Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Driving - SHOW AND TELL

As if try­ing to re­pair the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age done by the Kuga fi­asco wasn't tough enough, now Ford has to con­vince a scep­ti­cal pub­lic to buy a new model. In an ef­fort to com­bine the two, the cars in­volved in the new model's launch last month – around 250 of them – are be­ing made avail­able to cus­tomers to use as cour­tesy cars while their own Ku­gas un­dergo Phase 2 of the re­call im­ple­mented as a re­sult of a fire hazard iden­ti­fied in the 1,6-litre Eco­boost model. And other com­pli­men­tary awards are in the pipe­line, new Ford SA man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Casper Kruger told us at the East­ern Cape launch. This is all a con­scious de­ci­sion fol­low­ing “some good, old-fash­ioned soulsearch­ing and ser­vice com­mit­ment”, Kruger says.

It's a brave de­ci­sion to re­tain the Kuga name for the third­gen­er­a­tion ver­sion, though the guilty model is omit­ted from the 2017 line-up. Restyled in­side and out for 2017 to fall in line with the new cor­po­rate face found in the lat­est Ranger/ Ever­est and Ecos­port mod­els, the Kuga comes in seven de­riv­a­tives.

“Some of our cus­tomers have def­i­nitely lost faith in the brand,” Kruger agreed. “But what I can tell you is the Ford team has been work­ing tire­lessly to re­gain the trust of our cus­tomers. As you may know, the Kuga 1,6-litre Eco­boost re­call was an­nounced in two phases in Jan­uary, 2017. Phase one man­aged a 93 per cent suc­cess rate in find­ing all the own­ers of the Kuga model con­cerned and im­ple­ment­ing the nec­es­sary re­pairs. The bal­ance could be put down to fac­tors such as cross-bor­der move­ment and write-offs, he says. “Every fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion, lo­cal author­ity and other third par­ties were com­mis­sioned to ob­tain con­tact de­tails of every one of those out­stand­ing own­ers.”

He em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of find­ing all the er­rant ve­hi­cles and get­ting them to a Ford dealer as soon as pos­si­ble. “Phase 2 was in­tro­duced in July 2017 and we are at 62 per cent com­ple­tion. This process is quite dif­fer­ent from Phase 1: we have asked our cus­tomers to make an ap­point­ment with our deal­ers and have seen a much bet­ter re­ac­tion this way. (It) al­lows our deal­ers to be more or­gan­ised this time around.”

Part of this Phase 2 strat­egy was to fun­da­men­tally change the way the com­pany does busi­ness, he says. The re­sult is an ini­tia­tive called White Glove. “Cus­tomers can ex­pect high-level di­rec­tion changes from Ford SA in the way we will con­duct busi­ness in the fu­ture by for­mu­lat­ing a fresh new ap­proach – and mind­set – to­wards sales and mar­ket­ing strate­gies,” he says.

So how do they move on from here? “Well, real com­mit­ment, for starters, to the White Glove process,” Kruger ex­plains. “A real change in di­rec­tion is para­mount – to be­come more cus­tomer- cen­tric in the way we'll be do­ing busi­ness in the fu­ture. In other words, this is a global brand prom­ise to cre­ate the cor­rect mind­set from the Ford team and re­mem­ber the cus­tomer must be looked af­ter at all costs. We as a com­pany need to do bet­ter.” – DAVE FALL PM

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