My interview with Ford of Europe design chief Martin Smith was limited on time: he had another industry event to be at: we had nine minutes.
My questions were thus some of my most succinct and quick-fire yet.
The obvious one came early on: what’s Ford Vignale all about? I was going to pad this out by asking if it was Ford’s Citroen DS equivalent, and whether he thought mainstream brands were being forced to move upmarket in order to maximise margins, but there was no time.
So, Smith – Vignale: why?
Because customers have asked for it, he said. We’ve known for a while one of Ford’s best-selling trim lines is not mid-ranking Zetec, but high-end Titanium. “Customers coming from premium brands want something on top of this, something that offers the bespoke features and customisation they’re used to.” Vignale is it.
It’s not been forced, then, but has come because of customer demand. That’s Smith’s line, anyway. Can he back it up? Certainly: up to 15 per cent of new Mondeo buyers (the grade Vignale is being introduced on) are expected to take Vignale. That’s a very high percentage for the very richest model in a range: backup indeed.
It’s an example of stretching the bandwidth of the brand, reckons Smith: not leaving the mainstream, but moving it further upmarket at its top end. “We’re not aspiring to be a premium brand, but are expanding across the Ford of Europe portfolio.”
And all because of customer demand. Given that, it makes perfect sense for Ford to introduce Vignale. The proof of whether Smith is right will come in the resultant sales mix – but, right now, he’s very confident indeed.
Soon, the interview was up. The new Mondeo won’t be arriving as quickly, alas – it’s still a year away. Time enough for us to get used to the idea, I guess. And get over the fact it’s much more than just the new Mondeo Ghia…