EXCLUSIVE: Ford UK boss Andy Barratt interview31 | 03 | 2016

    In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Jim McGill, Ford UK chairman and managing director, Andy Barratt, speaks about his new trio of models; how his dealers need to target conquest sales; growing ‘the pot’ of 85% PCP deals; and the battle to dislodge Vauxhall as No1 in Scotland

    “IF YOU THINK you know Ford, think again.” That’s the straightforward, no nonsense message from Ford’s most powerful man in the UK, chairman and managing director Andy Barratt (Exclusive insight into new Ford Edge SUV ahead of Geneva unveil).

    As Ford begins to roll-out its trio of all-new models — the Mustang, Focus RS and Edge SUV — which it believes will reignite ‘quality interest’ in the brand, Barratt, who served part of his ‘apprenticeship’ as the regional manager in Scotland for the Blue Oval Badge, is clearly a man comfortable flying the corporate flag.

    But he does so with — at least on a one-to-one basis — a mild-mannered, measured grit which merely strengthens the belief that if he cut himself shaving, it would be blue blood which would appear.

    It’s been no secret that, since the turn of the year when Ford launched it’s ‘Unlearn’ marketing and advertising campaign — you can’t have failed to see it plastered almost everywhere, almost akin to subliminal brainwashing — Ford has been on  a mission.


    What is clear is the launch of the Mustang, Focus RS and Edge are core to the perception of Ford for the rest of this year, and over the next few years. But how important is their combined message of positivity and confidence to Ford’s stance in the marketplace?

    “That positivity and confidence is a really good way of describing it,” Barratt said, as we chatted during the launch of the Mustang. “As you say, back in January, we launched a whole new brand campaign, which is called 'Unlearn'.

    “It's about overcoming those perceptions I hear when I talk to a customer; 'yeh, I had a Ford once, but it may have been 20 years ago'. We needed to change that mindset.

    “Ford now is a very different company. We're getting people now to let go of what they know, and Mustang, Focus RS and Edge are all pivotal to that, because they are the new face of Ford.

    “There is no doubt Mustang stirs the emotion, in anyone from a youngster to someone who's known it all their life. It will turn heads wherever it goes, and has the capability of stopping traffic.


    “Any RS product — and as you know, we have a great heritage with RS — is immediately attractive, and the Focus is an exceptional one. We’ve sold 75% of the new Focus RS without one even being in the UK. Without a buyer having even seen one in the flesh. Not a penny of discount, and they've all gone to real customers.

    “The lifetime production run is only 4000 cars, yet we’ve pre-sold 75%. That's the confidence in the product, the heritage and the iconic status of any RS.

    “And then Edge, which will be, of the three, the biggest volume in terms of sales. It enters one of the biggest markets in the UK — the SUV segment, which is now bigger than the family-sized hatchback market — and it continues to grow.

    “We're certainly not first to market, by any means, but I think we come in with a product which sufficiently differentiates it from the rest, and with a great pedigree and very strong looks.

    “Frankly, I just can't wait for them to arrive.”


    While the Mustang and Focus RS appeal to very specific markets and buyers, who will ensure both models are a sales success, the bigger challenge is selling the Edge in to an already near saturated SUV market. Barratt though is undaunted.

    “I’m very positive about the impact Edge will make,” Ford’s UK boss continued. “It’s very different from any other SUV we've had previously. It's a car we're very comfortable with it just being what it is: it’s not pretending to be something else.

    “It drives superbly, and I think the quality, the fit, the finish is excellent. We have Zetec, Titanium and Sport trims, but the dealers have all said to me; ‘we don't want the Zetec spec: don't even send us any. We only want top level’.

    “The challenge for the dealers will be finding those conquest customers. They will need to go out and talk to new people, to grow their business. They musn’t talk to existing Ford customers, because they already buy Kuga, or EcoSport. They need to go and find some new customers. It's a great opportunity for our dealers to expand their customer base.”


    And the vast majority of news sales of the Mustang, Focus RS and Edge will — as is the case with the rest of the Ford range — be on a PCP Contract, most likely on Ford Options finance.

    Ford has always been at the top end of PCP market, with a class-leading 85% of annual retail purchases opting for the monthly payments. And while Barratt is happy with the percentage, he admits he would like to see the “size of the pot” increase.

    “I think 85% is a good number to be around; I'm pretty comfortable with that,” he explained. “But what we need to do is increase the size of the pot  so ideally I would like to see 85% of a bigger, larger pool of vehicles. That's where I would like to be.

    “We've sold around 1.2m PCP contracts; that’s 85% of all our retail purchases each year, which is probably about 100,000 units annually.

    “We are the benchmark, in terms of volume. It's a number we're delighted with. Having been in PCPs for 22-23 years, we've seen every iteration, including interest rate changes, and we have a pretty solid product.

    “It's great from the customer's perspective of being able to renew their vehicle. We build equity into each PCP deal; it's about treating the customer fairly. And overall I think we're pretty good at what we do.”



    FORD BOSS ANDY BARRATT has a long affinity with the Scottish market, so when he highlights the Central Belt is the most “highly competitive market in the UK”, you know his statement is backed by fact.

    And having been Ford’s Scottish regional manager for five years, before taking the steps to becoming UK chairman and managing director, Barratt laughs off the fact Vauxhall has, over the past few years, been Scotland’s No1.

    Last year Vauxhall accounted for 28,822 new car registrations in Scotland, accounting fro a share of 13.07%. That compares with Ford’s 25,419 and 11.53%. The Vauxhall Corsa also topped the Scottish charts as No1 with 11,955 registrations, compared to the second-placed Fiesta’s 9996 units (figures from Scottish Motor Trade Association and SMMT).

    Asked what Ford is planning to do to recover lost ground in Scotland, Barratt smiles before answering: “I can't comment, and I won't comment on rivals' business.


    “What I will say is, we have quite a diverse dealerbase in Scotland, so we're not reliant on one group to represent us. That gives us a diversity and a rich tapestry of people who represent Ford.

    “We focus on selling to the customer, primarily through the PCP route, not a pre-registered, discounted price route, because what we want is a loyal customer that has the confidence in the value in their proposition to keep coming back, knowing that we will look after them.

    “But they also know that the value they paid for the car is still there when they come to sell it, and that they can carry that value forward to their next car. It's as simple as that.

    “Whether we're No1, No2 or No3 in Scotland, is almost irrelevant: it's about, are we doing the right thing for the customer? That's much more important to me. And I can say that having been the district manager in Scotland for five years.

    “It is a very competitive market. The Central Belt of Scotland is probably the most highly competitive market in the UK, simply down to the volume of dealers.


    “We know where our strengths are. We know where the weaknesses are. We've just got to work on those and improve.

    “My biggest challenge in Scotland is one which is reflected elsewhere, and that's how do we get more talent into the dealer body? How do we get young people to see car retailing as a career path? Whether that's from a technical point of view, or whether it's from a managerial sales point of view?

    “We get a lot of transient staff come through the business — and I'm speaking generally, not just Ford — and if you're trying to build a business based on customer loyalty, you need continuity. I think that's a real challenge. And it's a particular challenge in Scotland.

    “Attracting the right level of talent is a challenge, especially in Scotland. We — and I mean the whole industry — needs to get the massage over that it’s actually a great career to have.”

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    Jim McGill


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