Ford Taken With High Vista Roof Take Rates

By Bill Visnic August 30, 2011

Ford Vista Roof.jpg

Ford Motor Co. has been busy extolling the virtues of its latest drivetrain and infotainment technologies, but buyers, meanwhile, also have connected with another less-flashy – though definitely light-enhancing – piece of optional equipment: Vista Roof, the gargantuan new-generation sunroofs Ford and its Lincoln premium-car division now offer for several models. Take rates for the not-inexpensive Vista Roof are climbing as customers seem to be sending the message they’ll pay for the feeling of expansiveness the option provides.

For the new-age 2011 Explorer, for example, Ford didn’t know what to expect regarding Vista Roof penetration because everything about the Explorer – other than its name – is not as it was before, the vehicle being on an all-new platform with entirely different drivetrains. So the company projected Vista Roof take rates for the new Explorer at 30-35 percent, Craig Patterson, marketing manager for the Explorer and Ford Flex, told AutoObserver. Instead, almost half of the buyers for the new Explorer have opted for the $1,595 Vista Roof, its 48-percent take rate so far this year exceeding by more than 30 percent even the most optimistic of Ford’s forecasts.

“That’s been the trend for Vista Roof,” Patterson said of the option that Ford introduced in 2007 for the Edge crossover, adding that it “falls into line with the (general) trend of people adding more content.” There is some degree of regionality to Vista Roof demand, Patterson said, with customers in hot, sunny markets somewhat less inclined to purchase the option, but climate “has not been a dramatic factor” governing Vista Roof penetration, he said. Take rates run about 35 percent in Ford’s western region, he said, while the coastal U.S. regions select the panoramic roof at a near 60-percent rate.

"The market trend seems to be headed to more and more to large roof systems that provide glass across the entire roof of the vehicle," said John Thomas, vice president of business development for Webasto Roof Systems Inc., currently the supplier for all Ford and Lincoln models offering the Vista Roof. Thomas agreed that many types of vehicles are experiencing  "higher and higher fitment rates, greater than 40 percent and up to 100 percent on some vehicles. In fact, OEMs are capitalizing on this movement by having close to 100% fitment on luxury vehicles. The other interesting trend," Thomas added, "is these roofs are also being used on small A- and B-segment," models that normally are not associated with highline options such as panoramic sunroofs.

Paying To See The Light
Mushrooming take rates indicate what Ford said is an unmistakable desire from consumers for more airiness and light-bathed cabins, regardless of vehicle type. In addition to the Vista Roof’s unexpected debut in the Explorer, 56 percent of this year’s Edge buyers chose the Vista Roof, as did 32 percent of Flex customers. So far, Ford’s fitting the Vista roof mostly in crossovers and SUVs – their large interiors can at once feel claustrophobic for rear passengers but also offer the extra space to best accommodate the headroom-snatching glasswork and mechanism. And the generally higher MSRP’s of crossovers and SUVs more readily absorb the Vista Roof price tag.

But Ford created a minor stir when it offered the nearly all-glass Vista Roof option for the Mustang in 2008 and for a time was capacity-constrained on the feature. Company sources admit the Vista Roof’s novelty has worn off for the Mustang – buyers in the coupe segment are notoriously fickle – and take rates have dropped off to about 7 percent of all Mustang sales. The Vista Roof’s near-$2,000 cost in the Mustang (top) likely makes it an easy option to skip at a time when the largely discretionary ponycar purchase already is difficult to justify by recession-addled customers.

Ford said in a recent release that the current popularity of Vista Roof reflects customer desires to have more open structures and more light available, which many believe increases the sense of wellbeing. “Ford's Vista Roofs open the car to more sunlight, which keeps drivers energized and gives the luxurious feel customers desire,” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s manager of global trends and futuring. The glass is impregnated, though, with ultraviolet exposure-reducing material that equates to a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 50, meaning nobody sitting under the glass for long periods will be unduly exposed.

And for Ford, the popularity of the Vista Roof equates to a better bottom line. Although nobody at Ford will say how much profit the company generates on each installed Vista Roof, one supplier-industry source says it could be 25 percent or better of the approximately $1,500 average cost. Information from AutoObserver parent Edmunds.com indicates that on the 2012 Explorer, the $1,595 Vista Roof MSRP has an invoice price of $1,356.

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