NEW FORD KUGA 2017
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