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One Ford One Day Many Things to Love
The impact of Ford’s Customer Experience focus on the Ford EcoSport

My mother is over eighty, but that did not stop her being an attendee at naughty driver school last month. In the UK, the Speed Awareness Course is offered as an alternative to a fine and penalty points in many police districts. Just because she is a decade or so older than she admits, she still drives, likes speed and values many of the same features in a car as a young urban eco-conscious driver.

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Driving the Ford EcoSport through Hua Hin Thailand as part of the #EcoSportdrive campaign

In my last blog I reported that I was off to Thailand to test drive the new Ford EcoSport which arrives in New Zealand in April 2014 and has already landed in Australia. It has been a run away success elsewhere in Asia, with a year’s production sold in just 14 days in India.

I am a driver who loves speed and power but am only 5 ft 1inches tall. Performance cars are rarely styled with the short woman in mind but I have always refused to drive any small size, small engine, gutless vehicle targeted at women. I am also passionate about the importance of Customer Experience (#CX) for profitable businesses and am a fierce supporter of those who do it well and a brutal critic of those who do not.

Henry Ford once said: “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits.  They will be embarrassingly large.” I could not agree more and the stats around companies who do CX well confirm this.

The One Ford Strategy was launched by CEO Alan Mulally to address Ford’s failing profitability and fierce competition. One Ford included a new vision and mission around the constructs of One Team, One Plan and One Goal to get a global focus on production to move away from local models developed only for local markets. This vision is being delivered across Ford through the One Ford Development System. This vision and the implementation system seem to be a substantial part of the renewed success being experienced by Ford across the globe (if not yet in Australia).

One Ford Vision sheetMy favourite book on Customer Experience is “Outside In. The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of your Business” by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine. Manning and Bodine describe a customer experience ecosystem as “the complex set of relationships among a company’s employees, partners and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.”  The One Ford vision recognises the importance of the CX ecosystem by talking about a Ford global team working together, but with success measured by all the players in the ecosystem. All focused on putting the customer back at the heart of Ford as Henry intended. one_ford Click here for a downloadable pdf of the One Ford Strategy Map.

The EcoSport was originally launched in the South American market in 2003 (selling over 700 thousand cars) and has been enormously successful, resonating with the emerging eco-conscious, style driven, urban dwellers of countries like Brazil. When the decision was made to take the EcoSport into the ASEAN Markets, the new One Ford Development System was introduced for the creation of the second generation model, to unite the teams, taking them out of their silos and in the direction of “designing for, and around, the customer.lead-with-wisdom

 

In his book “Lead with Wisdom” Mark Strom talks about wisdom and brilliance and says “design is wisdom in making”. He describes the design process as “intellectual, social and physical. …The process is thoughtfully simple and grounded in experience… Good architects don’t start with a list of features. They start with your story of home. ”

Meeting the design and engineering team leaders before and after we test drove the car, it was clear that they were genuinely excited about their achievement in designing and working as One Team, to produce a vehicle they were proud of and that the customers were loving too.  The story of their customers’ lives, not just the shopping list of reviewers and critics, seems to have been driving the design approach.

Test driving the EcoSport

 Key technical specs for the EcoSport and my reflections, are all set out in the panel below entitled “If you’re more interested in torque than talk here’s the lowdown.”

Cutting to the chase, my conclusion is that the EcoSport is a vehicle for all generations. Designed originally for the young eco-focused, style conscious SUV desiring, urban dwellers, I am strongly of the view that it is also a great vehicle for older generations who are looking for similar outcomes, if from a different starting point.  This is a great SUV to drive, with good visibility, comfort, power and still easy on the cost conscious wallet.

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I test drove the EcoSport for a full day in Thailand across various terrain, with a CX customer focus, considering both my requirements as a performance loving urban dweller and those of my speeding mother!

My experience

Men learn quickly in life that a woman’s handbag is a place men should enter with trepidation. The EcoSport has solved that problem, with automatic door control without the need for a key. Once within a metre or so of the car it unlocks automatically. I like the idea that my mother would no longer be hanging around in a dark car park digging around for car keys.

The EcoSport is a bit like a Tardis or for those too young for Dr Who, like Perkins’ tent from Harry Potter. It looks like a roomy SUV but will park in a space designed for a Fiesta. Inside, this mirage of space continues. We had 4 adults comfortable inside with room to spare.

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Short driver still gets great visibility and tall drivers still accommodated with headroom.

Getting in was easy regardless of height or limitations. The driver set up is good. The seat design emulates that of a sporty car and the range of adjustment was good enough to satisfy even a shortie like me. Once set up the range of visibility was good, both front and back and large wing mirrors finished off the 360° perspective.

I have always been a fan of automatic gearboxes and having driven mainly performance cars, do not subscribe to the silly notions of automatic gearboxes lacking in responsiveness. The EcoSport gearbox performed well on overtaking and quick manoeuvres and the sport setting adding some more oomph, if reducing the fuel economy. My only disappointment and caution to my mother, mindful that it is only a 1.5litre engine, is that she is unlikely to beat annoying boy racers off the lights but she should be able to overtake them when their dumb engines splutter at higher revs.

If safety is your thing, the EcoSport has a 5 Star ANCAP Safety Rating and the NZ models have up to 7 airbags.  Hill Launch Assist removes those heart beat moments and a 10.8m turning circle will help back you out of any wrong turns in dodgy parts of town. Four ultrasonic parking sensors should make parking dings a thing of the past and the Boron Steel Body provides a strong protective cage.

w2 EcoSport_Drive _104If storage of stuff or transport of friends, seniors or grandchildren is a concern, the rear seats have 6 different configuration options and with the seats folded and tumbled there was space for a washing machine. We tested this feature using a jigsaw of cubes, which made up to the size of a washing machine. I cannot report success in the jigsaw building competition, our failure due in no small part to my fellow male writers not having seen an actual washing machine before! I can report however that it fitted with room to spare.

There are 20 different storage spaces in the car and I particularly liked the under front seat drawer with room to hide shoes or laptops from prying eyes and the drink can (maybe even lipstick and perfume) cooling space in the glovebox.

The SUV features include 200mm of high ground clearance and capacity to drive through water up to 550mm. I put to the test the balance between comfort and handling, seeking out potholes and pavements and was happy with the result. Although when I had passengers in the rear they were a little less enthusiastic about my pothole test driving!

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This was easy driving and not a manoeuvre I would normally attempt in my car.

NZ is the fortunate beneficiary of design features, which take account of monsoon conditions. The rain seals and cladding all work together to create a really quiet interior, which reminded me how noisy planes are, even with noise cancelling headphones. While most New Zealanders are fortunate not to commute in noisy horn invaded rush-hours, the silence inside made turning the volume up and singing along a really attractive option.

SYNC® powered by Microsoft is employed to keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The technology allowing you to control phone, stereo and other devices with voice control. One positive side effect we found is that you might improve your diction, otherwise you could be like me requesting Cliff Richards and getting the latest from the rapper, Pitbull, which I can report sounded better than Cliff ever could have.

My partner made me promise not to ask any questions about colours and interiors but I chose to forget my promise! The good news is that New Zealand will be getting a nice range of colours including the awesome orange pictured here. I love orange but have always been of the view that it was wrong, wrong, wrong as a colour for a car. Now I am persuaded otherwise and it would be my pick. The interior choices are pleasing and leather is included in the spec options, which would always be my preference.

Final prices will be announced as part of the launch in New Zealand in April 2014 but expect it to be competitive, realistic and good value for the features delivered.

Wrapping it all up this is a great vehicle. I really appreciate the attention paid to the features drivers, in the target sectors, really value. I would love to find the EcoSport in a hirecar portfolio or fleet and I think this is a great option for anyone looking for a small car, a small to mid sized SUV or even looking for a tardis!

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