Ford Using Miracles To Gain Market Shares
Ford is pretty big on performing miracles – whether they want to call it that or not. The Mustang has been beating Chevy and Dodge at the performance muscle car wars for years. Even with antiquated rear suspension, the Mustang is still the performance car to beat around a track. Now with the 2012 BOSS 302, even Germany’s benchmark production BMW M3 is no match for the Mustang.
A miracle? Perhaps not. But with the economy continuing to limp along, selling new cars is getting more and more challenging. Increasing efficiency, improving products and offering more content for the customer’s money will only go so far towards winning market shares. What is a car company to do to attract new customers? Well, Ford has been thinking outside the box and has come up with a totally untapped demographic that is sure to help sell tens, if not hundreds of cars.
In what some (me) are calling a minor modern day miracle, Ford recently gathered a group of 30 visually impaired individuals at the Merkenic Development Center test track in Cologne, Germany to teach them how to drive. That’s right, with war in the Middle East, unemployment at 9% and cats no longer speaking to dogs, Ford has decided to teach the blind to drive. While you can’t fault the visually impaired for wanting to experience the joy and thrill of driving, you have to wonder what Ford’s motivations are.
Is it to prove the point that most people that CAN see actually drive worse that those who CAN’T? Or is it to bring a whole new car buying demographic into the Ford fold?
Well, it’s not the first time Ford has put the visually impaired behind the wheel of their performance products. Back in 2009, Ford was promoting the 2010 Mustang with the “’10 Unleashed” campaign which featured 10 stories of Mustang dreams coming true. For one Roger Keeney, his dream was a simple one – just to drive a 2010 Mustang. What was stopping him? Roger has been blind for the last 20 years due to a farming accident. With champion driver Tommy Kendall in the passenger seat, Roger proceeded to fulfill his dream and hoon his way into Ford Mustang history.
Big kudos to Ford for reaching out to a group, who themselves, never thought it possible to drive a car. If it makes more fans for the Mustang, I for one, am all for it. But what did Ford get out of this marketing miracle, besides cozying up to a group that generally does not buy cars?
According to Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Vice President, Legal, Governmental and Environmental Affairs for Ford of Europe. “In traffic situations, people with visual impairments orient themselves using sounds, so it’s easy for them to misjudge size and speed of cars. We want to help resolve such problems by encouraging greater participation in traffic that can leave us all more enlightened and confident.”
Really? Helping 30 blind people to be better able to judge the size of a car in every day life? That was the goal? Or could it be that “with new technology developing rapidly – such as camera- and radar-based safety systems, advanced satellite navigation systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications – the possibilities that the blind and visually impaired could one day drive are increasing, and Ford predicts advanced driver assistance systems could one day lead to greater independence for these customers.” It’s probably the new technology thing. Technology making it possible for visually impaired people to become more independent by being able to drive themselves around. Now that is a minor modern day miracle if I’ve ever seen one.
Following the driving experience, I heard rumors that Ford treated the participants to a private screening of the new 3D movie “Captain America”. And everyone left with a new iPad2. Good for you Ford of Europe, for treating every individual as a possible customer. At the very least, the families of the visually impaired can feel good about their loved ones getting some long overdue attention from a major car company.
Next on Ford’s list of minor modern day miracles, the marketing boffins are planning on sending a group of hearing impaired individuals to the Black Sabbath reunion concert to see how they react to people reacting to live music. What can be gained from such outside-the-box marketing campaigns? Who knows, but I am sure it will lead to tens of more customers.