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“History doesn’t bode well for Ford's Vignale luxury brand"

Steve Fowler questions whether Ford dealers can adapt to the needs of premium car buyers with the upmarket Vignale sub-brand

Opinion Ford Vignale

Fair play to Ford for giving it a go. You can understand why it’s decided to give its new, upmarket Vignale models the green light – it was selling so many Titanium X models, it’d be rude not to offer buyers a bit more in the way of luxury kit.

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• Ford Mondeo Vignale review

But did it need to go as far as to pretend that Vignale could be a standalone brand sold in its own unique way? I say pretend, because you’ll still be buying your Vignale from a Ford dealer. Only a select bunch will sell the cars with specially trained advisors in plush new surroundings, but they’re still Ford dealers.

And in our latest Driver Power dealer survey, Ford owners ranked their dealers 27th out of 32. Not a great place to start (although to be fair, Audi dealers were in 26th place…).

• Best car manufacturers 2015

History doesn’t bode well for Ford selling its new luxury brand in this way. Renault did a similar thing with its upmarket Vel Satis and Avantime models some years ago. And Lexus quickly cottoned on to the fact that it couldn’t be a serious player in the premium sector if it was selling its cars from within Toyota showrooms. 

The folk at the new upmarket DS brand from Peugeot/Citroen will be watching all this eagerly because, guess what? Yup, DS is launching from the corner of a Citroen showroom near you (23rd place in our Driver Power dealer survey).

Of course, all these brands will tell you that you don’t have to visit the dealers – they’ll bring the car to you to try, and collect it if it needs attention. So why bother spending all that cash on a cosy corner? Ah yes, car makers have to keep their dealers happy.

How about asking customers how they want to buy? The dealer experience is rarely enjoyed by car buyers. These new brands have a great opportunity to change things – it’s such a shame they don’t seem to be grabbing it.

Do you think mainstream brands like Ford can succeed with premium sub-brands like Vignale? Let us know what you think...

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