Women Are On Ford's Mind

January 29, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Women are influencing new product development at Ford Motor Co. and it shows in some of the company's newer models. 

"We are purposely trying to become more relevant to women," said Amy Marentic, large car and crossover platform manager for Ford. Marentic will preview several new Ford models and discuss what Ford is doing to make its brand more appealing to women at the West Michigan Auto Show Breakfast Friday, which is being sponsored by Inforum.

Marentic oversees pre-program strategy, engineering and product marketing of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury large cars and crossovers. Before joining Ford in 1992, Marentic was a product design engineer for Prince Corp. in Holland. She grew up in Muskegon and later moved to Grand Haven.

Ford has "quite a selection of women" in its product marketing and planning group, Marentic said. The group was responsible for the recent launch of the company's new eco-boost engine strategy, a new family of engines that are affordable and are equipped with technology that will improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions, she explained.

"I had the opportunity to get the first three eco-boost programs approved and in the system," Marentic said. "I was part of the discussion on whether to put a V-8 on our new Lincoln or the new eco-boost technology. It was really quite an experience. We will have over 500,000 of these eco-boost engines globally in production in the next five years."

One of the biggest challenges auto makers have is improving fuel economy without sacrificing performance, Marentic said.

"We have to find a way to make it affordable, and with our eco-boast technology we believe that we've done that," she remarked. "We are playing the hybrid game and the diesel game and there's more to come. That strategy, along with becoming more relevant to women, is really how we're reinventing Ford over the next several years."

The "Warrior In Pink" Mustang campaign is an initiative the women at Ford kicked off in the 2008 model year. The Warrior in Pink Mustang is black with pink racing stripes and sports the familiar pink ribbon on its trunk. The Warrior is being used as the pace car at every Race For The Cure event this year. Warrior in Pink Mustangs are selling, Marentic said, and $500,000 of the proceeds from their sales will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Over the last 13 years, the women of Ford Motors have raised more than $90 million so support breast cancer awareness and the Susan G, Komen cause, Marentic noted.

Ford is investing in the segments that resonate with women — C-cars, B-cars, small sport utility vehicles and crossovers. The Ford Focus, Ford Taurus and Ford Edge are recent examples, Marentic pointed out. A new B-car will be introduced in two years. The Ford Edge hit showrooms last year and is now the top selling crossover in that segment. More than 50 percent of Edge buyers are women. The chief engineer on the Edge program is a woman and her boss is a woman, as well.

Can the domestic automotive manufacturing industry be saved? Marentic believes so.

"I think it's a pretty simple scenario," she said. "We have to develop products that customers love so when they see them they have to have them. We have to have competitive power trains. We have to improve fuel economy. I think that will bring customers back to our brand."

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