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January 05, 2006

Ford’s Fields marshals marketing 

W. C. ’s new president, , says he will take the company on to a now that he’s in charge. This means good things for the North American operation, which has struggled to define itself -wise. It’s finally been outsold by for the first time in 19 years, for a start. Funny: I don’t feel cynical about this.
   Fields has proven himself at when running its global ops, giving it a healthy dose of zoom-zoom during his tenure. The cars have captured their sporting heritage and the company has been able to sustain that with its present product line—good going for the Hiroshima-based firm that frequently finds itself in financial trouble.
   I’m also confident because Fields has the blessing of Ford’s relatively new North American chief , , who’s a Brit. Horbury was behind the renaissance of , the company’s brand, and managed to accomplish the turnaround because management the and supported its nourishment.
   Even more importantly, Fields admits that Ford has turned out some duffers. The Ford Five Hundred (daft name, incidentally—and pictured above), which looks the world like a 1997 Passat, and the relative failure of the Volvo S80-based Ford Freestyle, have no clear brand direction. Fields says Ford lost touch with its customers. Now, according to Business Week, the agenda includes making Ford ‘ and ’.
   He doesn’t mean the over- claptrap that became quite passé after 2001 finished, but the ideas of ‘, and optimism’—which are universal enough to apply to Ford of Europe. There, Köln has more clarity, expressing its designs with the spirit of the and 1971 Taunus, culminating in the new Galaxy minivan—one of Ford’s strongest designs since the original .
   Fields sees as being an example of a brand going on the offensive. He certainly has the passion, and says he will be bringing marketing into the stage. It’s not a new model— Corp. (prior to Daimler–Benz AG popping by) used it for years as it turned out butch trucks and Dodge Viper—and my only surprise is how long it has taken another American company to learn from it.
   It will be interesting to see just how well Ford can adopt its marketing orientation, and look to the future for inspiration. The boring commodity car may be finished at Ford—a good sign.
   Heck, they might even build the next Australian Stateside to fill the gap vacated by the . There’s an interesting delay in the Falcon’s release that will work out rather well. If, of course, Ford can get over its , its syndrome, and sincerely adopts that marketing orientation. Fields will need a lot of strength to do it, and seems to be behind him.
PS.: Apple might not be the best example for Mark Fields, if Stefan Engeseth is right. A post on the topic is here at the BBB.  
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