• BECAUSE IT IS THERE

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    Ford teases its new Everest Concept SUV at the Bangkok International Motor Show

    FORD Motor Co. calls the strategy as a “product-led transformation,” and the latest rendition of the Everest SUV, unveiled in concept form last week at the Bangkok International Motor Show, is one such product Ford is lining up as it goes further in carrying out its plans.

    Under the One Ford mantra, the carmaker had in recent years been building vehicles that are meant to cater to a global audience. This contrasts to its previous practice, from around a decade ago, where certain models are designed specifically for certain markets. The advantage of the new tact is that Ford is able to use its worldwide network of development, manufacturing and marketing facilities—leveraging its resources, as the company had often referred to the move—to create models that are, well, world-class. To date, among the vehicles that have emerged from this approach are the present-gen versions of the Ford Fiesta, Focus, Ranger and EcoSport. The new Everest is next in line.

    While Ford now seems to be downplaying its previous pronouncement of putting to market eight new models by mid-decade (as well as a certain number of powertrains)—the projection is no longer mentioned in official news releases—company officials that presented the Everest concept in Bangkok were confident of Ford’s progress in its quest for a “product-led transformation.”

    We’re on track,” Matt Bradley, president of Ford Asean, put it succinctly.

    To illustrate the point, he ticked off the latest developments regarding Ford’s products.

    “By bringing customers more choice of powertrains in the new Fiesta, and an exciting new urban SUV with the all-new EcoSport, we’re confident that our momentum will continue this year.”

    Next-gen Everest
    Preceding the Everest concept’s Asean appearance in Bangkok was its global reveal in Sydney, Australia, held in August last year. The venue hints at the next-gen Everest’s origins—the model comes out of Ford’s regional product and development team there—and the close ties it shares with the Ranger pickup, which was also conceptualized in the country.

    Ford, however, is being careful in not saying the Everest concept is the SUV version of the current-gen Ranger, as the case had clearly been in the two models’ previous versions.

    “The [new]Everest was designed in Australia so, yes, there are some influences of the Ranger in it. Expect the same level of development,” said Bradley.

    But besides describing the Everest concept as a midsize, seven-seat SUV that “has been designed for Asean and global markets,” both Bradley and Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific, were still coy in baring more details about the model, promising instead to announce the latest developments as the Everest progresses from concept stage to production model. As yet, no timeline is available, as are information on powertrain choices.

    “The Everest concept pretty much looks like the production version,” Schoch, however, admitted. “Changes will likely be on refinements and craftsmanship.”

    Bradley added the Everest concept “hints at its toughness and exceptional capability,” and that, like the current Everest, the production version will be built in Thailand.

    “The Everest concept represents our vision of a global Ford vehicle with regional heritage that will allow customers to take on the world. It shows how we continue to implement an ongoing product-led transformation and further expand our showrooms across the Asean region,” he said.

    Asean role
    Ford’s Asean chief noted that the Bangkok show is a “great opportunity to showcase” the company’s “growing lineup of global Ford vehicles available to customers in this dynamic and growing region.”

    So along with the Everest concept, Ford at the Bangkok show flaunted on its display floor 17 other models, paying particular attention to a new Fiesta variant that’s powered by 1.5-liter engine, and the freshly launched EcoSport. Through a range of activities, the carmaker also highlighted some of its technologies like the EcoBoost engine and Sync multimedia/connectivity gizmo. The message is clear: Ford’s presence in the region is not to be dismissed.

    Well, Ford is betting big on Asean.

    The carmaker said it intends to sell eight million vehicles a year globally by mid-decade. Of this number, it expects 60 percent to 70 percent of its growth to come from Asia Pacific, with Asean markets “playing a key role.” Ford also projects that around half of the cars sold in 2020 will land in Asian households, and that 40 percent of the company’s sales worldwide will come from Asean.

    “That’s why we’re investing a lot in Asean—it is very important for Ford,” Schoch said.

    The Ford executive also stressed the value of not just bringing out new models, but building vehicles that consumers are happy with. And Ford’s strong performance in recent survey results is an indicator of positive customer response, Schoch said, citing in particular Ford Phils.’ top ranking in the 2013 J.D. Power Asia Pacific Sales Satisfaction Index study where the company bested nine other auto brands.

    Bradley boosted the argument, adding that “third party endorsements are very important.”

    “We know we have to work harder because of these,” he said.

    If the production Everest does live up to its concept version’s promise, Ford may well have another model on which to scale sales charts globally, as well as the Everest that is Asean.

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