Thierry Sabbagh, Managing Director, Ford Middle East speaks with Chandan Basu Mallik about various aspects of Ford’s performance through the year
CBM: Give a quick overview of Ford’s performance in 2017 in the region and how are you expecting to sign off the year.
TS: 2017 has been a tremendously exciting year for Ford and Lincoln in the Middle East. We have been busy reenergizing our brands as we worked with our dealer partners around the region to reinforce our distributor networks and of course bringing the right products to our customers. Undoubtedly, the Middle East region continues to face major challenges around overall industry volumes especially in the markets we participate. We saw the situation improving through Q3 and expect further improvement in the remainder of the year and this trajectory to continue through 2018 based on the current industry performance.
CBM: What have been the challenges you have faced in 2017?
TS: There are challenges in many areas in the Middle East including low oil prices, trade barriers, political issues and currency devaluation. We remain focused on the business and continue to work with our dealers to further grow our customer base despite industry headwinds. Going forward, we believe focusing on winning strategies with new product launches and services that customers want and value will deliver profitable growth for us and our partners despite any of the external pressures.
CBM: How have you addressed these challenges, especially with existing customers?
TS: We have an absolute focus on our customers – day in, day out, our customers remain front and centre of all we do and we believe this approach allows us to overcome any market challenges. We are committed more than ever to deliver some of the best ownership experiences of a Ford and Lincoln vehicle. We are also accelerating our product plan with introduction of five new Ford vehicles at the Dubai Motor Show including the new generation Expedition, the new F-150, the new Mustang, the new EcoSport and the new Escape ST line. Lincoln also sees the introduction of the all-new Navigator and the Presidential line. All these products will be available in our showrooms across the Middle East from early next year.
CBM: The year 2018 is expected to be different for all businesses including automotive retail as VAT will be introduced in UAE and Saudi market opens up to a new segment of drivers — women. What’s going to be your business strategy to tackle two very different situations?
TS: VAT introduction will certainly have an impact on the auto industry, in fact to any industry. It is too early to gauge the level of impact on car sales. While we are monitoring this closely, we remain committed to work with our distributors to deliver the best value for money as our customers have always expected from Ford.
On the other hand, with the new decree and Saudi Vision 2030, we believe that the auto market will pick up and have a positive outlook post half of 2018. We are currently working with our local distributor to consider what our new customers will want in terms of product mix and preference. Segmentation trends could change under the new decree as our customer base broadens. We are also looking at options to welcome and engage our new customers – this may include advertisement, dealership facilities, customer experience and of course training. We look forward to the final direction once the Committee announces their recommendations on how this will be rolled out and implemented.
2018 is certainly set to be an exciting year!
CBM: What are your predictions for 2018?
TS: As mentioned, obviously there is a lot happening in the automotive sector but we are very optimistic about the year ahead. From a market perspective, we expect the auto market will pick up and have a positive outlook in 2018. For both Ford and Lincoln, we’ve got a great line-up of vehicles, a fantastic team and dealer partnership so we are in a very strong position.
Mobility and electrification will also continue to be a huge focus for the industry. As a company, Ford has made electrification a priority. We are investing $4.5 billion in electrification and plan to roll out 13 new electrified vehicles globally in the next five years. We also announced that we will bring four hybrid vehicles to the Middle East by 2021 and so 2018 and we will continue to evaluate opportunities where our business can grow and help meet existing and future consumer needs.
CBM: How do you see the markets reacting to the new or upgraded products — Mustang, F-150 and Expedition?
TS: With the new generation 2018 Ford Expedition, our customers will get the chance to see how Ford is building on its SUV leadership. The all-new 2018 Expedition promises to redefine the full-sized SUV segment with its all-new design inside and out, its unique smart technologies, more power for drivers, and more expected towing capability than any other full-sized SUV.
Ford’s new F-150 debuts for 2018 even tougher, smarter, and more capable than ever – with the most advanced F-150 powertrain line-up ever that delivers best-in-class towing and payload for the Middle East’s pickup drivers.
With a sleeker design, more advanced technology and even more muscle, the 2018 Mustang – the most advanced Mustang ever – promises to wow car lovers at the first glance.