– In his first 90 days as new director of Ford’s North American Fleet, Lease & Remarketing Operations (NAFLRO), John Felice intends to do a “lot of listening.”
The 23-year Ford veteran said he’ll be “spending significant time developing a deep understanding of our key commercial customers and how we can continue to deliver best-in-class service.”
Felice succeeds former NAFLRO Director Hal Feder, named president and CEO of Ford’s business operations in South Africa.
Background Valuable for Fleet
A Lansing, Mich., native, Felice isn’t entirely unfamiliar to the commercial fleet side of the business. He believes his varied Ford experience will prove valuable in his new position. His company background in marketing and sales includes managing product marketing for Ford’s truck group, “a key to the fleet market,” he noted.
During that “front-end” experience, Felice met with fleet customers obtaining their input “right there as we were designing the next-generation product, getting that important information up-front in the product development process.”
He also dealt with “large fleet markets, such as Australia and South Afrid,” as executive director, marketing, sales, and services of Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa markets, 2002-2005.
From his Ford field sales experience, interfacing with dealers and fleet customers, Felice gained “back-end” knowledge of service issues important to fleet.
The new NAFLRO director, who holds an MBA from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, plans to continue the organization’s customer-oriented philosophy. “One thing I’ve heard from many people is the quality of the Ford fleet team. It’s a very competent, customer-focused group that’s much appreciated. Building on the Ford Fleet culture of teamwork and customer focus in key to our success. If everything you do is focused on the customer, good things happen,” said Felice.
Product Pipeline Strong
“As the new lead of fleet activity here,” Felice is “very excited to have the strong pipeline of product coming our way.” Ford will replace 70 percent of its lineup up 2008, and 100 percent of the product portfolio in the showroom by 2010. In particular for fleets, Felice cited the 2007 Ford Fusion mid-size sedan and the just-launched Edge crossover utility.
“The Fusion is a very strong product,” he said, “looking at the quality accolades it’s received. It is beating out segment leaders, winning the J.D. Power APEAL and Strategic Vision Quality Best-in-Class awards.”
The 2007 Edge, Ford’s newest entry in the crossover utility segment, reflects that market’s increasing significance. “The crossover segment is the largest-growing segment in the industry,” Felice noted. “We estimate crossovers will total 3 million units by 2010, having surpassed medium-size SUVs this year in customer choice. And we are bringing to market a very competitive, very attractively priced product in the Edge.”
Initial commercial fleet reaction from pre-launch activities lauded the Edge’s fuel economy, styling, and interior package, offering spacious accommodation for passengers and cargo, said Felice.
He is also confident of another Ford product’s appeal for fleet. “The new Super Duty full-size pickup is vitally important to us in the commercial market. When you look at that product, with the new F-450 offering more than 24,000 lbs. in towing capacity and 6,000-lbs. payload, it is a quantum leap even from the leadership position Ford has today.”
Felice acknowledged times have been challenging for Ford and other U.S. domestic automakers. He believes, however, that Ford’s “Way Forward” product acceleration will bring results. “We anticipate stabilizing our retail market share in 2007 and to grow from there, all led by new products. We’re very confident in the plan we have, in the product pipeline, and in the team we have in place to deliver.”