Join Date: Oct 2009
| | Attracting Youth in S. Africa, Ford Figo Way
Ford India's Figo, built on the global small car architecture, is now cruising the streets of South Africa, and is being hard sold to the group that typifies its Italian etymology — ‘cool'.
The new Figo that went in containers from Chennai port to the South African towns via ships is available in the 1.4 l petrol and 1.4 l turbo diesel engine versions. With minor alterations to the car available in India itself, Ford India and Ford South Africa have interestingly targeted a similar customer profile. India's ‘Sandeep', when it comes to a shake down, is not that much different from South Africa's ‘Jean' allowing for cultural differences. They are young, raring to go career-wise, and obviously, with substantial disposable income.
“We've found that the best way to develop our communications plan is to pick up key mainstream target consumer,” Jeff Nemeth, President and CEO at Ford Motor Company of South Africa, told a group of Indian journalists flown in to Johannesburg for the launch of Ford Figo.
“With Jean we've developed a demographic profile, as per what people in that age group and income levels like to do and how they behave. The vehicle's features have been developed for those characteristics. At 22-29 years, Jean is connected, has just moved out of her parents' and got her first job,” Mr. Nemeth said. The pricing is also important, he added. At a base price of 1,09,900 Rand (Rs.6.98 lakh) it drives the popularity of the vehicle in the sub-B size segment. “We will be dealing with a new set of customers and more in the mass segment,” he stressed.
The car, despite its size, is projected as large enough to live in. “Jean lives out of the vehicle. That is how we have designed it. There is space to load gym bags, a cycle, and stuff in to it,” according to Mr. Nemeth. By the time the first order of 5,000 cars is completely rolled out, Ford South Africa will begin to target customers in the average age group 30-39 years too.
“Our target group is younger couples, with their feet on the ground, and head in the clouds, wanting to demonstrate that they are doing well in life,” said Michael Boneham, President and Managing Director, Ford India, who flagged off the first shipment from Chennai to South Africa elaborated. ‘Sandeep,' the Indian prototype for the target audience, is young, and ambitious, while being rooted to family values and traditions. Sandeep wants to give attention to his family, spend time with his wife, and aspires to do well in his job.
In India, as Ford enters the small car space, it has priced Figo aggressively starting at Rs. 3.54 lakh to be able to be affordable to its target group. “We had to prove that we could deliver a product at this segment, since we are perceived to be a high-end car maker. It is a conscious decision to be a mainstream player in India,” Mr. Boneham said. With the small car segment taking up about 73 per cent of the passenger car sales in India, the direction they had to go was pretty clear to Ford India.
Significantly, the Figo and its target group have ushered in a new way of communication at the Ford family in India.
While Ford already rode the social networking bandwagon with the launch of its Fiesta in the U.S. and Chinese markets, it has just come to India, with the Figo.
“We have begun using social networking sites for the first time in India to promote the car. Our target group is really internet savvy and use the internet as a serious source of information,” Mr. Boneham explained. South Africa too has used social media, the internet and even lifestyle magazines extensively in promotions. So name the social networking site — Facebook, Orkut or Twitter — Ford has a handle. “It has turned out to be a real positive for us and has worked very well. Clearly, it is going to be the way of the future,” Mr. Boneham added.