Model: Other Pickups
Customers are a commodity in the automotive industry, and like any other commodity, automakers trade them back and forth. Only nobody wants to give up their customers - just to keep the ones they have and try to attract others.
That's what the Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards are all about. Every year the industry research body names the automakers, brands and models that manage to keep their customers coming back for more - and attract buyers to switch from other makes. Ford usually does pretty well, but this year it rose above even its own track record.
Not only did Dearborn win the Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer award, but also the Overall Loyalty to Make. Ford also took the African American category, and the F-150 was named the top full-size half-ton pickup in customer loyalty. Ford COO Mark Fields (pictured above) accepted the awards and gave the keynote address at the awards ceremony.
When General Motors put down several of its brands in recent years, it also let loose thousands of brand-loyal customers who will eventually need another car.
R.L. Polk Associates estimates there are more than 18 million cars from 16 discontinued makes on the road today. Those "orphan owners" have sales-hungry competitors seeing dollar signs. GM is offering Saturn owners $1,000 cash toward a Chevy Cruze, Cadillac CTS or a GMC Acadia. Ford is giving its Mercury lease customers a chance to get out of their contracts with no early-termination penalty and offering to waive six remaining payments if they drive off in a Ford or Lincoln.
Edmunds.com research shows the efforts are paying off somewhat for GM, with 39 percent of Pontiac owners, 37 percent of Hummer owners and 31 percent of Saturn owners taking delivery of another GM-branded vehicle. But that leaves as much as 69 percent of owners going elsewhere. Ford, Honda and Toyota seem to be attracting many former GM owners.
The second-generation Ford Transit Connect is almost upon us, and to get work- and family-oriented customers ready for the new model, Ford has launched a configurator for both van and wagon versions. Both body styles will go on sale early next year with the base TC Van starting at $22,000, but customers wanting side windows and rear seats will have to pony up at least an extra $3,000 for the TC Wagon.
Ford is definitely looking to get back into the family van business with the 2014 TC Wagon offering three available trim levels, two engines and the choice between five- and seven-passenger seating (with two wheelbases). Like many recent Ford products, a fancy Titanium trim level is offered, and opting for it will cost you - this trim starts at $29,000, and we were able to spec it out with a panoramic roof, tow package and front and rear parking sensors for a little over $33,000.
Businesses looking for a small, fuel-efficient work vehicle now get more options on the TC Van like the choice of split, hinged rear doors or a liftgate (with or without glass), a long wheelbase ($1,000) and Ford's CrewChief vehicle tracking system ($925). Fully loaded, this van is still costs less than the fullsize E-Series. On both Van and Wagon, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine is a $795 option, but it is only offered on short-wheelbase models and Ford has yet to release power or fuel economy specs yet. With the standard 2.5-liter engine, the TC will get up to 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.