Exclusive Interview with Ford Fusion Marketing Manager Samantha Hoyt (Detroit is back Series)

We have had a long history covering the Ford Motor Company. In fact, one of the proudest moments of my career was the opportunity to have dinner with the late, great Carroll Shelby, Funkmaster Flex, and Ford Group Vice President, Design and Chief Creative Officer, J Mays. J Mays has overseen designs for brands as diverse as Volvo, Aston Martin, Land Rover, Lincoln, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercury, and Ford. That is a diverse portfolio of influence that has now culminated in a portfolio of products in two brands, Ford and Lincoln. If sales numbers are an indicator, Ford has done tremendously with the its focus on these two core brands with the technical and design focus of the former portfolio influencing the blue oval directly.

One new product Ford is launching is the Ford Fusion. This is the first all-new design of the Fusion which has been a top-selling model and one of the top-selling family sedans consistently for several years. The new Fusion is a breathtaking sheet of metal that many suggest is influenced by Aston Martin, making the Fusion have a more premium look than is typical in this segment. The Fusion has several powertrain options with EcoBoost technology employed for fuel efficiency and also hybrid and electric powertrains that show remarkable use of the $5.9 billion loan from the Department of Energy. The Fusion gets 47 mpg from its hybrid – yes, 47 mpg in a family sedan! There is also going to be a plugin electric option for the Fusion and also a first for the Fusion, an all-wheel drive option. The Fusion dons impeccable material on the interior and an updated infotainment system with SYNC and MyFord Touch. I had a chance to speak with the marketing Manager of the Fusion, Samantha Hoyt. She has had a great ascent up the ranks at Ford and our dialogue is as follows.

OI: Introduce yourself and what do you do at Ford?

SH: Hi I'm Samantha Hoyt. I'm the Fusion Marketing Manager at Ford.

OI: So give me an idea of this car, the design, the feel. It sorta seems like you're going after a totally different customer with this, right?

SH: Well, it may appear that way, but the CD segment is really ultra competitive and what customers have told us is that is that they want something different, right? They don't want the typical three box design – it's got a hood, a middle, and a trunk. They want something they're proud to own. They want something that looks good but it's also affordable. So the Ford Fusion that you see behind me in ruby red is going to deliver on all of that – a car you'd be proud to own, great fuel economy, great quality, really awesome driver assist technologies and great value.

OI: So talk about that too because normally the driver assist technologies are products that you would put on a more premium car but at Ford you guys are even having driver assist and park assist on cars like the Focus. So talk about that.

SH: Well, Ford's always been about the democratization of technology so we want to bring as much to the masses as we can and the new Ford Fusion is no exception. We'll have features available like lane keep assist that comes along with lane departure warning to help you stay in your lane. The car will actually help steer you back in your lane if it senses that you're weaving out - active park assist that you mentioned - so parallel parking is really stressful for most people; active park assist takes the stress out of that. We also have blind spot monitoring. You have blind spot mirrors. You've got reverse park aids, a rearview camera, and adaptive cruise control – all of these available on the all-new Ford Fusion, just to make your driving life a little bit easier.

OI: Now it seems like you guys are also gonna have a lot of different models from variations of electricity to a full electric. Talk about that.

SH: Well, you're talking about the power of choice and that's what we're so excited about with the new Ford Fusion. We will have more powertrain options than anybody else in the segment. We'll be the first to offer gasoline engines, hybrid engines, and a plug-in hybrid variant so we start with a 2.5 regularly aspirated four-cylinder engine. Then we offer two EcoBoost engines, a 1.6-liter which is a fuel liter and 2-liter EcoBoost engine which is for people a little more performance oriented and then we offer the all-new hybrid which will get 47 miles per gallon or more in the city and then we have an all-new Fusion energy plug-in hybrid which operates on battery-electric power and then switches over to hybrid once you've exhausted all your juice and has a total range of about 500 miles. So no matter what you want, we've got it. We even have all-wheel drive available.

OI: Wow. Talk about that.

SH: So all-wheel drive is available on the 2-liter Titanium for those customers that drive in climates where you would need a little bit more sure footing.

OI: Like where we are in the Northeast.

SH: Like where we are in New York...We had a mild winter but that didn't slow the sales of the all-wheel drives, but it's also good for performance because it really helps keep your grip so that's also available to customers who want it on the 2-liter. And then we also have a manual available for those people that really want a manual, the 1.6-liter can come in a manual.

OI: Wow. You guys have a manual, too.

SH: Yes.

OI: Wow. So talk about that. So then also tell me a little bit about the technology that you guys have in, the SYNC and some of the stuff with the customers and what you guys were thinking with the internal technology that would be available there.

SH: Well, as we were talking about, we like to bring as much as we can to the masses. The Ford Fusion will be Ford's first car with SYNC standard so no matter which car you get, you'll definitely get SYNC so you can control your music, call your friends and family, all hands-free. And then we're also bringing a new auto start stop system available on the 1.6-liter engine which is, if you've driven a hybrid you know that when you stop at a stop sign, stoplight, or a drive-thru or in traffic, your engine actually turns itself off. Well, we're doing that now on a gas engine with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost so you can get up to 3½ percent better fuel on average and if you drive predominantly in the city you can see up to 10% improvement in fuel but as you know we're all about safety so SYNC and all the driver assist technologies are meant to help you to be a better driver.

OI: Yeah and I also know that you guys have Wi-Fi hotspot available in the car too, right?

SH: New MyFord Touch will have a Wi-Fi hotspot.

OI: Wow. So it seems like the range of customers that you have with this Fusion, starting in the low twenties could go all the way to the – so it's like a wide range, from the sophisticated, technophobe to the family that wants to haul in something in style. So talk about that as your job as a marketing manager, putting creatives together, putting messaging together. How is it? It must be a real hard job.

SH: It's a really fun job and I've been on the program for two years and what we've seen happen is that the Fusion has evolved so the current Fusion has been a great success for Ford and we want to take the new Ford Fusion to the next level. And it doesn't mean just in volume but style, in safety, and technologies and everything else, but the reason why is the CD segment is enormous and it's very, very competitive so you need to have a wide range of choice to reach the most customers. So the hybrid'll reach those customers that want super fuel efficiency. The plug-in energy will reach those customers that want every technological gadget available to them in the highest tech vehicle available. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost is for the fuel-efficient minded that can't quite reach to a hybrid. And then the 2-liter EcoBoost engine is available for those who want a little bit more performance and the 2.5 is a great choice for those people who want just really good value.

OI: Wow, so you say you started with the program two years ago. So how long have you been with Ford?

SH: I've been with Ford for twenty years. I just started my 21st year.

OI: Congratulations. So kinda give us your background with Ford. That's so fascinating.

SH: Oh, I started as a zone manager in sales in the Cincinnati region and then I've done several different marketing and sales posts. I've also spent some time in Ford Customer Service division delivering parts to dealers, working on crash parts and then I moved over into product marketing to work on the all-new Ford Fusion two years ago and then I've since followed the car into consumer marketing. So I've had a wide background with dealers and customers.

OI: Well, it seems like Ford has an interesting management style and training because when I look at it and I look at all the other car companies, there's a lot of people that have done a great amount of time at Ford and expertise so talk about that because it seems like you've learned a wide range about the business before you came over to this product.

SH: You're exactly right. Ford's philosophy is they want you to be able to grow and learn as much as you can and so for the most part if you want to stay in a job for a long time you could, but if you want to learn and move and grow they're happy to rotate you into new and exciting experiences so you can build on what you already know and for me it's been a great choice because I've never been bored. I'm always learning something new and then I get to work on great products like the all-new Ford Fusion.

OI: That's fabulous and also talk about diversity, being a woman at Ford and the experiences you've had coming up the ranks.

SH: I tell you what, it was interesting when I started back in 1991. There weren't very many women in the field calling on dealers, but the dealers embraced us openly and we have lots and lots of women. We have a great diverse workforce now. I've never had any barriers. I've always been treated like every other manager in the system and Ford's really given me the opportunity to grow and learn and my colleagues come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and I'm really proud of Ford because they embrace – they just embrace the diversity.

OI: And I guess looking forward to this Fusion brand because this is like a huge expansion from the last model to this. It's like what you think of Fusion now is like [night] and day and then the styling is so elegant so talk about that...What do you see this evolving into as you're working on messaging and communications to this wide range of people that are now attracted?

SH: Well, I think the first thing is that the customers will tell us if they like it, right, and so far the feedback has been really, really good.

OI: CES was awesome.

SH: Yes, my partner in crime Zack Nakos, was at CES while I was at Detroit and we were both getting similar feedback so the first thing is we think customers like it. We think they'll even like it better when we announce pricing a little bit later this year and then from a messaging perspective we need to really focus on what's gonna cut through the clutter, right. It's a very crowded marketplace. Our competitors are fierce and there are a lot of the competitors so we need to do something that's creative, that's fun, that's different. We don't want to just be the “also” brand. We want to be the choice, the one you're proud to own, the one you come to, that you really like the way it looks. This is the all-new face of Ford. It's athletic. It's aggressive.

OI: That Evos styling.

SH: Yes and the recessed Ford in the grille. It's proud. It's the way we're going.


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