Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards Have Ford Looking Good

While it may be what’s under the sheet metal that really counts, it is buyers’ perceptions of an automaker’s vehicles that tend to drive sales. The recently released Kelley Blue Book 2012 Brand Image Awards have found that consumers see vehicles at Ford dealerships in a particularly positive light. Winning in four award categories, the most of any automaker, Ford was named the Most Rugged Truck Brand and Most Family-Friendly Brand, as well as Best Interior Design Brand and Best Exterior Design Brand for non-luxury makes.

The Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards are based on consumer-perception data compiled from the auto researcher’s website and take into account the opinions of more than 12,000 vehicle shoppers. The data indicated that Ford’s best-selling F-150 impresses pickup buyers with its rugged durability, while models like the Ford Taurus sedan and the Flex crossover have the looks and spaciousness to satisfy families. When it came to the design awards, it was Ford’s increasingly upscale interiors and dynamic exteriors that helped earn the automaker recognition.

“Perception is reality when it comes to Ford’s vehicles; they have earned outstanding reputations for a variety of different qualities shoppers desire in their vehicles,” said Alan Melkonian, owner and general manager of Massachusetts Ford dealership Stoneham Ford. “Their lineup has the capability to get tough jobs done and the comfort and safety suitable for growing families, as well as functional yet eye-catching designs inside and out.”

Though the Brand Image Awards focused on consumers’ perceptions of current vehicles, Ford is looking to keep up the momentum when its new 2013 Ford Explorer Sport arrives at dealerships later this year. As the first high-performance trim for Ford’s popular SUV, the Explorer Sport will bring added capability, family-friendly features and fresh designs, all attributes that helped the automaker win its recent awards.

With a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine, the Explorer Sport will churn out 350 horsepower, yet it is still projected by Ford to be the most fuel-efficient gas-powered high-performance SUV on the market. Four-wheel drive and a Terrain Management System are also standard features, meaning all that power won’t be wasted when conditions get rough.

The Explorer Sport will also pack in plenty of creature comforts for family members, as well as an array of sporty design cues that will make the neighbors jealous. Features like standard heated front seats and optional inflatable rear seatbelts ensure that families get a comfortable and safe ride, while Charcoal Black leather seats available with contrasting Sienna inserts give the cabin a premium look and feel. Outside, a unique Sterling Gray mesh grille accentuates glossy ebony crossbars, while 20-inch painted wheels and blacked-out headlamps give the Explorer Sport a distinctive appearance.

“The Explorer Sport embodies everything that consumers like about the Ford brand,” added Melkonian. “Whether it is the powerful-yet-efficient engine, the innovative safety features or the inviting interior and bold style, the SUV is a great example of how Ford nails down every aspect of their vehicles.”