MARK KAUFMAN, LIFELONG ATHLETE, KNOWS PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF IN CHANGING CUSTOMER PERCEPTION
small vehicle marketing manager
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- Mark Kaufman is the small vehicle marketing manager responsible for interpreting customer desires; he works with the product development team to bring customer expectations to life
- Kaufman spent three years working on the next-generation Focus, which will launch in late 2010 and spent an additional three years working on similar products at Ford of Europe
- A Chicago native, Kaufman enjoys cycling with his wife and competing in endurance athletic events
Mark Kaufman, Ford’s small vehicle marketing manager, knows a great deal about persistence and discipline. This college gymnast and Ironman triathlete has learned through the art of competition.
“In gymnastics, persistence is key,” he said. “You’re not going to conquer that skill the first time you try it. So you try again. And again. And in an endurance race – yes, there’s a point, there’s always a point – where you question your sanity for voluntarily signing up for it. But you know if you can just work past that rough point, you’ll prevail.”
When Kaufman said he’s out to change the perception of Ford’s small cars in North America – starting with the next-generation Focus scheduled to launch in late 2010 – chances are he’ll get the job done.
This lifelong athlete, a 20-year veteran of Ford, became a competitor early in his career. When the high school coach initiated a boys’ gymnastics team, he looked toward the elementary schools for future high school athletes, and Kaufman was recruited.
“I was always climbing around like a monkey, and my mom thought gymnastics might be safer than football,” Kaufman remembered. “I’m not so sure about that, but by the time I was in sixth grade, I was practicing five days a week at the high school.”
He continued gymnastics throughout high school and participated in the sport at the University of Illinois until he decided to quit and focus on a rigorous engineering curriculum. The decision paid off – Kaufman earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He later attended the University of Michigan, where he completed a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1992 and his MBA in 1998.
Today, Kaufman’s enthusiasm for his job is obvious. He’s motivated by creating a car customers want to drive and by seeing their reaction to a product that exceeds expectations when introduced.
“The most exciting time in the program is the marketing launch, when you get to tell everyone about the great new car,” he said. “I love walking around the vehicle with customers and dealers and explaining the features and the finer aspects of the design.”
Kaufman’s extensive experience with Ford, including a stint at Ford of Europe, left him well prepared for the global launch. While at Ford of Europe, Kaufman was the marketing manager for medium cars supporting 21 countries; he held a leadership role in both planning and marketing the next generation of Ford’s global small vehicles for North America.
“That experience really dovetailed well into this assignment,” he said. “Having those relationships was so helpful, and the ability to share information in a manner we could all understand started things off in a positive way.”
A new kind of Focus
The next-generation Focus introduces a new high-level model series called Titanium, and Kaufman couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it.
“We’re going to surprise people with how premium a Focus can be,” he said. “The craftsmanship, the attention to detail, all of the design elements – the next-generation Focus is a great car, but the Titanium model will really exceed expectations.”
Another strong point of the next-generation Focus is the technology story, Kaufman said. .
“We’re staying on the cutting edge of technology with Focus, especially because technology is a way of life for our younger customers,” he said. “We want people to feel connected to the car, make it easy for them to interact with the vehicle and have a tremendous amount of information available at the touch of a button.”
The next-generation Focus is a game-changer for Ford, he said.
“It’s going to change people’s perception about what Ford can do with small cars,” he said. “We hope customers will be just as pleased driving the car as they are looking at it.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- Mark’s list of personal accomplishments includes a mid-pack finish at the 2006 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. (He’s also completed two other Ironman competitions in Wisconsin and New York.) Kaufman finished a 110-mile TransRockies Trail Running Race in 2008
- Mark and his wife Mary can often be spotted together on their tandem road bike every weekend during cycling season
- When Mark and Mary lived in Germany, their favorite bike route took them down the back roads, through the Mosel River Valley – picturesque wine country. The two would often stop at quaint little wineries that tourists couldn’t find. They’d park the bike after a full day of cycling and get the full tour from the proprietors themselves
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 200,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
Jan. 11, 2010