Ford Press Conference: Trends In Todays Aftermarket
By: Mike Kowdley Posted: 11-04-03 14:00 PT

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Tuesday morning at SEMA 2003 during Ford's press conference, excutives from Ford discussed the trends and issues facing the Automotive Aftermarket today. Looking at that Ford considers to be the trends in the market gives us some insight as to where their product planning will happen in the future.

One of the speakers was Phil Martens, Group Vice President of Production Creation for North America. Mr. Martens declared that 2003 had been "the year of the truck", and Ford backed him up with plenty of trucks on display. (Check out our photo gallery over the next several days for some of them.) He described the Ford F-150 as "the most customizable vehicle ever," signalling that Ford is proud of the number of different mods available in the marketplace for their truck. He then showed off a new feature in the upcoming 2004 Ford Mustang, customizable instrument panels that light with different colored backlights.

The last speaker was Jan Valentic, Vice President for Global Marketing. Jan listed off some of the trends that were "shaping the automobile aftermarket customers of tomorrow", customers for which Ford is ready to meet their needs. She said that with over one billion consumers in the automotive aftermarket industry, one of the most important segments is the 16 to 24 age range, the "millennials". According to Ford, about half of all millenials plan to personalize their vehicle from the moment they make the purchases. "We put flies on the wall at youth events. We watched them as they shopped. We've observed them at work and play". Clearly Ford is doing its homework. Jan listed off five of the trends that Ford sees facing the market, and press documents list five more.

  • Personalization - Youth are presonalizing everything these days (think cell phone faceplates and Winamp skins). They want to personalize their vehicles too. Ford's upcoming customizable instrument cluster can be back-lit in any of 125 backgrounds by "mixing" three primary colors with the turn of a dial.
  • Neo-Feminism - Ford has found that 18-20% of the tuner market is young women. That's a big chunk of the $27 billion dollar customization industry. Ford even created a body kit for their Ford Focus targeted specifically towards women. According to Jan, the reality of adolescents is that "who's hot" is what's important. "Hot girls, and hot cars are really hot for guys." Ford even showed a Mountain Dew commercial with girls snowboarding skateboarding, and BASE jumping. Ford calls them the "Gearhead Girls".
  • Vintage - "Vintage is hot because it allows youth to create a totally unique look," says Valentic. "It's about clothes you can't buy on the rack at a department store. It's about cars you won't see a hundred of on any given U.S. highway". She pointed at the example of the recent popularity of the Crown Victoria with youth, not a traditional young person's car, but symbolizing cop cars and an urban edge. Youth are looking for products with "a high schtick factor", to set themselves apart from the Civic driving, Gap wearing crowd.
  • Urban Influence - Jan showed that Ford is #1 in sales to Latinos and African Americans and #1 of US manufacturers in sales to Asians. The urban, non-caucasion culture has its effect on the aftermarket as well. The "Ranger is also one of the Ford vehicles that youth customize most."
  • Discovery Marketing - Today's youth are inundated with more marketing that ever before, but they are also becoming more saavy. In this age of advertising everywhere (think spam and website pop-up windows!), youth are becoming quicker and quicker to mentally block out the ads. Ford believes that the answer is product placement - the goal is to "integrate Ford's brands strategically in the script" for both movies and television. Jan wants to "match cars and stars on the silver screen". Ford announced an alliance with Revolution Studios, producesr of Ice Cube's next film, Are We There Yet?, and product placement in Fox Studios' Johnson Family Vacation.
  • Brand Appreciation - "Millennials have a habit of appropriating brands and using them for their own purposes - for a tounge-in-cheek effect".
  • Personalized and Online Shopping - The personalization trend continues in the way that millenials shop. Ford belives they need to make shops and stores (online and offline) more appealing by moving parts and service out of the back of the shop and into the forefront.
  • Money Talks - Half of college graduates enter the "real world" with $17,000 in total debt. Youth are looking to stand out with affordable vehicles that they can customize (as opposed to standing out with a vehicle that their peers can't afford).
  • Security and Patriotism - Post 9-11 society is both more security aware and patriotic. "We're seeing ... the red, white and blue patterns of the American flag, for example," says Valentic.
  • Techno Proliferation - In spite of wanting to look vintage, youth want to live high tech. Classic cars often have modern stereo systems. "Technology is the name of the game".

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