All-new Mondeo: Ford's fleet boss reveals its secrets
14 February 2007
In an exclusive interview Kevin Griffin lifts the covers off the new Mondeo and gets candid with Guy Bird about his hopes for its future - from RVs and ESP to clever fuel filler caps
Guy Bird: What are you most excited about with this car?
Kevin Griffin: It's the design. The current Mondeo is a great car - great whole-life costs, proven on reliability - but we want to create a desire for someone to want to own this car as soon as they look at it. For me that's the exciting bit. It leans forward, it 'ticks up' at the back. I think it's exciting to look at before you even drive it.
Did you start showing the car to the trade earlier this time?
Yes, we've been working with research clinics and whole-life cost providers to make sure the car gets as much visibility internally within the trade as early as we can.
On a Ford of Britain basis it really started in the middle of last year. That's earlier than normal because we want all the data in the marketplace way before launch. But there's a balance between keeping the new car exciting while making sure your customers don't stop buying the current car, and giving the information the trade needs to place orders when you do get the car in the marketplace.
What did the residual values guys like and dislike about it?
They liked the classical design, and that we're really pushing the envelope to make the car far more exciting.
There were some discussions that maybe we could have been more radical. My view is that within this segment you can't be too radical. You could argue the S-max was a little more radical than the front end of this car, and there was some feedback along those lines, but what we're hoping to assure them is that the quality and craftsmanship in the vehicle is going to be way beyond anything in the current car.
How can you persuade them to value your car highly when you sell 40,000 Mondeos into fleet alone every year?
The way to go to market is absolutely key. We don't have pricing yet but I think you'll be surprised - it will be very, very competitive - and then it's dependent on how you target the car. We are clearly going to target this car at user-choosers so the list price, P11D, and driver appeal is absolutely critical. We're not targeting this car in what I call the 'old-fashioned business needs' area where you can buy the lowest cost of transport.
So the entry-level car will not be a big part of your sales mix?
No, 'Edge' trim is our lead-in entry, replacing the LX, taking up to 25% of sales, but I see our mid-series Zetec trim as the one we need to push - it will be about 50% of our mix. That is a change from where we were ten years ago with the prior Mondeo. We've realised mid-series is the part of the market we want to be in. With the current car we still do extremely well on ST, Titanium X and Ghia, though.
How many do you want to sell?
We sell 40,000 to 45,000 in a full year [the current Mondeo did 41,000 in 2006 and 47,000 in 2005]. The good thing we have, and a way to manage RVs, is that now Galaxy, S-max and new Mondeo come out of the same Genk plant in Belgium we've got the flexibility to tailor our supply with the demand. That's why we're confident we can get the volumes realistically to what the market demand's going to be.
What about daily rental?
It's hard to say because we've got our own Ford Rental, our own dealer-based rental, in the mix there, too, but it's fair to say it accounts for between 18-20% of the existing car including the courtesy car market. I don't have a problem with that per se, except I really want the vehicles to be out there for longer periods.
Will the new car's daily rental mix be about the same?
No - I'll be honest, we don't have any rental contracts on this car.
But you will have to use daily rental in time surely, otherwise you'll have a big hole in your volumes?
Time will tell, but I think you'll find it will be very restricted in that marketplace simply because we can control volumes [due to factory flexibility].
If you do rental, will it be mostly longer cycle mini-leases?
Yes, and we will favour Ford Rental, which grew 38% year-on-year because we're actually treating it as a proper rental organisation. Ford Rental is going to work very well for our dealers and enable them to get into the local corporate market where we want to get this vehicle. It may well take up the total volume I want to do in that particular area. If it does, that's fine.
With the ageing Vectra the only fully mainstream upper medium rival in the top 20 fleet sellers list, do you see prestige saloons as your new rivals?
I wouldn't be that arrogant. The Laguna is going to be the new kid on the block soon, never underestimate GM and Vectra, and the VW Passat is clearly a very good car with a lot of people driving it. We're not specifically targeting premium customers but I do believe with Titanium X trim and the Human Machine Interface (HMI) feature we've got on this car, we'll get some people who are in a premium car at the moment that will seriously take a look at this.
What's the HMI feature about?
Using steering wheel-mounted buttons you can pull up a menu of choices on the LED driver display between the steering wheel to adjust almost anything on the new dash from phone to radio and temperature more easily. Anyone that uses a current PC will be able to work HMI. It's standard on the Titanium X trim.
Will you be able to control an iPod - that you now have a plug for - from the HMI's steering wheel controls?
No, but maybe on a future version.
What about some of the other features?
The Easy Fuel filler cap is something that could be easily overlooked but it really is clever. If you look at the costs to fleets of mis-fueling the fact that we have a simple device we're first in the market with, in terms of whole-life costs benefit (although it's not up front) I think it's going to have a significant saving. It's standard on the car as well as aircon, trip computer and ESP.
Is ESP a response to Thatcham and US reports on its safety importance?
If you are designing a car for the period of time we are, it's right to have it in every car. It just improves the handling so much and gives you greater driving confidence. Also standard is the Thatcham Category 1 alarm across the board. It is above the norm, but we believe that is what is required. The current Mondeo is pretty strong in terms of safety anyway, but we've taken it further with side curtains and knee airbags - that means seven airbags as standard across the range.
You're also boldly claiming best-in class wind noise with the new car. What's changed?
There is a different welding mechanism used for this car that makes the seams better, but also in terms of chassis engineering, the bits that generate 'noise, vibration and harshness' (NVH) are now independent. There's an independent sub frame that cocoons those bits.
You've only got one all-new engine - tell us about it?
The new 161PS 2.3-litre petrol has been specifically designed to marry up with our new six-speed automatic gearbox to really give us a fantastic smooth powertrain. A class-leading automatic is something we may have been deficient in, over the last 18 months. The auto will also go into the S-max and Galaxy with diesel and petrol engines. Our mid-series 125PS 1.8 TDCi diesel engine will still be our mainstay model and 70-80% of all sales will still be diesel.
What about a biofuel Mondeo?
There will be a biofuel engine available later  and we have Flexi-Fuel Vehicle biofuel-compatible vehicles already in the Focus and C-max.
I'd love to sell more. The technology is there. If there were favourable tax advantages we could save on emissions and a lot of stuff. We want it on the Mondeo but there is not the key demand to have it at launch.
Will there be a sporty ST version?
|Mondeo Engine details|
|1.8 diesel||125||5- or 6-speed|
|2.3 petrol||161||6-speed auto|
It's something I'm pushing for internally. 8-10% of fleet sales are ST across the board and customer feedback is superb. I couldn't comment on timing but it would be nice to see the 2.5 we've got at launch on a sturdier platform.
If you look at the Iosis concept we can and could do it. What we've got to do is make sure there is a suitable volume demand in the market that we can then satisfy to get the economic cost right. And I think we can.