Will Ford Profit in 2010?

Automaker looks to fuel efficiency, black consumers for the new year

Ford Taurus SHO (Source: Ford Motor)

While Ford Motor Co. stands alone as the only American automaker that didn’t solicit bailout money from the U.S. government and subsequently file for bankruptcy protection, it was far from unscathed. And as the No. 3 manufacturer of vehicles tries to save an eroding market share on the heels of perhaps the worst year for the industry, environmentally aware and African American consumers could play a pivotal role in its future.

With the industry still in a state of flux and consumer demand remaining questionable, Ford sees the minority space—and, of course, the environmentally conscious consumer—as areas of increasing importance as it looks to regain lost market share. “The great thing about Ford, particularly in the last year where everyone else cut multicultural marketing—our spending actually went up,” says Crystal Worthem, manager of Multicultural Marketing at Ford. “We do the print ads and TV and try to find ways to communicate with the customer to help change their mind, and we’re especially doing it in the African American community.”

Expanding minority-owned and -operated dealerships in minority communities is key to Ford increasing auto sales, says McGrath. “There is an opportunity to become a dominant presence in minority neighborhoods if [minorities] invest in it. It tends to be an underserved market,” he says.

All told, African Americans spent $11.5 billion on new car sales, using an average retail price of $20,000 per vehicle, according to Marc Bland, multicultural marketing lead for R.L. Polk, a provider of automotive information and marketing solutions.

Ford’s Worthem says the best way to speak to those consumers is through one-on-one relationships and the company has responded to that trend. “So from awareness to purchase consideration all the way down to sales, they’ll take a look at you when you’re at those one-to-one events more often than somebody from the general market. Ford realizes that the African American market is critical to us selling product and driving profits.”

These marketing strategies come on the heels of a steady rise in competition—primarily from Asian companies—and a shift by consumers away from the more profitable large pickup truck and SUV

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