“Appearances are everything.” Do we ever pause to digest this timeless quote, or do we just passively utter or receive the words? The same concept applies to the aesthetics of car models. When discussing the Ford Motor Company, we constantly see Fusions and Escapes zooming around streets and highways–you may be an owner yourself. However, these vehicles are products of a long line of technology, creativity, and financial strategy. We must consider the international nature of the corporation–branches stretching across multiple continents–the in-depth design that goes into each model, and the revenue earned from sales around the world. How are these factors interconnected?
According to an article in NY Times, Ford is America’s second-largest automobile producer. In 2010, Ford assumed the No. 2 spot previously held by Toyota. In the same year, Ford sales increased by 15.2 percent even after its decision to close Mercury and sell Volvo. And in 2011, Ford earned $33.1 billion in global revenue. To understand these figures more clearly, it is necessary to examine each international operation which are found in North America, Central & South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. Just by glancing at each website, it is visibly apparent that countries have their own models. Nissan’s marketing chief in Europe Mario Canavesi says that although niches do exist for specific brands or types, like convertibles, many non-luxury corporations like Ford are forced “to adapt to regional taste.” Tastes differ depending on culture and region, therefore, car companies must alter the models in order to prosper. Other regulations or restrictions are also part of the plan when considering model differentiation. For instance, according to automobile research Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer Japan models are typically smaller based on the limited amount of space within urban settings. Moreover, US Ford companies may sell models with certain fuel economy or engine capabilities that would be unattractive to a European buyer.
However, in 2012 Ford diverged from this trend when they released the One Ford philosophy or “Ford Global DNA.” This mentality emphasizes “universal characteristics” and challenges the idea that “company culture is something that is fixed.” This plan allows the Ford corporation to share a “common purpose” while maintaining a unique presence in each country. For the 2012 Ford Focus, design teams from Europe, Asia and North America were combined to form a powerhouse in Merkenich, Germany. The product was a sleek, new, and comfortable Focus with a long history to show for its expertise. Designers used clay models, 3-D images, 2-D drawings, and state of the art computer-aided design (CAD) data. The expectations for the new model were explicit: “fun-to-drive,” convenient, and “lower, leaner, wider, meaner.”
It is easy to get swept away with the aesthetically pleasing details of the new and improved Ford Focus. However, it is necessary to consider the production behind the product; more than just computer designs or clay models. In order to do so, it is helpful to examine Nike Corporation and its marketing and financial success. Nike’s success is broken down into three parts. First, Nike created a visible framework of endorsements by professional athletes. It also established an alliance with Foot Locker. Finally, Nike transferred its manufacturing factories from Japan to Taiwan and South Korea. Ford’s international market can be related to Nike’s focus on black communities, especially gang and drug related regions, and youth. In this sense, they adapt their products and advertising techniques to better serve and relate with those populations. But the largest amount of consideration must be given to the reasons behind different logos or designs (for both Ford and Nike): it all amounts to money.
For Ford, shifting to a more universal image prompts consumers to see the company in a certain light which increases sales. Consumers see a valuable, efficient, and organized corporation, which encourages them to invest confidentally. For Nike, tweeking their logo sparks the interest of consumers. It is clear that all efforts are created for the interest of both consumer and company. Moreover, what we may consider simple visuals are actually products of market strategy and organization.