Ford’s CEO is optimistic about future, industry

The woman at the helm of Ford Motor Company Canada is optimistic about the future of her company, and the Canadian auto industry.

The woman at the helm of Ford Motor Company Canada is optimistic about the future of her company, and the Canadian auto industry.

And Dianne Craig’s enthusiasm is supported by the numbers.

Another strong month in August has pushed domestic dealers closer to an all-time sales high for the year.

“We will definitely break a record in 2013,” said Craig.

And Ford looks like it will retain its title as the number 1 selling vehicle in Canada for the fourth year in a row, she added.

Craig was in Red Deer on Wednesday to tour the new dealership building of MGM Ford Lincoln.

A formal celebration was held later in the day, with Ford Canada vice-president of sales Al McCormick and Western Canada general manager Gerald Wood among those on hand.

Craig said a number of factors are driving the strong vehicle sales, with the resurgent economy — especially in Western Canada — key among these.

She also thinks the earlier recession created a pent-up demand that is now driving consumers back to showrooms.

“You look at the average age of a vehicle in Canada. It’s around 11 years, and that’s quite high.”

Craig credits Ford’s success to the fact it is giving Canadians some great vehicles to choose from.

“Even in the depths of the recession, particularly in the U.S., we never stopped investing in product.”

Going forward, she said, her company must continue to be responsive to consumer demand — not an easy task in an evolving market. Ford is hedging its bets by devel

oping a range of options: from gas-powered to hybrids to electric drives.

“We still think the gas engine is going to be the primary choice for consumers,” she said, adding that demand for alternatives is likely to vary between regions.

“In some markets, electric vehicles might play out a little bit better than others.

“It’ll be interesting to watch what happens in the next five to 10 years with electrified vehicles, in terms of how much will be the mix.”

In the short term, said Craig, many consumers remain uncomfortable about the limited range of electric cars and the availability of charging stations.

“That will absolutely be something that will be critical to the future success of electric vehicles.”

Contrasting the Canadian market with that in the United States, Craig said there are similarities and differences. Full-size pickups and compact vehicles sell better in Canada, she noted, and financing terms have become much longer here.

“The terms that are being offered are going out to 84-month and 96-month finance terms and 60-month leases.

“In the U.S., most of the terms don’t go past 60 months.”

That’s not good for Canadian consumers, said Craig, pointing out that depreciation can eat away the equity in a vehicle before it’s paid off.

“Nearly 40 per cent of consumers are going to these extended terms, meaning beyond 84 months. That’s a long time to have a car loan.”

During her own 27 years with Ford, including nearly two in her current position, Craig has seen “enormous change.”

She marvelled at the appearance of MGM’s new building, describing it as “a showpiece.”

“We have a look and a feel that we want for our stores, but clearly what they’ve done here at MGM is just exceptional.”

The dealership itself dates back to 1959, when Bob Goodacre and Ken McFarlane bought Hepworth Motors in downtown Red Deer and renamed it McFarlane-Goodacre Motors. They moved to MGM’s current site at 3010 50th Ave. in 1970.

Edmonton-based Go Auto bought MGM, as well as its sister dealerships Honda Red Deer and Acura of Red Deer, at the end of May.

The new MGM dealership building consist of some 50,000 square feet, including 32 service bays.