|Ford offers more than 18 different graphics wrap packages (above) for the new Fiesta as well as exterior accessories, such as a rear hatch spoiler.|
The question weighs on the minds of many in the specialty-equipment
industry: Where are the new customers going to come from? Where is the
next generation of tuners and customizers?
Ford has one possible answer. Its accessories program for the
forthcoming 2011 Fiesta offers mainstream buyers a chance to test the
waters of customization. Featuring personalized options, including vinyl
wraps, a body kit and interior components, the Fiesta packages allow
buyers to dabble in the tuning world right from the dealer floor.
Inside, Fiesta owners can choose from seven different LED color combinations in the footwells and door sills, while exterior accessories, such as a rear roof spoiler or four-piece body kit, add further style elements. Ford Custom Graphics by Original Wraps—a personalized set of images and icons applied to the Fiesta’s exterior panels—allow refinement of personal expression, offering 18 contemporary designs, including cityscapes, bubbles, flames, ninja blades and even a body-side tattoo graphic spelling out “Fiesta” in black or silver.
“Factory accessory programs offered at dealerships can open the door and pull some people in,” says R.J. De Vera, manager of Wraptivo (a new business unit at Meguiar’s) and a veteran project car designer/builder in Japanese and Euro tuning circles. Wraps and graphics, especially, offer great initial exposure to the customization world, De Vera says.
“A graphics package is an easy way in; it's a lower cost-of-entry than an exhaust kit, wheels or a lip spoiler, which you’d need to have painted to match and install. You also choose the design and color of the graphics. For most mainstream consumers, this isn’t an instant conversion. It’s not like most are going to slam their car and add a turbocharger right away.”
Neil Tjin is another top Southern California designer/builder, whose projects for this year’s SEMA Show include two Ford projects (one of them a Fiesta), a Honda CRZ built with friend Warren Shim-Quee and a Camaro project led by Gene Marcel. Tjin says he sees wraps gaining wider acceptance, though, still not as popular as paint jobs. Wrapping individual sections of a car—hood, roof, hatch—however, is an increasing demand.
“I believe these [accessory] programs do help reach the mainstream,” Tjin says. “This is my first year working with Ford, but I have seen this work with Honda and GM, especially with the Camaro. And Ford is going all out with the grassroots stuff, the social networking, commercials, sweepstakes. It’ll be interesting to watch them go head-to-head with the new Scion tC and Honda CRZ.”
Although factory accessories seem like an obvious sell to those with even a passing interest in customizing, most automakers walk a fine line. Too aggressive product designs won’t have broad enough appeal (and could compromise crash-safety standards, De Vera says). Too bland, and no one will care.
“Some programs are effective and some aren’t,” De Vera explains. “It depends on several factors, namely design. The factory is never going to go as aggressive in their designs as the aftermarket, although Ford Racing is an exception; it has some pretty aggressive product. Success also depends on distribution and corporate support. Lexus has done a great job with F-Sport, limiting it to qualified dealers, and they really back it.”