest dealers rank in the Top Ten dealers for a vehicle line, but with Fiesta dealers in California make up the No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 top Fiesta-selling dealers,” she said.
Merkle says one of the reasons Ford’s new small cars are resonating with consumers on the West Coast is their expressive European styling.
“Our new products have a very emotional appeal. Customers also are drawn to the vehicles’ ride and handling and impressive fuel economy,” he said. “And you can’t underestimate the impact that the technology is having.”
Focus Marketing Manager Paul Russell agrees. Not only is the Focus selling well in California, he says, but 14 percent of customers are opting for the premium Titanium series.
“People are interested in the higher series product because they’re coming out of larger cars – even crossovers and SUVs – and they have all the bells and whistles on them,” he said. “The Focus offers high content options not traditionally found in small cars. You can still get leather. You can get the technology you need with the MyFord Touch system, and you can get the performance options and attributes as well.”
And California customers mirror the rest of the nation with their affinity for the five-door hatchback, says Russell.
“People really love the five-door because it provides a lot more flexibility versus a traditional sedan,” he said.
One out of every two Focus customers opts for the hatchback, and Fiesta Marketing Manager Sherryl Brightwell says the same is true for Fiesta customers.
“Our fun, vibrant Fiesta customers like the versatility of the hatchback’s access to cargo both inside and outside the vehicle,” she said. “The additional square footage gives on-the-go customers the ability to maximize cargo space when they need it.”
Why is California so important?
The California region accounts for roughly 10 percent of all vehicle sales in the country, and it is a market that has been traditionally dominated by foreign imports.
“California is the toughest car market,” said Russell. “It’s as competitive and cutthroat as it gets within that segment.”
And Russell says the domestic brand loyalty exhibited in other parts of the country – particularly the Midwest – is virtually nonexistent in California.
“The California car market is dominated by the Japanese carmakers, and now the Koreans have an exceptionally strong foothold there,” he said.
Ford’s ability to break into the car segment there is an important measure of the company’s success.
“If we’re resonating with new customers and selling our products there, it really validates and reinforces for us that we’ve got a winner on our hands.”
Brightwell says Ford’s sales gains in California could heighten sales in the rest of the country.
“California has been a trendsetter for the rest of the U.S. with everything from music to fashion or the latest Hollywood fads,” she said. “Success with Fiesta and Focus gaining share in California means the rest of the U.S. could see Ford gaining share back from the Japanese or Korean brands.”
Merkle says Ford’s performance in California is indicative of the company’s work to improve its product offerings over the years.
“If we’re going to grow, we not only have to diversify our product portfolio – which we have been doing over the years very nicely – but we also have to continue to diversify our geographical reach,” he said.