Press Conference: Trends In Todays Aftermarket
11-04-03 14:00 PT
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
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."
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
Appreciation - "Millennials have a habit of appropriating brands
and using them for their own purposes - for a tounge-in-cheek effect".
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.
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).
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.
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".