Bark’s Bites: In a Diverse Future America, Ford Is In Trouble
In these United States of America, there is one vehicle that is the undisputed heavyweight champion: the Ford F-Series truck. If you came to TTAC today looking for groundbreaking news, well, this ain’t it. The F-Series has been the best selling vehicle in America for roughly 167 years. I’m relatively certain that Lee Harvey Oswald escaped from the Washington Hilton in an F-150 crew cab when he shot Lincoln. (If you’re a history buff, you just threw something at your computer screen.)
Except that there’s one area of the country where that isn’t true at all. In fact, in this hugely popular and wildly growing area, the F-150 doesn’t even crack the top ten. The Volkswagen Jetta outsells the F-150 in this burg. True story.
Of course, that’s bad news for the Ford brand as a whole in this town, because if you aren’t selling F-150s, you aren’t selling Fords. As a result, in this metro area, Ford is outsold by Toyota, Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, and Lexus. Yes, I said Lexus.
You wanna know the name of this town? It’s Miami. Although you might think of Miami as an urban city where trucks are rare, in reality, Miami-Dade includes a significant amount of farmland and swamp country. And you know who doesn’t have a problem selling trucks in Miami-Dade? Chevrolet. The Silverado is solidly in the top models sold when it comes to Miami-Dade county registrations for the last 12 months and Ford shoppers, as a whole, are only 3 percent more likely to live in a suburban area than the average auto shopper.
And in an America that is increasingly looking a lot more like Miami, that could mean real trouble for the boys in Dearborn.
Why does Ford struggle in Miami? The answer could have something to do with the Hispanic population’s perception of the Blue Oval. Miami is 50 percent Hispanic, and according to recent studies conducted by automotive research firms (they’re all behind paywalls, so you’ll just have to trust me), Hispanics are 19 percent less likely to own a Ford than the general population.
This doesn’t have anything to do with car ownership numbers overall â€” they are 3 percent more likely to own a Honda and a whopping 36 percent more likely to own a Nissan. Ford also tends to overperform with higher income households, with 35 percent of its shoppers having household incomes of $100k or more. Only 15 percent of Hispanic households fall into that profile.
Why don’t Hispanic car buyers like Ford, though? Many of the Hispanic customers I speak to on a daily basis in Miami are very concerned with reliability, and they tend to perceive the Japanese and Korean brands as being of higher quality than Ford â€” they even prefer GM to Ford in most cases. There’s also a surprisingly high level of discrimination toward Mexicans by South Americans, and many of the Colombians, Nicaraguans, and even Cubans I talk to don’t trust the “Mexican Fords” (which doesn’t explain why they prefer the Silverado over the F-150). Hispanic shoppers also tend to be more reliant on the recommendations or advice of friends, and for all intents and purposes, Ford is invisible in Miami. If your neighbors don’t own any, and you rarely see them on the streets, you’re much less likely to buy one when it’s your turn to go shopping.
With Hispanics becoming more evenly distributed throughout the U.S., this could become a massive problem in a short time frame for Ford. Significant amounts of Hispanic population growth are occurring in places with previously low Hispanic populations. Areas of the country that have traditionally been solid Ford country might start shifting toward other brands.
Of course, it’s not just middle America and rural areas that have growing Hispanic populations. Cities like Miami, Houston, San Diego, Dallas, and others with high numbers of Hispanic residents are among the fastest growing in the country. And while Hispanics make up about 18 percent of the population, they are over represented on dealership lots, as they make 25 percent of the car purchases.
What can Ford do to combat this? Plainly stated, they have to make better, more reliable cars, especially at the entry-level price points â€” you won’t find Fiesta or Focus anywhere near a top 10 market ranking in most heavily Hispanic markets. According to JD Power (more paywalls), reliability is on the upswing for Ford, but it still lags far behind Toyota and even Kia. Better marketing wouldn’t hurt them, either. Many of the Ford dealers I talk to complain that Ford uses “Mexican Spanish” in their Spanish language advertising, which turns off South and Central Americans.
However they choose to address it, Ford needs to realize that it has a Hispanic problem quickly, before this rapidly growing minority becomes the majority. Otherwise, the F-150 won’t be the King of the Hill for much longer.
[Image: General Motors]
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July 24, 2018 at 12:36PM
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