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Trust is the New Black: Ford Markets to “Get Real” Consumers

How hard is Alan Mulally actually pushing the Ford Focus Electric? (Ford photo)

I have seen the future, courtesy of Ford. The company identifies 13 trends for 2013, which are interesting to filter through an electric car lens. The basic conclusion from the trends report, prepared by BAV Consulting, is that consumers want to buy products from brands they can trust. “Trust is the new black,” says one of the 13 mantras.
Talking with the Wallet

“Customers say they want to use their wallets and spending on something they believe in,” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s in-house futurist during a forum on the report in New York Thursday. Grant McCraken, a lecturer at Harvard Business School, adds, “Brands have behaved badly over the last 20 years, and there’s a catalogue of unfortunate choices and unworthy motives. The new goal is absolute transparency. If you don’t make yourself transparent, your competitor will. If you have sincerity, you can fail and the customer will see you as a work in progress and cut you some slack.”

You can watch a wall-to-wall video of the 13 Trends for 2013 video here.

This could help Ford as it launches its green fleet, Connelly said. Ford was the only one of the Big Three not to take a bailout, but it still took what Connelly called “a journey,” and consumers saw the company turn the corner, which could lead them to root for its success.
Are We “Post-Green”?

Ford thinks we may be in a “post-green” environment, with environmental values “maturing into a way of life, rather than a niche virtue…There is a growing awareness that green acts, big and small, add up.” And buying a battery car or plug-in hybrid is definitely a green act. But how will consumers interpret Ford’s latest moves in the marketplace?

I would argue that the Ford Focus Electric is a “compliance car,” designed to meet California’s zero emission regulations. Ford has very modest goals for the car, and initially sold it only in California and the New York area, followed by 15 launch markets. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Ford is spending a tenth as much (less than $10 million) on marketing the Focus Electric as it usually spends on new model launches. The results are kind of predictable: In October, the company sold 118 of them.


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