Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields is the right-hand man to CEO Alan Mulally, as the duo work to implement the One Ford plan on a global basis.
Fields, rumored to be next in line for the top job, talks to WardsAuto about potential new markets, looming challenges and what it’s going to take to transform the Lincoln brand into a truly global luxury marque.
WardsAuto: Beyond the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) what is the most promising emerging market and why?
Fields: There is tremendous opportunity to serve customers in China, Russia, India and Brazil. ASEAN (including Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam), the Middle East and Africa also are dynamic and growing regions. We will significantly increase the number of dealerships in ASEAN from 155 in 2010 to 234 in 2015.and Lincoln sales have grown 60% in the Middle East over the past four years, and we expect total industry sales in the combined Middle East and Africa region to increase nearly 40% to around 5.5 million units by 2020. We will launch 17 new or refreshed Ford and Lincoln vehicles in the next 24 months to accelerate growth in the Middle East and Africa – including the Ford Fusion sedan and the EcoSport small SUV showcased at the 2013 Dubai International Motor Show in early November.
WardsAuto: Where are the capacity bottlenecks to increasing vehicle production? Will Ford be constructing new lines, adding more shifts or crews at existing operations or otherwise increasing flexibility to expand output in the coming year? How will you work with suppliers to ensure they keep pace with expanded production?
Fields: First, we are happy to see the demand for our new products outpacing supply. We will continue to match production to the customer demand in every market where we operate. In the past two years, we have launched four new plants in Asia-Pacific, and we will launch six more – four in China and two in India – by 2015. Our plan in North America is to maximize the capacity in our existing facilities. We have very strong relationships with our supplier partners, and we work together closely to serve our customers. For example, our recently announced Aligned Business Framework 2.0 initiative enables supplier innovations to reach customers faster by providing more robust tracking of new technologies from idea to implementation.
WardsAuto: What current industry trend would you like to see go away?
Fields: Acknowledging the current reality has been an important part of Ford’s transformation. Every week, we look at the risks and opportunities in the business environment, evaluate them against our strategy and adapt our plans accordingly. We focus on identifying trends that influence consumers, and use that insight to continue delivering the vehicles they want and value.
WardsAuto: Do you foresee the Asia-Pacific region surpassing North America as Ford’s main profit and revenue generator?
Fields: We anticipate that Asia-Pacific will grow to become almost a third of our global volume by mid-decade, which reflects substantial growth from 4% in 2000 and 15% in 2010. We reported record third-quarter results for Asia-Pacific in 2013 with pre-tax profit of $126 million. The third quarter was our fifth consecutive profitable quarter and we achieved best-ever quarterly market shares for the region. We will bring more than 50 new vehicles and powertrains to Asia-Pacific by mid-decade, including 15 new cars and SUVs to China by 2015.
WardsAuto: What steps need to be taken to make Lincoln a global luxury brand? What are the expectations for Lincoln in China in the coming years?
Fields: Lincoln’s reinvention will be measured in years, and we are very pleased with the progress so far. We remain absolutely committed to reinventing Lincoln into a world-class luxury brand with personal service that is based on a hospitality model. We will have four all-new Lincolns in four years. It started with the new MKZ in 2013, and we just revealed our all-new Lincoln MKC to go into production in the first half of 2014. New Lincoln products will begin to be sold in China in the second half of 2014. Lincoln has a very strong brand image and awareness in China already, and we have designed an all-new dealer and ownership experience that we believe is unique in the marketplace. We expect Lincoln’s combination of outstanding products and a personalized luxury buying and ownership experience will appeal to Chinese luxury consumers – especially those who purchase luxury for the personal experience rather than as an outward signal to others.
WardsAuto: The industry is rebounding in North America, and Ford is ahead of schedule in Europe and building a base in Asia-Pacific. What do you see as the next big challenge for the company?
Fields: We are continuing to implement our One Ford plan, staying laser focused on serving customers globally with a full family of best-in-class vehicles and delivering profitable growth for everyone associated with Ford. We work to deliver the very best quality, fuel efficiency and safety.