Interview: Ford Trucks' Future and Market Position with Serhan Turfan

Serhan Turfan

Continuing its growth both in the international and domestic markets with our tractor series F-MAX, winner of the “International Truck of the Year 2019 Award”, Ford Trucks managed to reach its targets in the first 10 months of 2020 despite the effects of the pandemic! We talked about the success of Ford Trucks; being one of every three vehicles sold with a market share of 31.6% in the heavy commercial industry in Turkey by the end of October; the long-term objectives, customer-centric approach, new surprises, and more with Serhan Turfan, Deputy General Manager of Ford Trucks.

2020 is a good year for Ford Trucks. You have reached the 2020 targets in the first 10 months. This is a very important achievement. Can we listen to this success story from you?

Of course. 2020 has been a very different year when compared to previous years. The pandemic was a factor that no one had predicted, and it affected the whole world. Despite all the difficulties, we have gained an important achievement in the first 10 months as Ford Trucks and reached 31.6% of the market share in Turkey. This rate is the highest market share in our history.

Moreover, this year has a very important difference. With the effect of the pandemic, there has been an important segment change in the market. The market has completely shifted to the truck segment, and two out of three vehicles sold have become to be trucks. Despite this increase in the truck market, we were able to increase our total market share, as we achieved a 25% share by reaching the highest segment market share in our history in this segment. Earlier, our market share in this segment was around 15%. Of course, the role of F-MAX, which was awarded the "International Truck of the Year" in 2019, is huge. F-MAX is in high demand from our customers, especially with its comfort and low fuel consumption values. F-MAX was Turkey's best-seller truck both in May and June; in other words, we can say that it became the most wanted truck in our country at the very time of the pandemic period. So much that we could not keep up with the production habits. And this year, we generally proceeded by selling the ensuing month's production upfront. In general, I think it was a very successful year.

Looking at the international markets, we can say that we have experienced huge drop-offs due to the pandemic, especially in Europe. Besides Europe, we have seen the impact of the pandemic both in the Middle East and Russia. And the total market dropped down 25% when compared to 2019. Our sales, on the other hand, dropped down by only 15%, so it was a year in which we increased our market share in international markets just like in the domestic market.

One of every three heavy commercial vehicles sold in Turkey is Ford Trucks. Could you tell us about Ford Trucks' customer-centric approach? What is behind the customers' choice of Ford Trucks?

In fact, our motto best describes this approach: "Together in Every Load." This motto has a great meaning. We see our customers as our business partners. Actually, sales are just the starting point of this business. In fact, we are making some kind of marriage with our customers. In this marriage, we are together with our customers every time they use the vehicle. We guarantee to stand behind our promise. In order to solve everything about their vehicle, in every problem they experience, we let them know we stand by them.

There are good words from our manifest. Two of them are always on my mind, let me share them. I think it reflects our customer approach very well. We say "Word is bond in trade!" We would like you to know that we are keeping our word, it is not a burden. We say “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together and in every load! ”. . Of course, these are important promises. Fulfilling these promises goes through our perspective towards our customers. We have taken serious steps in this regard in the last 10 years. We have renewed all our plazas in Turkey from head to toe. We have the kind of truck plazas you can't even see in automobile plazas, and it is filled with quality and technology. We have become a brand that listens to the voice of the customer and makes totally domestic production. We have a mentality built to ensure 100% customer satisfaction; and this goes not only for the Ford Trucks employees but for all our stakeholders such as dealers and suppliers.

Within the company, we have given start to the perception "Our Grind Stone is Our Customers!". We would like not just the sales and marketing departments to feel this, but all our colleagues in every department from production to purchasing to feel it. And we are progressing incrementally each year.

Operating costs are very important for our customers. The heavy commercial vehicle industry is a very important grindstone for the customer. We too, try to minimize all costs for our customers as they earn a living through their jobs. Therefore, from the moment of purchase to sales, we have a mission with regards to reducing all operating costs. This is one of our strongest possessions.

We're now watching proudly the achievement table in Turkey. Can we get your evaluations about our expansion targets in other markets?

Currently, we are in a total of 5 regions: Russia, Turkic Republics, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. We have dealership and distributorship activities in 41 countries. We have achieved significant growth in the last 3 years, and again in the last three years, we have tripled our sales from a thousand to 3 thousand. This year, we actually had a goal of reaching 4 thousand in numbers; but we postponed this target to 2021 due to the pandemic.

Our structuring in Eastern Europe has been completed, and now we are heading for Western Europe. With the completion of our structuring in Eastern Europe, success follows consecutively. For example, this year we reached a market share of 12% in both Romania and Ukraine. We became the leader in the construction segment in Hungary. Therefore, our market share increase continues here.

Looking at Western Europe, we started from the south, from the Mediterranean countries which are closer markets for us. We placed our distributors in Spain, Portugal, and Italy as of last year and started sales this year. Now we have Central Europe on the line and we will enter France and Germany by 2021. In the following years, the Benelux countries; the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg are among our plans.

To be honest, we are very challenging in European markets. One of our most important goals is to be able to showcase our success in Eastern Europe as well in Western Europe.

How did the pandemic period affect your sales and marketing strategies? How have you made changes to your long term goals?

Starting with sales, I can say that there was a high demand for home delivery, especially during the quarantine period. Many of our customers made shopping from home instead of going to malls, so habits and preferences have changed. This seriously heated up the logistics industry and the truck market. So we also increased our production in this direction. We have strategically focused on the truck market. We prepared our campaigns in this direction and we were successful in this too, we increased our market share in trucks by 50%.

Speaking of service, I can say that we have taken all kinds of hygiene and health measures, especially in our plazas, against the pandemic. Fortunately, we have never closed our plazas till today. We continued to provide service to all our customers during this difficult period. We tried to show our gratitude both to the logistics and healthcare sectors. We provided some benefits to our drivers who are on the roads to meet our needs while we are at our homes. For example, we distributed hygiene kits at the border gates. Apart from that, as Ford Otosan, we have already done very serious corporate studies.

Looking at marketing, strategically regarding the media; since people are mostly at home, we have focused on television and mainly on digital. During this period, we saw that the habitual consumption of these channels increased even more when comparing to the past. Social media was a must in this period. With the pandemic, we decided to invest more in both the content and media. And suddenly many of our marketing investments turned into social media.

Speaking of events, of course, we have moved almost everything to digital platforms. For example, our dealer meeting - we used to hold this meeting in a hotel every year - in this instance, we did it on a digital platform. Also, we held press conferences on digital platforms. Very soon we have the introductions of our new products. We will also do these through digital platforms.

The most important change of strategy that this period reflected on us was the tendency to digital channels, platforms, and social media. We envision a structure that becomes more digitalized in the long term. Therefore, this reflection enabled us to experience altogether, a period that will also be beneficial for our long-term goals. During this period, we experienced many actions that were not on our agenda so far and reaped the benefit of it. Meetings, interviews, product presentations, etc. all can take place on digital platforms. Therefore, we have shifted our strategies towards these.

We are also able to offer our customers many services through these digital platforms. We created a WhatsApp platform. We can evaluate all kinds of offers with their visuals through this channel and share them with our customers.

IToY award-winning F-MAX is always our favorite. It continues to rise confidently in the truck market. Very soon we will be meeting a very special F-MAX model. Now that we have you here, can we get some hints without spoiling the surprise?

Yes, let's not give too many spoilers. I can say the following without giving much detail; we will produce a special series for F-MAX, limited edition with 250 trucks. We will launch this in January. We usually see these types of special series in passenger cars or light commercial vehicles. We think that such a series will also be of interest in trucks, as the F-MAX is very popular.

Right now, of course, we do not share their photos in order not to spoil the surprise, but it will be an important series. I think it will be very much admired as it has a very special design. More exclusive materials and various accessories were used on many points. Hopefully, we will be celebrating this vehicle together with the new year.

78 of our vehicles were delivered to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality recently. Could you give information about the process and the new projects in this context?

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is one of the institutions that we attach great importance to. We recently delivered our 78 vehicles to İSTAÇ, which is within the body of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. İSTAÇ is the company that carries out all the environmental management works in Istanbul. Therefore, undertaking this important task as Ford Trucks is also important for us in terms of corporate responsibility. Because our vehicles will be used in all the environmental works of Istanbul and our vehicles will be on the roads to serve our people. In this context, we delivered our F-MAXs with very beautiful orange colors to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

I hope that it will continue. Because it will be a project that will exceed 200 trucks in total. Therefore, we will continue to be collaborating in the upcoming period. Government institutions and municipalities are the institutions that we, as Ford Trucks, always highly value. It is also proud to be their first choice too. Because domestic production supports not only employment but also brings foreign currency to our country, and as I said, our own vehicles are taking part in these important responsibility projects. I would like to thank all of our municipal and high state officials who supported this.

We also thank you, Serhan Bey. Stay healthy until we meet again on different topics in the following days...