Interview: Roelant de Waard on Ford's fleet growth
Ford is one of the longest standing players in the European fleet segment as well as one of the largest. New entries like the revised Ranger pickup and European Edge, launched at Frankfurt are likely to find favour among fleet customers as well as the new S-MAX and Galaxy. De Waard reckons that the fleet segment has grown while the retail sector has stayed relatively stagnant, “The entire industry growth has come to a large extent from the fleet segment which is encouraging, which means business is booming,” he says.
Both the absolute volume and relative mix in fleet works in Ford’s favour because the company is launching several models relevant to the fleet segment, says de Waard. He sees the Edge as a car with particular appeal for user/choosers.
“With the Mondeo already launched, but still climbing, we have, I think, a lot of promise in the fleet segment. Then commercial vehicles have been a roaring success,” he comments, “We’ve moved up from a mostly medium-sized van supplier to a fullrange supplier.” Ford has adopted the ‘Transit’ branding for its entire range of light CVs, adding the compact Transit Courier to the small Transit Connect as well as the separate Transit Custom and Transit 2- Tonne model lines.
“We went from an overall 7th position three years ago to the number one position here today,” says de Waard, “And I think to a large extent, that’s thanks to our performance in the fleet segment.”
SUVs gaining fleet acceptance
The SUV sector is one that that many fleets would not have considered a few years ago when models were heavier and with uncompetitive carbon dioxide emissions. It’s a measure of how much the vehicles have changed that de Waard sees the Edge as an important fleet model, “I think the image in those days from SUVs came from the types of vehicles that were on the road and there were large, high-powered petrol vehicles, but there has been tremendous progress in the efficiency of SUVs, where they are now marginally above the smaller, lower vehicles. In the Edge, we will be below 150g/km CO2 with a very powerful diesel engine. Also the lowest emission level we have for the Kuga is 122g/km, so the penalty for SUVs has become very marginal and it is very clear that this is what customers aspire to.”
The SUV growth trend is towards 25% of the total car market, as de Waard points out. “I think what is becoming clear is that the true off-road capability is a sub-segment. There are customers who need the ride height and wading depth and everything that goes with it, but also, there’s a whole group of customers who don’t need the off-road capability but want to have the higher ride height. Especially among smaller SUVs we see a sizeable portion of frontwheel- drive only models. So it’s important to understand what is driving this growth and it is not necessarily off-road driving.”
Ford has experienced fleet growth in the Southern European markets. “Traditionally we have been very successful with Fiesta and the B-segment models. It’s in no way close to German or British penetration, but it has grown rapidly for us and our fleet market share is now on a par with our retail market share, where typically the local manufacturers were dominant,” de Waard concludes.