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2009 Ford Adds Custom Program Review

September 2009
Filed under: FORD Car News | FORD Headlines

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Individuality is a growing trend and it is evident in all areas of the consumer goods industry. Rather than buying things off the shelf, more and more people prefer personalised products, from laptops or mobile phones with artistically designed surfaces to furniture and clothing items with a unique appeal. In the automotive industry, vehicles configured to personal customer tastes are also gaining ground.

The customers' demand for more special and individual vehicles to meet their own tastes and needs has already been addressed by Ford for a long time. Apart from special interest vehicles like the performance cars of the famous Ford RS range, the Ford Customer Service Division has been outstandingly successful in offering functional and sporty accessories for the full range of Ford passenger cars.

Bernhard Mattes, Vice President, Ford Customer Service Division Europe, says: "Vehicle personalisation has always been an important factor for our customers, especially when fulfilling special functional requirements. But it's not all about towing hooks, spoilers and rubber floor mats: In line with the general tendency, we knew that there was a growing demand for really high-class luxurious personalisation " and not only for large and more expensive cars, but throughout our entire range."

For more than two years now, Ford of Europe has been offering a variety of features and options under the Individual label. Currently, the Ford Individual programme is available on seven models. With this programme, Ford is responding to the desire of many of its customers to extend the standard package in terms of features and equipment and add additional personal touches.

“Ford Individual offers an even greater choice of special options, says Bernhard Mattes. “This way, we are responding to the demands and buying behaviours of our customers. In the past few years, the share of our top level Ghia and Titanium trims has increased to unprecedented levels. With the 'Individual' options on top of that we are now in the position to offer individual luxury and lifestyle regardless of vehicle size.

This trend is noticeable on nearly all Ford models. The Focus is one example: As of late, a third of all Focus customers ordered Ghia or Titanium trim. On Mondeo, the ordering rate for higher trim levels, including Titanium X, was at 55 per cent, while on the S-MAX it reached more than 60 per cent.

Even in the small car segment the demand for more comfort and features is rising constantly. On older generation Fiestas, the share of Ghia models only averaged three per cent. Today, more than 40 per cent of all Fiesta buyers choose a Ghia or Titanium version. This clearly shows that while many customers opt for smaller vehicles, they dont necessarily spend less money on a new car. Downsizing is increasingly accompanied by an upgrade in terms of features and equipment.

Another important fact is that customers who are new to Ford and who used to drive so-called premium brand cars are impressed by Fords excellent value for money ratio and therefore tend to order almost all available options on their new Ford vehicle.

Ford Individual is essentially a reaction to the aspirations of consumers to adapt Fords comprehensive range of trim levels and specifications according to their individual taste. “Nevertheless, we know that the perception of personalisation, by the public as well as the media, remains focused on the premium segment or on manufacturers with a certain retro image. This is what we need to work on, says Bernhard Mattes.

To date, around 45,000 customers have opted for an Individual pack. Due to the increasing demand for leather trim interior styling packs, production levels are close to reaching full capacity. Exterior styling packs and body kits as well as special alloy wheels and multi-media systems are also in great demand.

The creative minds behind Ford Individual have to look for trends, or set new trends, before they become mainstream.

“The many different lifestyles we see today are a reflection of the great variety of modern society, explains John McLeod, Chief Designer, Vehicle Personalisation, Ford of Europe. “Our task is to meet this diversity with the right offer for customers from all stages of life and with models from all vehicle segments. Nowadays, young people grow up faster than before, and older people often lead a more youthful lifestyle than was previously accepted, and this makes our task even more exciting.

The elements of Fords vehicle personalisation programme are different for each model. Therefore, a good sense of intuition is required when selecting them, as well as avoiding mistakes. For this reason, Ford created two different genres for its Individual programme: Luxury and Lifestyle. These are sub-divided, with Classic and Modern Techno slotting into the Luxury category and Style, Fun and Fashion into Lifestyle.

The expressive forms of the Ford Kuga, for example, allow the designers to create a sporty Individual kit, whereas Focus and Mondeo are more suited to a modern interpretation of classic luxury tailored to the models' target groups.

“Fewer and fewer retail customers can be classified in the traditional categories of small, compact, medium or premium class buyers, says Laura Blossfeld-Smith from Ford of Europes Vehicle Personalisation Team. “The design and personality of a vehicle nowadays plays a vital role when purchasing a new car.

For vehicles targeted especially at younger customers, a considerable amount of courage in the design is a must. After all, many young drivers or first car buyers nowadays regard the uniqueness and distinctive features of their car as a statement of their personal attitude towards life.

“For young, self-confident people body colours like the green Squeeze tone and Hot Magenta are very exciting while for other people they might be polarising. These colours have become signature colours for the new Fiesta. says Laura Blossfeld-Smith.

And the number of customers who think this way is increasing. With 20 per cent of all new Fiestas sold, Hot Magenta is already the favourite of all body colours available. Female customers, especially, order this colour in combination with the exclusive leather trim from the Ford Individual interior styling pack in luxurious red and sporty silver. Men prefer the blue and silver leather trim combination on the Fiesta Sport.

According to John McLeod and his creative team, not all fashions are appropriate or practical for the design of cars. For example, when studying popular trends in graphics " that have become very common on shirts or accessories " one has to carefully choose the right motifs. Tattoo motifs, however, have been used by Ford in the Individual packs for the new Ka and they've been very well received.

“Customers consider bold colours with decors as a way of breaking out of traditional conventions, says Laura Blossfeld-Smith. “They like their car to stand out in a crowded car park."

So-called special edition models are usually associated with discounts on the various extras they offer. Ford Individual is different, offering features that used to be limited to the premium segment. Several elements of the Ford Individual programme require a certain amount of handwork, resulting in excellent quality.

Furthermore, the quality and manufacture of the leathers used by Ford set new standards in the market. At the same time, all materials used in vehicle interiors are subject to stringent principles applied by Ford with regard to allergy-friendliness.

The personalisation of Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy (built in Fords Genk plant in Belgium), Fiesta (Cologne, Germany) as well as Focus and Kuga (Saarlouis, Germany), is carried out at dedicated modification centres that have been set up in the respective plants. The modifications are carried out by specially trained personnel whose work is stringently monitored on quality. On the Ka, the implementation of Ford Individual features has even been integrated into the regular assembly process.

Ka: Extraordinary choice of individual features
Fiesta: Two colourful design themes for Fords iconic small car
Focus: Individual options boasting premium quality
Kuga: Three characteristic colour schemes
Mondeo: Combination of premium quality materials and convenience features
S-MAX: Luxurious leather trim, appealing body kit
Galaxy: Elegant interior styling package for Fords large MPV

Cologne, September 2009 " Ford introduced its 'Individual' vehicle personalisation programme two years ago, offering customers a luxurious range of unique interior and exterior features.

"Ford Individual has proved to be a success and we are progressively expanding and tailoring it to more and more vehicles," said Bernhard Mattes, Vice President, Ford Customer Service Division Europe.

Following its application to Ka, Fiesta, Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy, the Ford Individual programme was extended to the Focus and Kuga ranges in March 2009. Both models are impressing with bespoke interior and exterior styling elements and, in the case of the Kuga, a high-gloss 'Piano White' finish for some of the interior parts.

"We want to give our customers a wider choice of premium quality options for the interior of their vehicle and, where appropriate, for the exterior as well," explained Martin Smith, Ford of Europes executive design director. "These options allow Ford customers to highlight the uniqueness of their vehicle by giving it a personalised look.

With Ford Individual, the design themes are targeted for different groups: Luxury and Lifestyle. There are both 'Classic' and 'Modern Techno' designs that fall into the Luxury category, and Style, Fun and Fashion into the Lifestyle group.

Classic features elegant, sophisticated colour combinations, high quality leather trims (some with Alcantara), and upmarket interior highlights including high-quality floor mats, scuff plates and door panels. Externally, there are alloy wheels with a distinctive finish.

Modern Techno emphasises the sporty and dynamic. The leather pack designs are more distinctive, with bolder patterns and colour combinations. Metallic accents on the gear shift knob, hand brake lever or scuff plates accentuate the 'Modern Techno' further. Deep pile floor mats also create a high level comfort and luxury. Completing the range are bespoke exterior body kits available in body colour with some having contrasting combinations, depending on the exterior paint chosen. The body kits on Mondeo and S-MAX are complemented by Ford Individual alloy wheels with a special Mystique Silver paint.

Complementing Modern Techno are electronic features from Fords standard options programme, such as premium audio systems, entertainment systems for rear seat passengers or, on selected models, a rear view camera.

The trendy and youthful Style, Fun, Fashion focuses on creative colour selections stretching from the vehicle's roof, shoulders and rear " as with the Ford Ka Tattoo with its characteristic emblem decal " to the interior, with logos and embroidery on the seats and floor mats.

The foundation of the successful Ford Individual vehicle personalisation programme was laid in January 2007 when Ford launched the S-MAX Individual. With a multitude of modern features, the vehicle met the growing interest among European customers in personalising their vehicles in line with their individual tastes and lifestyles.

Ford initially offered a choice of premium leather seats in either black with contrasting inner upholstery in blue, silver, red or orange or burgundy seats with blue or grey inner parts. Front and rear seats carried the Individual logo. Other features distinguishing the Individual version included stitching on the leather gear shift gaiter, repeating the colour scheme of the seats, door panels and centre armrest; Individual-branded polished stainless steel scuff plates; velour floor mats with reflective piping and colour coordinated borders matched to the seats, and aluminium pedal covers.

The dynamic exterior of the Ford S-MAX was further enhanced to give it an even sportier appearance. In 2007 the exterior styling pack included a rear diffuser, a front lower trapezoidal grille surround " both having contrasting colours " as well as rear and side skirts, body coloured rear spoiler and unique Individual 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Encouraged by the huge success and positive feedback from S-MAX Individual customers, Ford extended the Individual range to the Galaxy people mover in March 2008. The Mondeo extended the programme further, offering distinctive exterior and interior styling packs, as well as a pack focused on technical features, such as bi-xenon headlamps, Ford Power Starter Button and Key-Free System.

At the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the all-new Ford Ka attracted much interest when three very different Individual design themes " Digital, Tattoo and Grand Prix " were announced. The all-new Fiesta received its own Individual programme in October 2008, with two distinct colour schemes revolving around high-quality leather trims.

Last, but not least, Ford introduced Individual versions of the Focus and Kuga at this years Geneva Motor Show. Both models impressed with bespoke interior styling elements, in the case of the Kuga with high-gloss interior finishes.

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