For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to attend the New York International Auto Show, it’s a must-do. Every manufacturer pulls out all the stops. The displays are mind-numbingly expensive, featuring massive LED screens, arena-quality sound systems, and concept cars that cost millions to develop.
As I walked around the Javits Center, admiring the vast and varied vehicles preening before an obsequiously adoring press, I noticed that much of the adoration and admiration was directed toward a car that featured a big cosmetic change but not much of a mechanical one—the Dodge Charger. Granted, the automotive press tends to get a little more of a tingle up its collective leg than consumers do about rear-wheel drive sedans, but the buzz surrounding the Charger was palpable. Furthermore, the reaction in the comments section of this and every other automotive blog seemed to suggest that, at the very least, automotive enthusiasts were right there with them. Whether people liked or disliked the redesign was almost irrelevant—they were TALKING about the car.
At the other end of the floor, one of the largest displays in the show belonged to Ford. A couple of different Mustangs bracketed the display, which also included the marvelous Focus ST and the perhaps even better Fiesta ST. However, the Ford area was sparsely attended—at this point, the Mustang is somewhat old news, having lost a good deal of its buzz even before it makes its way to showrooms later this year. Their giant, stadium-style seating was mostly being used by journos ravenously enjoying their free lunch from Nissan as though they were going to be executed directly thereafter.
In the interest of what I like to call “full disclosure,” I should note that I own two Fords that I purchased new off the lot; a 2013 Boss 302 and a 2013 Flex. However, even if I didn’t, I’d have to consider Ford’s product lineup to be the best in the industry from top to bottom. In reference to the Fiesta ST, The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah tweeted a few days ago that “The Fiesta is probably the best car in the world. For that kind of money nothing comes close.” This comes from a man who spends a good deal of his time behind the wheel of things like Aventadors and Wraiths. The Focus and Fusion are class leaders in driving enjoyment. The Mustang is the best pony car available, and only looks to be getting better for 2015. The F-150 is the undisputed king of trucks and has been for decades. The Escape and Explorer are considered the benchmarks by the competition, a position confirmed for me several months back by Toyota’s leadership when I attended the Highlander launch. In other words, they are at or near the top of every segment in which they compete.
Well, almost every segment. The Taurus is, for all intents and purposes, a joke. According to Timothy Cain’s numbers, if you subtract Police Interceptor sales from the Taurus’ sales numbers, it ranks almost dead last in 2014 YTD sales in the segment, behind the Impala (which outsells it at a 3-to-1 rate), Charger, Maxima, Avalon, and 300. Its stablemate, the Lincoln MKS, fares even worse—much worse. What’s even more unsettling for the Blue Oval is that both cars are down hugely year over year; the Taurus is down 27.5% and the MKS is down 11.4%.
Chevy owns the segment right now with a big, comfy, and stylish FWD sedan. If one combines the Charger and 300 numbers, Chrysler is right there at the top as well with an aggressively styled RWD car that looks like it was designed for caped crime-fighters. Obviously, either type of platform can be successful.
But Ford likes to make big splashes—you don’t put a Mustang on top of the Empire State Building if you don’t want people to notice. And FWD sedans, while practical and loved by the general public, don’t get you magazine covers.
So here’s what you need to do, Ford. Kill the Taurus. If you have to nuke it from space, do it. It’s an anchor that is damaging the perception of your whole brand.
You need a halo sedan. See that big 302 engine that you’ve got stuffed under the hood of the Mustang? Put it in a big, RWD sedan. Don’t make the same mistake Chevy made with the SS—make it look mean. That grille you put on the 2013 Flex? That’s a good place to start. Make twenty inch rims and summer tires an option. Put a real suspension in it. Price it competitively with the Charger SRT-8.
Then, build down from there. Put an EcoBoost sixer in the next model down and price it next to the Pentastar Mopars. Maybe even a four-cylinder EcoBoost for an entry level. In fact, just swap over the entire Mustang engine lineup. It works for Dodge with the Charger and Challenger. It could work for you, too.
Here’s the last thing you have to do, and this is critical. KEEP THE LINCOLN BADGE AS FAR AWAY FROM IT AS POSSIBLE. Face it—Ford is a more prestigious brand than Lincoln is. Make the top trim level a Titanium Ford, and stick a giant blue oval on the back. Hell, go crazy and put the Shelby GT500 engine in an SVT model and embarrass some M5s around the track.
What should you call it? Come on, do you really have to ask? Retro is in. You’ve got a name in the history books begging to be resuscitated. We haven’t seen one in forty years…it’s time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…the 2016 Ford Galaxie. Stick this one on top of the new World Trade Center. And you don’t have to pay me a dime when it becomes the top selling car in the segment, guys. I’ll just be glad to buy one.
(To be fair, I anticipated this idea a few years ago — JB)