Ex-PE pupil has global reach

Cindy Preller

A FORMER Port Elizabeth schoolboy is marketing the new Mustang vehicle worldwide. Jacques Brent is Ford Motor Company’s group marketing manager for large cars and SUVs and is based in Detroit, Michigan.

The sixth-generation Mustang will be available in South Africa at the end of 2015. It will be the first time the vehicle is on offer in showrooms in South Africa.

Brent moved to Detroit in February last year, when he started working on the marketing campaign for the Mustang.

At that time the design of the car was being finalised. “It has been an exciting journey; getting to know the passion Americans have for the car. I understood it from a distance, but it has been great to learn first-hand about the history and love that the fans have for the car.

“Everyone has an opinion on the Mustang or a story about it … it was important to distill all of this for our campaign.”

The Mustang would be on the market in the US in the second quarter of 2014.

Next year would be the 50th anniversary of the car, and the marketing campaign was focused on the emotional connection people, particularly Americans, had with the vehicle. “We used the historical significance of the brand and wanted to grow the base [of people interested in the car] beyond Mustang enthusiasts.

“The Mustang is the car with the most fans on Facebook [five-and-a half million], of which about half are located outside of the US. It is a car that is often used in movies and songs are written about it. North American values like freedom and confidence are associated with the car.”

Brent said it had been a lot of fun “for a guy from PE” to be involved with the marketing of the iconic vehicle. A right-hand- drive version of the Mustang would be made for the South African market.

Having grown up in what he called a “Ford family”, Brent said he had always been involved with cars.

“My grandfather had a filling station and dealership in Peddie, while my dad worked for Ford for 38 years. My brother and his wife also work for Ford … we are a proud Ford family.”

Brent moved to Pretoria with his parents when he was in Grade 11. He was Ford Southern Africa’s sales and marketing manager before moving to Shanghai in 2010 to take up the post of executive director of marketing Asia Pacific and Africa for the Ford Motor Company.

“I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel extensively with Ford and have been on every continent except for Antarctica. It is great to see all these places and experience the different cultures. It was a fantastic opportunity to build Ford’s brand in China as a fairly latecomer to the market.

“Detroit is the heart of Ford’s operations, where new products are designed, and it is exciting to work here.”

He visits South Africa at least once a year with his wife, Tracy, and daughters, Tamryn, 17, Nicola, 13, and Alexia, 9.

Brent regards Port Elizabeth as a major player in the automotive industry. “It is pretty cool that the Ford engines manufactured in PE get exported throughout the world. Whenever people find out that I am from South Africa, they often ask me about catalytic converters, which are also manufactured in PE and exported to the rest of the world.” He chuckled: “Yes, I would gladly return to South Africa since it is 10°C outside at the moment.”

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