A touch of class
From the second quarter of 2015 Ford is launching its up-market Vignale sub-brand and the first model to wear the badge is the new generation Mondeo. It’s a bold move. Much of the Mondeo’s success over the last 20 years has been down to its everyman appeal. While the car has repeatedly set the benchmark for its class it has never been an aspirational user-chooser car. This could change.
The Vignale project does not lack ambition. The Mondeo, in both saloon and estate guises, is the first of many Vignale models. Next up will be the all-new S-Max in late 2015 and it would lend itself to the forthcoming all-new Edge SUV.
Rather than simply being another trim level, Ford will offer user-choosers a totally different dealer experience. The carmaker is busily piloting a plush Vignale lounge at its flagship TrustFord site on London’s Edgware Road before rolling it out to 65 sites across the UK covering all the major conurbations. These sites, designated as FordStores, will be top-end dealers displaying the full Ford line-up of both cars – including next year's right- hand drive Mustang muscle car – and vans, which will be housed in a dedicated Transit Centre.
Dealers are keen to be part of this exclusive club. More than 30 have already applied for FordStore status, even though joining the programme will not be an inexpensive process, as they can clearly see the long term benefits of being able to offer an upmarket service for top-end customers.
The Vignale will be sold almost exclusively into fleets so what can user-choosers expect in terms of red carpet treatment? For starters each dealership will have a dedicated relationship manager as a point of contact from pre-sale through to aftersales. When the car is due in for a service or repair work, the relationship manager will organise its collection from the driver's home, or place of work, and a courtesy car will be provided if needed. As befitting a premium service, the car will be returned valeted, while a complimentary monthly car wash is also available.
Mark Ovenden, Ford's UK managing director and chairman, has high hopes for the sub-brand, especially as over 50% of Mondeo drivers currently choose the Titanium and Titanium X trim levels; Mondeo Man likes bells and whistles without paying over the odds for them. So will the brand manage to upgrade existing drivers as well as conquest new ones?
‘In terms of where I see sales of Vignale coming from some of them will come from existing Ford customers, who maybe feel they want to move upmarket a little bit more and now we have an offering for them. There will also be people out there in the marketplace who see that even in its Vignale guise you can have an awful lot more Mondeo for an equivalent price versus a premium car and that will be a compelling proposition to people.
‘We will not plan to do any rental on Vignale and we will keep short cycle business to a minimum. The bulk of the sales will come from fleet user-choosers and contract hire companies.’
Ford has every reason to be confident that its Vignale branding will strike a chord with discerning user-choosers but badge conscious drivers will struggle with the concept of not having a German car on their drive, even if it is more modestly specified.