Jul 22, 2009
csalomonlee

Cash for Clunkers, Ford, EV Vehicles and Scott Monty

Not the truck we bought. We went used instead.

Not the truck we bought. We went used instead.

Last year, my husband and I had started shopping for pick-up trucks. We had narrowed it down to a Ford Ranger of Toyota Tacoma. While we preferred the Tacoma, we decided not to buy at that time. That turned out to be a good decision based on what happened earlier this year. Fast forward 7 months. We felt comfortable enough with my new (now 4-month old) job to start looking again.

Cash for Clunkers Program

Part of this was spurred by the Cash for Clunkers program that was signed into law by the Obama office. In a nutshell, the goal of the program is to incent car owners of gas guzzlers to purchase more gas efficient vehicles. If your car qualifies for the program, you can get anywhere from $3600-4500 back. Brilliant  move by the administration – good for environment, good for the car owner (especially if these cars are only worth a few hundred dollars) and good for car manufacturers pummeled by the economy over the past year.

Ford and EV Vehicles

Interestingly, while we had favored the Tacoma last year, we made a decision to buy Ford this time. Why? For two reasons:

1)     Of all the American automakers, Ford was the only one not in bankruptcy or to take money from the Government. The impression is that Ford is better of economically, which may or may not be accurate. But for finicky car buyers, this is an important distinction. I am comforted that Ford will be around in the near future.

2)     While attending the Marin County Fair, there was an electric vehicle (EV) showcase. We learned that of all the pick-up trucks, the Ford Ranger is best for EV conversion because of the truck width and carriage is ideal for adding batteries. Who knew? Too bad they didn’t continue improving and manufacturing the EV Ranger (please bring it back Ford), but this point turned us into Ford Ranger buyers.

Scott Monty Who?

After making our decision, we visited Novato Ford. Since we spent a good portion waiting for paperwork and discussing which car to buy (used or new), I naturally wanted to see if Ford’s social media programs filtered down to the sales guy at the dealership.

When asked about Ford’s PR and social media campaigns, got blank stares, “Scott Monty Who?” None of the sales folks on the floor seemed to be aware of the efforts. And when my husband asked the contract gal about how dealers provide feedback to Ford, she stated that the owner of the dealership did.

Ok – I know this isn’t a scientific study. For this dealership, the folks who connect with consumers (you and me) on a daily basis have minimal participation in the conversation with Ford’s headquarters and larger campaigns. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as Ford continues to expand their social media outreach.

Cash for Clunkers + Rebates = 50% off

In the end, we decided to buy a used truck (1200 miles) that came with a shell. However, there is evidence that the Cash for Clunkers program is spurring sales. Interestingly, if we had participated in the program and with the manufacturer’s rebates, we could’ve driven off the lot with a new 2009 Ford Ranger for 50% of the list price! The program officially begins on July 23rd. I wonder if the auto sales numbers will start to climb in August?

 

Final Thoughts

It will be interesting to see if the Cash for Clunkers program, combined with Ford’s social media efforts will be the turning point for this American classic.  While we may be the exception to the rule, I found it interesting that Ford Rangers are the best for EV conversions (Ford, are you listening?) Maybe there is a niche here that you can get the word out. And finally, it will be interesting to see if Ford’s own social media best practices will filter down to the sales associates and dealer networks working directly with customers.

 

What do you think? Have you bought a car lately?

10 Comments

  • I wish the Canadian government would institute a “Cash for Clunkers” program. It would be cheaper and more effective then a lot of other programs they sponsor in support of the environment.

  • @Scott thanks for taking time to commnent. I do agree that it takes time for the program to filter through the organization and is great to hear that this is in your plans.

    As for vehicle technology, I hope that Ford can help recapture the innovation lead in developing and manufacturing cars that are not only comfy but also are friendly to the environment. As more research and developments are achieved, I envision this to be sooner vs. later.

    As for my next car, I might be ready in 3-5 years :)

  • Many vehicles will not be eligible for a voucher because they either don’t run or get more than 18 mpg. An alternative for these folks is to donate car to charity and get a tax deduction.

  • Cece,

    First of all, *thank you* for buying a Ford. It’s great to know that you found our position of comfort – although it’s more than just about cash reserves; it’s the fact that we’ve had a plan in place for a couple of years and you’re seeing the results of that now.

    As far as EVs go, we’re actually launching one EV a year for the next three years, beginning with the Transit Connect (http://fordvehicles.com/transitconnect), then the battery electric Focus in 2011, and finally the plug-in electric hybrid Escape in 2012. We haven’t announced anything specific to the Ranger at this point, but it’s good to know that the conversions are relatively easy.

    The dealership situation is not surprising, as we haven’t rolled our social media efforts out at that level – yet. We’re actually working on a program to train our zone managers who will in turn train the dealers on the fundamentals of social media. As our front line, the 3,700 of them are the arms and legs that we need, and quite frankly, are pillars in their communities.

    In addition to continuing to humanize the company by equipping employees, retirees and dealers with the ability to become digital ambassadors, we’ll be working on additional programs that capture the imagination and emotion of our customers, and presenting it in a believable and practical way.

    In the meantime, while the situation with the government money and the C4C program grabs peoples’ attention, we’re focused on getting them to notice what it is that we *are* doing, to truly understand our product strategy, and to experience our vehicles firsthand.

    Thanks so much for your insight and feedback; I hope we’ll have made an advance by the time you’re ready to buy your next Ford. :-)

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company
    @ScottMonty

  • @Frank – While I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of the program, I do think that the program has merit for 1) helping to get inefficient cars off the road and replace them with more fuel efficient ones, 2) in the process will help our environment and lower costs for individuals and 3) to help spur an interest in new cars.

    @ Robert, Chris and Steve – Exactly. As a technophile I am aware of Ford’s efforts and applaud the challenge ahead of Scott Monty. I think this has improved Ford’s corporate image. With that said, sitting at the dealership, I wanted to see how this truly filtered down to the dealers which impacts Ford’s bottom line. As Steve stated, until the marketing programs connect with these front-line businesses, then we will be unable to truly see the impact of these social media efforts where it counts – with the buyers.

  • Buyer beware: scams are popping up with this program as we speak, make sure to consult this checklist: http://tinyurl.com/nlv3ed

  • Recently, I had a conversation with Scott Monty at Ford on this very topic. While I can’t really get into the details of that conversation, it is clear that Scott has a passion and a focus. He also has a very, very daunting task ahead of him. He is trying to change along with a small group of others (including Bill Ford, which helps) the engrained culture of a massive organization; much of which doesn’t want to change or understand the vision Scott is advocating. After reading this post, I called two Ford dealerships and just got back from visiting another. Zero (0%) of the sales and floor management were aware of the Ford Focus program and one even said “we (Ford) run lots of test drive promotions”. Zero (0%) indicated they had anything but the standard feedback channels that the dealership used to quantify customer satisfaction (you know, fill this form out and if you can’t we (the dealership) will fill it out for you). There is still a MASSIVE disconnect between the marketing elements of the business and it’s operational components. This type of program can’t really optimize until these two elements are better intertwined. Remember, marketing tee’s up the promise and the opportunity to collaborate. Operations pays this off…or not.

  • There is a huge disconnect between the corporate side of a car manufacturer (like Ford) and dealers, which are really independent businesses. So it’s no surprise that corporate initiatives, which often run counter to dealer initiatives anyway, weren’t communicated down the chain.
    That said, having a computer in-store where people can plug into the conversation and learn more about Ford would be pretty interesting. Testimonials sent right from the Show Room floor that Scott could then join in on. Now that would help close the loop.

  • An interesting study would be to see if this “reach the sales floor” issue happens at all companies undertaking social media.

    I’m not too surprised to learn that the front line workers in any major corporation are unfamiliar with their social media efforts. Lest we forget, social media is still *very* new and we may still be on the cusp of Early Adopter (Knowledge/Awareness) in the social media spread (or diffusion of innovations).

  • Not necessarily as brilliant a move as the administration would like you to think. The benefits, while arguable, are countered by the fact that the people picking up the tab for this are the US taxpayers.

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About

Cece Salomon-LeeCece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.

This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.

Learn more about Cece.

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