Karsten Crede, CEO of Allianz Global Automotive, and Bernhard Mattes, Chairman of the Board of Management at Ford-Werke GmbH discuss the future of car purchasing, customer loyalty and the automotive sector.
Allianz has recently started working more closely with Ford. What advantages does this entail for car buyers?
Crede: Both partners are focusing on their strengths, and each brings their own know-how to the cooperation. The customers have the advantage of getting a "one-stop shop" for the car, financing and insurance. When it comes to insurance, the customer can get integrated, tailor-made cover at an attractive package price. In case of an accident, the customers can have their Ford repaired by the Ford partner repair shop, with its reputation for good service.
What is the future of car purchasing?
Mattes: The customer can now use the internet to create his dream car. The visit to the dealership happens, once the customer has very concrete ideas. Just as ever, the dealer is responsible for test drives and delivery. However, there are definitely fewer trips to the car dealers thanks to the new range of information available online. This also makes purchase decisions quicker.
A further key point for satisfied customers is the successful sales support on site. With the right tablet apps, we can support the car dealers to feel confident and happy at work.
Crede: Allianz can greatly contribute when it comes to selling insurance products at the point of sale, by making our products and services easy to understand for the dealer. The sales people in the local car dealerships are not insurance retailers, they have no expertise in this area. That is why we need to prepare everything in such a way that they can actually make an offer.
Do young people even want to buy cars anymore?
Mattes: It is essential for us to be appealing to a younger target group. To find out more about this target group, Ford recently carried out a research study which came to the conclusion that the concept of mobility is different for young people than it is for older generations. Mobility is important and car ownership is still a priority, but interest in new options such as car sharing is also growing.
Many years go by between two new car purchases. How do you manage to retain customer loyalty to the Ford brand between purchases?
Mattes: The after-sales business is highly competitive due to the attractive margins. It is all the more important to offer customers attractive products and services in order to also win them over to the brand repair shop and to build a long-term customer relationship.
Crede: There are connecting points here to our joint cooperation. For example, it might be possible to offer additional attractive services to customers who bought the full package, including the insurance, and in this way, to retain them in the long-term. Here, Allianz and Ford can work together to implement their medium-term customer loyalty program.
Europe is increasingly being acknowledged as a difficult market for profitable automotive business. How can you counter this?
Mattes: We are, of course, also looking at Asia. However, our core markets also remain important. In the large volume segments we have developed our platforms to be so flexible that, for small cars, we can build more than 2 million units per year, of a whole range of models, on one platform. Our "ONE-Ford" team concept is also important - global teams from different Ford development centers work together on new products. Purchasing and production experts are also involved at an early stage. These approaches give us the necessary efficiency to be profitable, and also provide the flexibility to be able to respond to the increasingly individual customer requirements.
Constant technological innovation is also important. An example of this at Ford is the software platform SYNC. This platform is, among other things, a connectivity interface in the vehicle. Bluetooth enables the owner's own mobile devices, such as cellphones, MP3 players, etc., to be easily connected in the vehicle. It is also an open platform which allows third-party providers to develop apps which can then be used in the car.
Crede: That’s another good place to connect in our partnership. Together, our teams can work to achieve good technological innovations.