DETROIT - Ford’s commitment to leadership in the four pillars – Quality, Green, Safe and Smart – shines at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
Instead of having large signs pointing show visitors to areas of the Ford stand that highlight the four key areas, the meaning behind the pillars is conveyed in a more powerful way, according to Darrell Bryja, manager, Global Auto Shows and Events.
“I think the Ford brand has moved on in terms of how premium it is and we don’t need to communicate the pillars now necessarily. What we need to continue to drive home with consumers are the benefits of the technologies that we offer because that’s what they care about,” he said.
“They care about convenience. They care about safety. They care about fuel economy,” continued Bryja. “And that’s really where we’re directing our effort in terms of communication – not so much on labels and titles but things people really care about.”
Bryja says the goal is to show consumers how Ford is different from its competitors.
“We want people to be surprised by the range of our portfolio and how great the showroom is today,” he said. “And we want them to also understand that there is a lot of value here that they probably don’t recognize.”
“That’s why we do what we do – to bring that to life,” he continued. “We want people to see the new Fusion or the new F-150 and say, ‘I get it. It’s just a better product. It has features and it has value that I can’t get with the competition. If we can achieve that with people during their visit, then we’ve hit the ball out of the park.”
Here are some of the highlights from the Ford stand at NAIAS that help drive home Quality, Green, Safe and Smart:
Quality is evident throughout the Ford stand in the company’s new products and technologies. But in terms of communicating quality to consumers at NAIAS, Ford accomplishes that through third-party testaments.
A large glass case on the stand displays numerous awards that various Ford has earned for quality from credible third-party sources such as Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and Associates.
“We decided several years ago not to talk about quality in terms of what we do at Ford. We should let quality speak for itself,” said Bryja. “We have a quality area at the show that contains nothing but awards that we’ve been receiving for the last year from outside agencies and voices.”
Ford gets the Green conversation started in an unlikely way at the entrance to the Ford stand. Through the use of an augmented reality video device, visitors can drive with Motorsports star Ken Block and actually become part of the action.
“Ken will drive around you and you become part of the scene on the big screen,” explained Bryja. “At the end you’re reminded that he’s driving an EcoBoost Fiesta. EcoBoost is all about delivering more power with less gas, lower emissions and lower cost of ownership.”
Ford also has a special display of electrified vehicles – the CMAX Hybrid, CMAX Energi plug-in hybrid and the Focus Electric.
“Most other companies have one electric vehicle option and we have five with the new Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid,” said Bryja. “We have a real vehicle with different powertrains, so it all depends on what your needs are. We offer consumers the power of choice.”
Ford is hoping to get consumers thinking about fuel efficiency in a new way through the EcoBoost Engine Buildup.
“We have an EcoBoost teardown lab where we have a host and a technician who work together several times an hour to assemble and disassemble a real 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine that goes in the F-150,” explained Bryja.
The F-150 with EcoBoost has been winning over skeptics since it was introduced last year, but there are still some consumers who don’t believe that a V6 engine can deliver the capability and durability of a V8, says Bryja.
“We’re showing them engine parts that have been tested over hundreds of thousands of miles and still perform like new and still look so good that you can’t believe they’ve been through what they’ve been through,” he said.
“At the same time the engine is providing an incredible amount of capability and you’re getting great fuel economy. So it’s a clever way of getting to the people who are still skeptical and saying Ford has this unique offering.”
The big showcase on safety technology is a Ford Explorer that has been cut in half.
“We can’t really get to a lot of the parts in the vehicle as they relate to crash avoidance and survival because they are highly reliant on computers and sensors and technology,” explained Bryja. “So we decided we had to cut a vehicle in half so that we could show under the skin where these components are located and explain what they do.”
Another area of the Ford stand displays vehicles that are class leaders in safety along with films of real people who have experienced Ford’s Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program.
“It’s an incredible thing to watch,” said Bryja. “Most of these are young people who thought they were really good drivers. They attended DSFL and their eyes were opened and all they wanted to do was tell their friends that they really needed to be more thoughtful about their driving habits and what they were doing behind the wheel.”
The Ford stand also features little toy car model pieces that visitors can put together and take apart.
“Each piece has a safe driving message – like don’t text when you drive – and as simple as it sounds it helps to drive home these important messages and reminders,” said Bryja.
Ford also has a glass showcase at NAIAS filled with safety awards Ford has earned.
“When you look across the Ford lineup, you recognize that Ford is really an incredible leader in safety,” said Bryja. “More and more, people are putting safety on their list when they get serious about buying a vehicle.”
“Smart is where we’ve put most of our marbles this year because it was time,” said Bryja. “As we expand MyFord Touch, our infotainment services and some of the higher tech features like Active Park Assist to a broader lineup it’s important to start communicating to people that Ford has all these feature advantages versus the competition.”
A portion of the Ford stand tells the Smart technology story through five categories – such as SYNC and Entertainment – that visitors can explore by engaging with Ford specialists and experiencing the various technologies in actual Ford cars.
One of the highlights of the Ford stand is the Living Connected Experience, which gives NAIAS visitors a look at what may be in store for new vehicle technologies. Groups of 12 visitors are guided through five stations that explain how Ford technology is addressing future trends. Then they board a 20-foot-tall elevator that takes them into “the Cloud,” where they will see a 360-degree film showcasing the future of in-vehicle technology from Ford.
“The Living Connected Experience is designed to communicate that we’re very optimistic at Ford about the future,” said Bryja. “I think everybody knows that Ford is on the leading edge of the integration of technology in vehicles and we intend to stay there even if it means we have to take some risks or change a few things as we go. That’s the price of being the leader.”