DETROIT – Ford’s newly appointed president-The Americas, says he expects intense competition in the U.S. market this year, but vows the auto maker will not resort to profit-eroding incentives to boost sales and market share.
“Hopefully, we all learned from what took place not that many years ago around discipline and inventory and pricing, because the brand can be damaged very quickly if you go too far on either of those dimensions,” Joe Hinrichs tells WardsAuto at the North American International Auto Show here.
Hinrichs, who succeeds Mark Fields in the post, says Ford will rely on one of the freshest lineups in the industry to keep up already-healthy profit margins in what’s shaping up to be an ultra-competitive market. Major auto makers are turning their attention to the U.S. as other global markets are predicted to be flat or down in 2013.
“It’s true a lot of people are looking at North America, given what’s happening in the European and Japanese auto industries,” he says, “but we’ve been competing here for 110 years so it’s not new to us.”
Hinrichs, who formerly headed Ford’s Asia/Pacific operations, says the auto maker is counting on several new products, including the Escape cross/utility vehicle and Fusion midsize sedan, to grow sales this year. Both products were hit with recalls last year that hurt their initial launches.
“We’ll have a full year of high-volume products, so we’re excited about how we’re entering 2013 and the prospects for that,” he says, predicting the plug-in version of the Fusion will attract new customers to the brand.
Ford, which projects the U.S. market to account for 15.0 million-16.0 million sales this year, is ramping up capacity to meet expected demand. Hinrichs admits the auto maker may be capacity-constrained on some product lines, but is confident Ford can meet demand.
“We don’t have tremendous upside capacity on every single product line, but we have good capacity coming into the year with 400,000 (units) that came online in the second half of last year and (the) Flat Rock (Michigan assembly plant) later this year. So generally speaking, we feel pretty good about where we are in the 16 million (-unit) range.”
Hinrichs says Ford will continue to push the envelope with technology in its vehicles despite the criticism of features such as the MyFord Touch infotainment system. The system still is sought after by consumers, he says, citing polls showing 74% of customers would recommend MyFord Touch to their friends.
“Someone buying a luxury vehicle or a higher-end vehicle may have higher expectations (for an infotainment system), but our customers have their own expectations,” he says. “And the bottom line is, it is useful and we continue to upgrade it and make it better.”