Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Ford Motor Co. is setting up a new management team focused solely on vehicle electronics connectivity in an effort to boost vehicle margins and pull a bigger share of younger buyers into its showrooms.

The new team, headed by Doug Van Dagens, who joined Ford in 1986 and most recently has been leading its electronics product-development and business operations, will “further accelerate our in-vehicle connectivity leadership,” Mark Fields, president-The Americas, tells the Management Briefing Seminars here.

Fields points to Ford’s Sync connectivity device supplied by Microsoft Corp. that is pushing up Focus transaction prices a well-publicized $750 per unit.

“Our small cars need to be more ambitious vehicles than ever, delivering style, perceived quality and appealing to lifestyle, not life stage,” Fields says, adding that Ford’s future compacts must appeal to a new breed of C-car buyer, many of whom never have owned a vehicle.

Millenials – 14- to 29-year-olds, who tend to have higher incomes than traditional small-car buyers and are highly dependent on their cell phones and iPods – are Ford’s primary target.

“Roughly 11,000 of them reach driving-age every day,” Fields says. “And by 2010, they’ll represent 28% of the driving population.

“They’re the largest U.S. population group outside of Baby Boomers, and they have an insatiable appetite for technology.”

The customer connectivity group will number 40 and “work at clock speed that, frankly, neither the industry nor Ford has ever seen before,” the Ford executive says.

The team will report to both engineering head Derrick Kuzak and sales chief Jim Farley and will answer to a steering committee of which Fields is a member.

Fields says Ford will continue delivering “game-changing customer features – profitably – by strengthening alliances we’ve forged with some of the best technology companies in the world.

“Our core development team is lean,” he adds. “We’re committed to leveraging the technologies and advancements of world-class partners who are experts in their fields, so we can deliver with speed, quality and efficiency.

“That means our technologies are affordable for millions. Pushing even further, even faster: That’s the call to action for Doug and the team.”

dstark@wardsauto.com