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Ford dealerships to be 'remodelled' to promote new VIP ownership experience

Ford dealers will be required to offer enhanced customer service levels for its wealthiest customers and have showroom space dedicated to a new 'VIP ownership experience' from early 2015.

It has also today announced it will expect heightened levels of customer service on certain models in a bid to win back some of the customers it has been losing to so-called premium brands. Ford is also introducing a new luxury trim level.

The high-end specification and service package will be marketed under the Vignale name, resurrecting the name of an Italian coachbuilder which Ford acquired in the 1970s along with the Ghia styling house. High-end Fords have been badged as Ghias.

A Ford spokesman said: "There is a certain level of customer who is accustomed to being driven to places, to having access to airport lounges and to having a concierge level experience. In other words they do not expect or want to have to spend time in a dealership.

"We are starting to have conversation with our dealers about providing an equivalent level of service these customers expect, so they would have their car collected and delivered for servicing for example. They will be directed to airport lounge style areas in the dealership and be offered the appropriate standard of refreshments. Vignale customers will know the name of the dealer principal and be able to call them direct."

Vignale buyers will have access to a personalised website and smartphone app, have a dedicated advisor and be given privileged access to special services.

It is similar to the business model which has seen Lexus and Infiniti regularly appear at the top of customer satisfaction surveys.

"Ford aims to treat Vignale owners like first-class airline passengers, and will even offer free lifetime car valet services."

He stressed that the differentiation in the Vignale offering would come in the physical differences on offer, rather than the treatment given by dealer staff: "We expect high levels of staff professionalism and excellent care for all customers."  

Ford is looking at areas of the country where the selected number of Vignale dealerships would be located - the Home Counties being an obvious choice - and is not prescribing the type of dealer group that would offer the new service level.

"There is nothing saying we would choose a plc group over a small retail group," the spokesman said. "Customer service levels will be an obvious measure of appropriateness."

The decision to push upmarket has been prompted by customer demand for the current highest trim level, Titanium X.

More than half of Ford's European sales are of this specification, a figure which rises to 70% with the S-Max and 75% for the Kuga. Ford says that "10-15% of customers want an even higher specification vehicle, which Ford does not currently cater for" and would be willing to pay for time-saving initiatives from their dealer.

Ford dealerships will be remodelled, with specific areas for Vignale and the sporty ST models. The higher end models would see prices go beyond £30,000.

The Vignale package will be offered for the first time on the new Mondeo, which will be launched late next year or early in 2015.

At next week's Frankfurt Show, saloon and estate versions of the new Mondeo giving clues to what Vignale will offer will appear in concept form.

The Frankfurt cars are finished in an exclusive brown metallic paintwork and have a bespoke mesh grille, 20-inch chromed alloy wheels to match the door handles and mirror casings, quilted leather upholstery and leather on the dash and doors.

"They were inspired by the worlds of architecture, fashion and modern industrial design as well as the automotive sector and emphasise quality and craftsmanship," says Ford's European executive design director, Martin Smith.

Vignale will be as much about "the ownership experience" as the product, says the vice-president for marketing, sales and services, Roelant de Waard. "It will be the best we have to offer on every level, but not at a premium price."

Vignale buyers will have access to a personalised website and smartphone app, have a dedicated advisor and be given privileged access to special services. It is similar to the business model which has seen Lexus and Infiniti regularly appear at the top of customer satisfaction surveys. Ford aims to treat Vignale owners like first-class airline passengers, and will even offer free lifetime car valet services.



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  • Martin - 05/09/2013 07:12

    So if you have money you get a better standard of service than if you haven't. Whatever happened to all customers being treated with the same high level of service

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  • gezza37 - 05/09/2013 12:48

    How much discount will they throw at this top level model I wonder. Doubt whether people will buy it over a prestige marque unless it's significantly cheaper. Residuals probably won't be that high.

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    • ABC123 - 05/09/2013 13:38

      @gezza37 - Agreed - and if you are going to spend that money, why wouldn't you move up marque? Odd strategy that will be forgotten about in a couple of years. Like the "Kinetic Design" promo.

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  • Chilli pepper - 05/09/2013 21:38

    What a waste of time and money. The type of person who FMC is saying are "Being Driven" ( by the way there are very few) are hardly going to wait for their car to be serviced. I'm pretty sure Simon Cowell and co have better things to do other than read a dishevelled newspaper whilst waiting for an oil change on their "pimped up" Mondeo??!!!

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  • Bumble bee - 05/09/2013 21:57

    Most of these customers that FMC are talking about already enjoy their car being picked up from their house or workplace have the work completed and get their car back cleaned and repaired these people don't really have the time to wallow away time in a car dealership

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  • Waspeeze - 05/09/2013 22:08

    FMC need to learn the lessons of Volkswagen Group.. What ever happened to designated Luxury Car Area for Pheaton Customers??? In fact what ever happened to The Pheaton Customer?? ( singular rather than plural!!!) I don't see this designated area in VWs latest corporate identity

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  • ABC123 - 06/09/2013 13:05

    In a period of growth this seem like a good idea - but once a contraction occurs- it'll be "we're concentrating on our core customers - we took our eye of what makes FORD relevant to our core market" etc, and this will be dropped.

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