Car brand shifts online to win buyers

THE coronavirus pandemic is pushing automotive companies to embrace the new normal in sales and marketing through virtual showrooms and online walkthroughs.

Car brands, like Ford are making sure they still get the support of the community by making their units accessible and visible in a time where lockdowns made people stay at home and where movement is limited.

“Our industry is for discreet purchasing, especially in a post-Covid scenario, and we acknowledge this by staying relevant and making our units accessible to the community we serve,” said PK Umashankar, managing director at Ford Philippines, during a virtual press conference Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Ryan Lorenzo, Ford Philippines marketing director, said selling vehicles to consumers these days is now being done online.

“We are recalibrating our consumer events, following new social distancing norms and a more targeted experience for consumers,” he said.

He said they’ve seen more engagements in their social media pages as people spend more time online amid the lockdown.

To attract buyers, Umashankar said Ford’s dealer partners are in talks with banks to offer promotions such as the “Buy now, pay later” option.

“This will address immediate purchase,” he said.

In March this year, Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research cut its forecast for vehicle sales in the Philippines this year.

“We now expect new vehicle sales to increase by a marginal 0.4 percent to reach 371,456 units versus our previous forecast of a 7.4 percent increase,” the report said.

Fitch said the closure of non-essential business activity under the enhanced community quarantine will have a negative impact on vehicle sales and will prevent consumers from making new purchases.

“We hold a more bullish outlook for sales from 2021 onwards, as pent-up demand, due to delayed vehicle purchases, and the reopening of vehicle retail operations lead to a resumption of the expected expansion period in (passenger vehicles) sales,” the Fitch unit said.

In 2019, vehicle sales rose 3.5 percent year-on-year to 369,941 units, according to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. and Truck Manufacturers Association.

New SUV model

Meanwhile, Ford Philippines launched online the new Ford Everest Sport as it continues to expand its sports utility vehicle (SUV) portfolio with the addition of a new variant in its Ford Everest line-up.

The new Everest Sport features an enhanced design and a host of driver-assist technologies that will help widen the appeal of the Ford Everest among customers who appreciate the vehicle’s versatility, safety and capability.

“The new Everest Sport supports the Everest’s position as one of the safest and most capable SUVs in the market today,” said Umashankar. “We are confident that the new Ford Everest Sport will set another standard for mid-size SUVs in the market with its design and technology that match various needs and lifestyles.”

The new Everest Sport is powered by a 2.0L Turbo Diesel Engine which offers 180PS of power and 420Nm of torque and is matched with Ford’s latest 10-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift™ – helping to deliver better acceleration, fuel efficiency and smoothness across on-road and off-road environments.

Its starting retail price is pegged at P1,868,000, and it will be available in Ford dealerships in the Visayas and Mindanao within the month of June 2020. (JOB with KOC)