Ford F-150 marketing manager Raj Sarkar grew up a car nut in suburban Summit, New Jersey, some 20 miles west of New York City. His bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering are from MIT, but his MBA is from Harvard.
He joined Ford Product Development in 1996 and rotated through two years of assignments ranging from truck powertrain engineering to luxury-car electrical systems, then worked on F-Series and Excursion body electrics before deciding that marketing interested him more.
After earning that MBA in 2002, he worked on truck marketing and strategy before serving as New York Region zone manager, returning to Dearborn as F-150 consumer marketing manager from 2004 to 2006. Following that, he moved to the position of F-150 product marketing manager, and car and crossover product marketing manager from 2008 to 2010 before being promoted to his current responsibility over all F-150 consumer and product marketing. We sat down with Sarkar to find out more.
TT: Why migrate from engineering to marketing?
RS: The draw was getting close to consumers and into their mindsets and using those insights and learnings to make our products and our company more successful. As I started getting into different marketing positions, that was some of the most fun I've had in the company. The consumers were fantastic, our product was fantastic, and there was a lot of excitement around it. I'm incredibly lucky to be doing both halves of the F-150 marketing business simultaneously.
TT: How do Ford's consumer and product marketing differ?
RS: Consumer marketing focuses on current products, including advertising, promotion, and brand elements, so you spend a lot of time with consumers as well as the products. Our truck customers have a lot of passion for our vehicles, and I have a lot in common with them. Product marketing focuses on future cycles of products not yet on the road. They work closely with Product Development, driving the "voice of the customer" into those new products.
TT: How can Ford achieve the necessary balance between truck customer needs and capabilities and government requirements, especially fuel economy?
RS: It is certainly a very challenging time. We know our customers do not want to sacrifice the capability and performance they need, so it's up to us to find solutions that can deliver those attributes without forcing compromise. It will come down to innovation, and Ford has always done a fantastic job of that. EcoBoost is a great example. It delivers capability and performance with fuel efficiency.
TT: Beyond EcoBoost and a few other things you can do relatively soon, what can you do longer-term to meet fast-accelerating Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements without sacrificing capability or affordability?
RS: Ingenious application of technology can surmount difficult obstacles, and we have some of the most talented people in the industry working on it right now. Our customers have real needs driving their choices of trucks, and we know those needs are not going to change fundamentally. So it is all about finding the right approach to meeting them while meeting those regulatory requirements that are becoming so much more challenging.