By on January 5, 2007

fusionevent1222.jpgThe Detroit News recently enlisted J.D. Power and Associates to help explain Detroit's pressure drop, and figure out how Ford and the other 1.5 can stop the rot. After gathering data from 500 survey takers registered on an opinions-for-cash website called Opinion Outpost, The Power That Is concluded that the domestics have their work cut out for them. (Surprise!) Only 40% of this infinitesimal sample of alleged intenders (‘cause if they weren’t intenders they wouldn’t get paid for the survey) would consider buying a domestic car, due to concerns about reliability, quality and fuel economy. 

Todd Wilson, J.D. Power’s Director of Automotive Research pegged the blame on a simple misunderstanding or, to use the phrase currently in vogue within Ford et al., a “perception gap.” “The perception of quality is the point,” Wilson opined. Apparently, “Asians just have a better image of building a better product.” This despite the fact that many of Ford's cars and trucks are nestling at the top of J.D.'s reliability and customer satisfaction surveys.

To tackle these PR issues, Ford's ad agency (JWT) commissioned Car and Driver to test the Fusion SEL AWD V6 against the Honda Accord EX-L V6 and Toyota Camry XLE V6. At Ford's behest, the buff book invited 600 C&D subs to FedEx Field in Washington, DC to drive the trio of mid-sized motors. In a nationwide ad campaign launched yesterday (look for a "Special Advertising Section" inside next month's C&D), Ford claimed the participants rated the Fusion tops in “Styling,” “Handling,” “Performance,” and “Fun to Drive."

[NB: Ford PR declined to provide TTAC with the test data or methodology. Sources who attended the event report that one of the test Accords' radio and VSA (Variable Stability Assist) were non-operational, and Ford 'aides' touted the Fusion’s features, but not the Toyota or Honda's.]  

Although inherently flawed (AWD vs. FWD?), the campaign reveals a new, feistier Ford. If only the general public shared the spinmeisters' optimism. The Detroit News' survey flagged one reason for a lack of consumer confidence in the Blue Oval: resale values. Now that the Taurus is ground chuck and the Freestar has been sucked into a black hole, the Blue Oval’s fleet of fleet-oriented vehicles is growing smaller, which will help restore used car values. On the other hand, FoMoCo has promised to fill Freestar fleet orders with an as-yet-unnamed product, and the Fusion, the muy picante Ford Escape and selected F-Series pickups are being dolled-up with attractive lease and finance offers. That's good for buyers, bad for sellers. 

In any case, with roughly 530k current year units in U.S. inventories, Big Al needs more metal moved. Looking backwards, 2.6% fewer American consumers cruised from showrooms with new whips this year, and Ford was hit hardest. Mulally’s minions managed to move a mere 2.9m units. That’s 250k less than last year’s slumping results. December’s 13 point slide resulted in more Blue Oval blues, as ToMoCo outsold Ford for the third month last year. To add insult to injury, Toyota ate all of Ford’s lost 8% of annual sales, and then some.

The cost of freedom from debt will be high for Ford. But for whom? United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ron Gettelfinger and Mulally have begun negotiations on the union's '07 contract. FoMoCo’s main mofo is optimistic, declaring that “nobody cares more about Ford than Ron Gettelfinger.” Translation: Big Al reckons the UAW’s survival depends on these negotiations as much as the Blue Oval’s. Unfortunately, with the corporate coffers at capacity, FoMoCo will be hard pressed to convince the UAW to do all the giving. 

Failure to succeed in ANY of these areas in ‘07 will hurt Ford’s chances for profitable operations within the next four years. With all eyes on Mulally, his motivation to succeed is personal, not just business. According to Casesa Strategic Advisors LLC, Ford’s $35m dollar man has hedged his bets. John Casesa says “if Mulally fails, then the [Ford] family will have to consider all options, including giving up the company.” If the family throws up its hands and surrenders, Mulally’s $3.6m stock options (and restricted units) would vest immediately; he would also line his pockets with twice his salary and projected bonus. Get ready for an interesting year.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

90 Comments on “Ford Death Watch 22: The Spin Starts Here...”


  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    For years, we’ve criticized the 2.5 for ignoring the midsize car market while they chased higher margins in SUVs. Now Ford comes out with solid product and is chasing after Accord and Camry, apparently with some success.

    Good for them.

    I hope they do the same against the Avalon and Maxima this summer when the 500 is updated. And take on Civic and Corolla with the updated Focus.

  • avatar

    Even though I’m a fan of the Fusion (save its bland interior), given the test, the operative word there is “apparently.”

  • avatar
    ash78

    The market of people who “simply won’t buy a Japanese car because it’s Japanese” is only going to shrink over time–according to a recent study linked in the previous article’s comments, this type of national pride still a HUGE factor in domestic sales.

    In addition to that, the fastest growing part of the US (the Southeast, including Texas) is the place where all these dang furrin’ carmakers seem to be building plants and/or moving HQ…so where’s your allegiance going to be when thousands of jobs are created in your area, including your cousin Earl’s new $25/hr job at the Hyundai plant? I don’t know where the perception stands in Michigan or Ontario, but down here in Dixie I’ve seen firsthand many old-line traditionalists come full circle and embrace US-made cars with foreign parent companies.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Robert,
    I don’t doubt that the C/D test was biased, but I do applaud Ford for taking on CamCord, even in that forum. It shows confidence that they are not afraid to run with the best.

    It plants the seed in consumers’ minds that the Fusion is not only more reliable than CamCord (Consumer Reports) but also handles well and offers AWD, which the major competitors do not, for the same price.

    If they can then keep resale values high, the Fusion could be the beginning of the end of this Deathwatch series.

  • avatar
    Rakinyo1

    Asian/German manufacturers not only build a better vehicle, they also have pretty good resale value and customer service.

    In an annual Kelley Blue Book ranking of resale values that’s based on how much of their original value vehicles retain after five years, only two domestic cars made the top 10 list in recent years — the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette and 2007 Pontiac Solstice. Four Asian models and five European-made vehicles made the 2007 list.

    ” The Big Three’s resale value woes stem in large part from years of trying to boost sales despite declining demand. Deep rebates and massive numbers of vehicles in rental fleets eroded values. Quality issues and lackluster design also have contributed to an image among consumers that many American vehicles are cheap.”

    FoMoCo’junior league is forced to compete on a varsity global scale. They have missed an entire summer of 2’a days, the coaches are using pop-up playbooks and the star quarter back Helen Keller is licking the goal post.

    Good Grief Charlie Brown…what a bunch of blockheads.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Rakinyo1,
    Hate to always be the one to defend the domestics, but the resale value calculations that KBB and others print are fallacious and misleading. The reason is that they are based on the percentage of MSRP that a car sells for X years down the road.

    But you don’t pay MSRP, do you? The point is that the domestic pricing strategy has been to have a high list price, but also high incentives (some direct to consumer and some to the dealer). This has reduced their quote unquote resale values vs. imports.

    You are right to point out that fleet sales (not just to rental companies) reduce resale value, but its pretty clear that GM and Ford have curtailed these sales, Ford going so far as to kill the Taurus and Freestar.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Ironically, my wife’s ’03 Saturn (in its last year of 0% financing) actually APPRECIATED a few percent per KBB from 12/31/05 to 12/31/06, based on private sale. My head a splode.

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    Saw something today where Mullaly came out and said that killing Taurus was a mistake, that the 500 should have been the next-gen Taurus, and asked his team why Ford would throw away 20 years of name recognition to try to make all of their cars start with an “F”.

    Good question, Alan. Nobody at Ford probably ever thought of that.

    Also saw that Alan might bring back the Taurus name asap.

    Sounds like he is headed in the right direction, hopefully he has enough time to avoid the iceberg.

  • avatar

    The Fusion isn’t significantly more reliable than the Accord and Camry. They are roughly equal, both in CR’s results and in the data I’ve been collecting. Still good. But no one should buy a Fusion over the others in hope of getting a more reliable car. “Just” a reliable car.

    I believe that my research will do more to change these perceptions than CR or JD Power ever will by stressing absolute repair rates rather than providing rating relative to the average. Currently, many people believe these differences are much larger than they actually are, and putting everything into red and black dots promotes this misperception.

    My initial results:

    http://www.truedelta.com/results0906.php

    Next update around the end of February.

  • avatar

    The catch phrase perception gap or percieved quality is constantly put forth on internet forums by defenders of the big 2.5.

    Typically a portion of the JD Powers 3 year durability survey is put forth as proof that there is no quality gap. For some reason citing recalls from Toyota is also bandied about as proof

    Part of the problem is that they still do not recognize there is a problem. Most people I know base their concerns on quality on their actual ownership experience.

    Most problems seem to crop up after 3 years.

    Benchmarking a vehicle to the 3 year mark is not going to cut it.

  • avatar
    DaveClark

    SuperAROD: A name change won’t help the 500’s bland styling, but Alan is right to ask the question.

    A big part of the challenge the Big 2.5 face is that to change perceptions, the Big 2.5 needs to produce BETTER cars, not AS GOOD AS. Styling will cover up some reliability shortcomings, so it’s going to be “easier” to fix the “gotta have” deficiency with some solid design. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m sporting any wood over the new models…

  • avatar
    jurisb

    ford fusion hits the ranks only for the sole reason being built on a japanese mazda6 platform, for this gives it handling and cornering taste. can you guys actually tell which parts have domestic origin, and what percentage of fusion parts is imports? it`s like ford probe that itself is reskinned mazda mx-6. how do you fight imports, if your cars are more or less rebadged the same imports? how about if ford itself constructed a new platform, and build some cars? let that live rear axle die…..

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    To focus (pardon the pun) the attention of Mr Mulally and Mr Gettlefinger, they need to get out of their suits, lose the hangers on and go ‘hang out’ in California for awhile to see how the domestics have done in CAR SALES out there.

    Because, isn’t it a given that however California goes, the rest of the country generally follows?

    What was Ford’s sales penetration in California for CARS in 2006?

    Yep. The Ford Death Watch series continues.

  • avatar
    Rakinyo1

    SherbornSean

    In a nut shell Toyota/Nissan/Honda manufactures better vehicles, while FoMoCo and GM mock vehicles. Rick Wagonhead could not discern spark plugs from muffler bearrings. Little Billy is trying to whistle with peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth.

    C’mon Sherborn they are both jokes. Even Stevie Wonder can see that. Neither can compete on a global scale.

    Further more GM’s new marketing ploy to rile the heart strings and conscience of the good Ol’boy rebel flag carrying wanker plucking “this is our country” on a original HeeHaw banjo is very condescending. GM could not have been more biased with those commercials. They were better off having “Aint Skeered” ticker flowing as a banner across the tv screen.

    Why on earth would anyone pay good money for a vehicle/history that spends more in service then on the road? This is FoMoCo history. Dont get me wrong they make a hell of a pick up…but thats about it. Chevy makes a great affordable sports car, period.
    GM and Ford mock great cars while Toyota/Nissan/Honda build them.

  • avatar

    I was wondering why the Fusion didn’t appear in the latest C&D comparison test of midsized sedans (wherein a Kia beat the Camry!). Now I know. The beancounters in the advertising dept couldn’t risk encurring Ford’s wrath by publishing a test where the Accord would most likely beat the Fusion while Ford was building an entire ad campaign around Fusion beating the Accord in “unbiased” tests conducted by C&D.

  • avatar
    keepaustinweird

    SuperAROD – Yes, the Taurus brand has broad awareness/recognition, but for what?

    I would argue that in most people’s minds, Taurus conjures: rental, mediocre and other terms that I doube Mullaly and the FoMoCo gang would find useful.

    So maybe you see something I don’t, but I don’t think that Taurus is anything to build a brighter future off of.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Questionable issues about this comparison aside, I would like to give Ford credit where it’s due; they have shown a fairly remarkable ability to consistently make top handling cars when they put their mind to it. This goes back some 20 years ago when they hired former F1 ace Jackie Stewart to consult on handling, as part of a push to excell in that area. European models got most of the benefit, but we see it in the Focus, which is still a ballarina, though in dowdy clothes. The last Cougar was top notch, and the Fusion is as good or better than the best in its field.

    Regarding Mazda’s genes in the Fusion: Mazda benefitted from Ford’s expertise in FWD handling. Go back a couple of generations and the 626 was an average handler.

    Interestingly (ironically?) enough, in years of reading european comparison tests, Fords consistently have been at or near the top in handling, and even Opels generally do well in that regard. The knowledge is there; the US application has been inconsistent, and Ford hasn’t propery capitalized on it.

  • avatar
    SwatLax

    While the Fusiojn not being included in C&D's recent sedan comparo is good conspiracy fodder, also notice that the Hyundai Sonata wasn't there (thought the Kia Optima was). So it's not like the Fusion was the only glaring omission.

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    Taurus of recent vintage conjure up images of bland vanilla rental car, but for about the first decade of it’s existence Taurus was the #1 selling car in the world. 99% of car buyers have heard the name Taurus and know that it is a Ford car.

    Could Ford do any worse that the horrid numbers for the 500? They sold 6000 of them in December. By comparison, Chrysler sold 16,000 300’s last month, despite the fact that the 300 is a year older vehicle. And the Taurus sold 14,000 in December 05.

    Maybe a more stark comparison is that the Jeep Compass, a supposedly “ugly abomination” and a badge engineered vehicle that supposedly is a blight on the name of Jeep almost outsold the Ford 500 last month.

    Ask people if they know what a Ford 500 is and 5 of them won’t know, and 4 them will think its a pickup. Maybe 1 of 10 have any clue what a Ford 500 is.

    Slap the name Taurus on it, and it is new and relatively modern and reliable with all new sheetmetal and interior and you’ve got something vaugely competitive.

    Slap the name 500 on it, and it languishes in complete obscurity.

    Mullaly was 100% right to ask the question, and hopefully does something about it.

  • avatar

    I think the best way to raise perception of quality would be to lengthen to warranty (and I mean the real bumper-to-bumper one, not some fandangled limited powertrain one). If Ford thinks a new Fusion or 500 will only last 3 years/36k miles before something breaks then why should I trust it for any longer. Most buyers (myself included) are on 48 month finance and move on as soon as the payments are up, so having a warranty that lasts at least this long gives me some confidence that I’ll have trouble free ownership. Even better, a five year transferrable warranty would let the next guy know I’m not just trying to offload a lemon, and might help keep resale values up.

  • avatar
    nocaster

    SuperAROD:

    I honestly couldn’t point out a Ford 500 in traffic if I saw one. I have no idea what they look like…nor do I care to find out. When I drive by the local Ford dealer all I can see are F150’s and Mustangs on the lot.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I would like to direct all of y’all to my Fusion I4 with the Manual review.

    Cause, for the money, that car rules.

  • avatar

    Interesting observation Frank.

    I’ve got a call into C&D– both Csabe and their NY event office– to see what’s what with this test.

  • avatar

    Rakinyo1:
    January 5th, 2007 at 3:36 pm
    SherbornSean

    In a nut shell Toyota/Nissan/Honda manufactures better vehicles, while FoMoCo and GM mock vehicles. Rick Wagonhead could not discern spark plugs from muffler bearrings. Little Billy is trying to whistle with peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth.

    C’mon Sherborn they are both jokes. Even Stevie Wonder can see that. Neither can compete on a global scale.

    Further more GM’s new marketing ploy to rile the heart strings and conscience of the good Ol’boy rebel flag carrying wanker plucking “this is our country” on a original HeeHaw banjo is very condescending. GM could not have been more biased with those commercials. They were better off having “Aint Skeered” ticker flowing as a banner across the tv screen.

    Why on earth would anyone pay good money for a vehicle/history that spends more in service then on the road? This is FoMoCo history. Dont get me wrong they make a hell of a pick up…but thats about it. Chevy makes a great affordable sports car, period.
    GM and Ford mock great cars while Toyota/Nissan/Honda build them.

    We’ll just use the above as an example of “scary people allowed to roam the streets unsupervised”. “more time in service than on the road”? Give me a break…even a lowly Kia in the bottom of JDP’s rankings will likely get to the end of the warranty period with nothing serious wrong as long as it’s cared for.

    The poster’s attitude above is unfortunately more common than people realize. The belief-outmoded by YEARS, folks-that cars from essentially any manufacturer have a strong chance of serious defects is wrong by miles.

    More and more, I’d base a car’s “defects” on the care given it by its owner more than anything else. I have customers constantly with 6 digits on their odometers, all makes and models.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    woman across the street has a new fusion, nice car. i saw a 500 in a parking lot, it is certainly -er- quiet. Perhaps big round tail lights and fins would help (no – seriously).

  • avatar

    One last bit… …if Ford had actually followed thru in advertising the Five Hundred/Montego (and hadn't created the most depressing commercial in recent history for the Freestyle), would they be languishing like they are? I think not. I haven't seen a 500 ad since shortly after their debut, and the last thing I saw about the Montego was that it won an award (Stategic Vision maybe?) that Mercury didn't bother advertising. I've driven and ridden in a few Five Hundreds, and essentially sold two of them to friends looking for big, comfortable sedans…they still thank me more than a year later. With the recent weather slamming New Mexico, they're getting around better than most of us (my rwd super coupe isn't great for these conditions). Ford utterly dropped the ball, and I can only hope that the languishing D3s get some ad money when their freshenings occur in the next few months.

  • avatar

    jerseydevil: i saw a 500 in a parking lot, it is certainly -er- quiet. Perhaps big round tail lights and fins would help (no – seriously).

    How about some squircles?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Frank Williams:

    excellent thanks. The interceptor concept is hot hot hot. hope they don’t bland it up for production.

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    Here is the Mullaly – Taurus link of which I speak.

    http://www.businessweek.com/autos/autobeat/archives/2007/01/the_taurus_coul.html?CFID=13183679&CFTOKEN=42168091

  • avatar
    ash78

    Zanary
    Are you referring to the “joint custody” commercial for the Freestyle, or at least for Bold Moves?

    If so, that is one of the more twisted and misguided commercials I have ever seen (and I used to work in the business…I’ve seen a lot of weird spec ads)

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    (look for a “Special Advertising Section” inside next month’s C&D)

    That’s it in a nutshell. Who actually reads those? I know I always turn the page immediately. Anyone with an iota of skepticism will have their BS alarm flashing right away just seeing the words “Special Advertising Section.” This is marketing and renders this entire comparison idea weak and irrelevant.

  • avatar

    Yeah, that was the Freestyle ad I meant. Yech.

    As for the special advertising section…well…I dislike the approach, but the 300C got its own mini-issue from Road and Track before getting CoTY. MAybe the domestics HAVE to be obnoxious about getting their respective words out…quality scores are going essentially unnoticed.

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    Dave Clark –

    I pick on you only because your comment is representative of the thinking of a LOT of people.

    I disagree completely that Ford needs to build a midsize sedan better than Camry and Accord (and Sonata). Perhaps in some parallel universe, this is an achievable goal. In this universe, it is not at all achievable. It is a ridiculous pipe dream.

    Executives get themselves into a great deal of trouble when they set impossible goals. Impossible goals are not inspirational, because employees know futility when they see it.

    No, what Ford needs to do, first, is build a car of comparable quality, both in terms of reliability over time and perceived quality (design integrity, tight panel gaps, quality materials, attractiveness, etc.). Not better…not even necessarily as good as. Just comparable. In the same ballpark.

    This is what Hyundai did. Then, once they achieved that reasonable goal, they started shooting for “better than.” They’re not there yet, but it’s an achievable, inspirational goal and I believe they will get there, at least in terms of design (because the Camry is fugly and the Accord is dull).

    I continually see this in the automotive press – GM or Ford or Chrysler need to build a car that’s unquestionably better than a Honda. Impossible goals do nobody any good.

    Honda spent 2 decades polishing that diamond called Accord. There is no way on God’s green Earth that Ford can achieve that kind of success in one generation. Maybe 3 generations. Maybe.

    But in one generation, yes, I believe Ford could build a sedan that’s comparable to an Accord, a credible alternative. And just between you and me, it will look a lot like a Honda or a Toyota. Mainstream value-oriented family sedans should not look like gangster cars or Bentleys, because mainstream value-oriented families don’t want that.

    (PS: Ford killing the Taurus is just the latest example of the Big 2.5 spending years and millions building up brand names only to slaughter them and start all over. WHY????)

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    OOPS. I said Honda spent 2 decades on the Accord. I was off by a decade. This year Honda starts its FOURTH DECADE of Accord refinement.

    In the year 2047, do you think Lincoln will still be building MDXs or whateverthefuck?

    That question sort of answers itself, doesn’t it? How long did the Zephyr (exqueeze me?) last?

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    Submitted comment and it disappeared…try 2.

    I misspoke. The Accord is not 2 decades old, but three. This year Honda’s midsize car enters its 4th decade of refinement.

    In the year 2047, who here thinks Lincoln will still be selling its MDwhateverthehell? What happened to the Zephyr? How long did that last?

    These name changes are crazy. Names don’t really matter that much. Accord, Civic, Camry, Tercel – these are really idiotic names when you think about them. But it just doesn’t matter. And the D2.5 keep throwing them out for new names, wasting all that brand equity, for what?

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Of course the Fusion is averagely reliable – so is the Mazda6 on which it’s based. You have to wonder where all this would have ended up without any design input from Mazda.

  • avatar
    geeber

    It was my understanding that the comparison test did not include the Fusion because it has not been redesigned since the last mid-size sedan comparison test. (I haven’t received my new issue of Car & Driver, so I haven’t read the actual test.)

    The other cars – except for the Accord – have all been significantly redesigned since that last test.

    The Accord was included because it finished first last time, and Car & Driver wanted to see how the old champ stacks up against the new challengers.

    philbailey: Of course the Fusion is averagely reliable – so is the Mazda6 on which it’s based. You have to wonder where all this would have ended up without any design input from Mazda.

    Actually, according to Consumer Reports, is it better than average in reliability.

    As for Ford using design input from Mazda – if it works, I say go for it! Ford has been using Mazda’s quality processes and expertise in other areas, and the vehicles HAVE improved. Who cares whether Ford is tapping Mazda for its expertise? The customers, shareholders and employees sure don’t. They only care about the final result.

  • avatar
    ash78

    tlcastle
    To add insult to injury (I agree the Taurus name should have stayed), the “Fusion” name just doesn’t seem to have a timelessness to it. It’s very..err..nouveau and trendy-sounding. It doesn’t conure up anything nuclear to me, I just think about a California/Asian cooking style or an offshoot of modern Jazz music.

    It’s more than just marketing when you have to ride a name for 30-40 years. Accord is just inherently, etymologically pleasant…”D’accord” (Agreed!)

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Audi overcame “unintended acceleration” lawsuits and near death by…..
    …. wait for it
    …..

    BUILDING VERY GOOD CARS. First the A4 came, then the A6 and waddya know, it’s a viable brand! Is this mystery really that hard to figure out? It’s not about what you name a car (unless it’s a Nova in Mexico) and it is not even about reliability.

    It’s about how it looks and how it drives.

    If the car looks like dung, it’ll sell like dung. (Aztek, most of Chevy, Ford, and who’s kidding who, most domestics period)

  • avatar
    NN

    Wow…Frank, you are right on…I was also wondering why the Fusion wasn’t in the recent C&D comparo…they didn’t even mention a reason why the Fusion wasn’t included, which is pretty rare, as C&D usually at least mentions why a particular vehicle that should be included in the comparo isn’t. In fact, I would imagine that the Ford would have done pretty well in that company. Obviously, it wouldn’t have beat the Accord, otherwise they would have printed it.

  • avatar
    tracy

    The reason companies like GM / Ford can’t compete with Toyota is investment:

    From the Detroit Press (must be biased right???)

    GM spent $8 billion last year on research and development compared to $10 billion by Toyota. The numbers seem fairly comparable, until you consider that Toyota is splitting its $10 billion over 18 vehicle models, while GM spreads its $8 billion over at least 57 models.

    “Being outspent every year by $2 billion a year? Over 10 years, that’s a $20 billion difference in R&D, and that’s huge,” said Steven Szakaly, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “Eventually, your technology becomes obsolete.”

    http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060926/LIFESTYLE03/609260338/1148/AUTO01

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Ford Motor Company says softness in housing construction and higher fuel prices are responsible for their sales decline. And I thought it was the lousy cars!

  • avatar

    “Gardiner Westbound:
    January 5th, 2007 at 6:46 pm
    Ford Motor Company says softness in housing construction and higher fuel prices are responsible for their sales decline. And I thought it was the lousy cars!”

    Exhibit B of the public’s open-mindedness. This is why I’m not surprised occasional media apologists have been trying to buck the anti-domestic tide….

  • avatar

    tracy,

    You bring up an interesting point. I’m not going to argue about your R&D figures (though I saw a graph in The Economist recently which showed Toyota to be behind GM and Ford in R&D spending), but I will add a few thoughts:

    R&D spending is very important, but is not the end all be all. Witness Microsoft and Sony’s R&D spending dwarfing Apple’s in the late 90’s and early 2000s. Apple showed that it is possible to make appealing, valuable products without any special technology advantage or excessive R&D spending. Many other examples exist in myriad other industries.

    Even in the auto industry we saw GM and Ford outspending rivals by tens of billions of dollars throughout the 80s and 90s. As many TTAC readers can attest, return on investment is by no means guaranteed…

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Other than Evo I have pretty much given up on the dead tree buff mags anyway, although I was surprised that in a recent MT the Edge was given a pretty negative quick review (Ford not up their ad spending like they were supposed to?). You wonder when they will just go the Vogue route, 300 pages of ads surrounding 30 pages of actual editorial input. Well, at least the photography would be more interesting that way…

    The arguments regarding the Fusion’s reliability are circular by definition because it will take years for perceptions to change, if Ford is making a continually improving Fusion in 6 years, then those perceptions have a solid chance of changing, in the right way. But, based on the last 25 years at Ford, is that a reasonable expectation? Have they learned from the Taurus, or are they just going to do it all over again? That is what the Death Watches are all about.

  • avatar
    rohman

    C & D and J. D. Powers? Why the hell doesn’t somebody at Ford just get on the phone and talk to some of their customers and/or potential customers from lists supplied by their dealers? But I guess it takes too much effort. Better to pay a third party to deliver the message your boss wants to hear. Might get shot otherwise – dontcha know.

  • avatar
    nweaver

    Its not just PERCEPTION of quality. Its still there.

    WHen I got my Mazda6, I carefully considered which parts were ford (engine bottom end) and which parts were Mazda design (engine top end and transmission).

    In particular, the previous 626 ford-sourced transmission was notoriously bad.

    That said, I’d have no problem with a Hencho en Mexico Fusion, mostly because the engineering which counts is not Blue Oval, but the better Japanese design division called Mazda. To someone uninformed of the details, they still probably know what a Ford transmission used to be before Ford got Mazda’s 6-speed.

  • avatar
    wsn

    I don’t deny that some Ford models have good reliability. However, one(few) reliable model does not a reputaion make.

    If they really want to compare with Toyota, they should compare the least reliable Ford with the least reliable Toyota. It’s the lemons that truly piss buyer off.

    Call this “wsn’s theory of auto quality” (may not be very original):

    The quality (or reliability) of a car brand equals to the quality of it’s worst car model.

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    My respect for Mullaly just went up on hearing (thanks, superAROD) of his questioning Ford’s silly name games. Taurus has been a Ford label since at least 1975 (in Germany) – well before Honda’s Accord was on the scene. I bought two new (U.S.) Taurii, one in ’87 and one in ’95 and was very happy with both of them. I might have bought a third had it not been hit with the ugly stick in ’96. Just so I don’t get assigned to the wrong demographic, I traded in the ’95 Taurus for a Porsche.

  • avatar

    Ascribing the Fusion’s good reliability scores to the Mazda6 basis ignores the fact that the Mazda6 hasn’t earned especially good reliability scores. Sorry, but this explanation doesn’t fly.

    Similarly, Ford has produced many great-handling cars without Mazda’s input, the Contour and Focus among them.

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    ticastle: There is no way on God's green Earth that Ford has enough time you quote it took Honda, Hyundai, etc. to build a vehicle that changes perceptions required for a turnaround. So your "solution" is hardly more plausible than DaveClark's prescription. Ford can fix the styling dept. far faster than the reliability dept., which gets secondary consideration if you follow the success of the Chrysler 300c. I agree that the domestics have zero chance of making 20% better cars in the time they have left to bumble into something that resembles a true "way forward." 

  • avatar
    aa2

    Hi all, I wonder if any union deal will make much difference. Our union workers are increasingly competing against robots from Japan. So we cut our guys compensation 10%.. meanwhile the robots advance in their capability more then that in one year. Not to mention their cost/capability ratio. Maybe we buy a year, then we have to cut another 10% to stay competitive.

    America is a changing nation. In the 50’s-70’s demographically we looked like west europe. Today we still most resemble them, but increasingly we resemble Mexico, Africa and other areas. Those nations like Mexico or Somalia don’t have great car companies that can compete with the likes of Germany or Japan. No one expects them to develop companies like that.

    But we expect when people of those nations and cultures move to America that suddenly they will be able to compete head on with a nation like Germany. What we do expect with a Mexico is that foreign companies will build factories and assembly lines there. Adn that looks a lot like what is happening here in America.

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    Dr. No: I didn't offer "solutions", I offered criticisms. There are no easy solutions for Ford. There are hard, difficult solutions. But at least those are solutions. My main point was that Ford, GM, and Chrysler don't need any homeruns. They don't need to build cars better than, or even as good as, Camrys and Accords. Those are impossible dreams. They need to start by building cars that are credible competitors to Accords and Camrys. Once they achieve that, then perhaps they can think about beating those perennial champs. But to even make those modest goals achievable, they need to stop inventing and then killing brands like Zephyr and Lumina Taurus. 

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    And my point with Honda’s 30 year effort on Accord wasn’t that Ford needs 30 years to develop a credible competitor to Accord. In fact, I find it hard to imagine how you could come to that understanding based on what I wrote. My point was that Honda has poured a terrific amount of consistent effort into the brand “Accord” over a very, very, very long period of time, and this is what automakers must do to succeed, and the Big 2.5 fail over and over and over and over and over and over to understand this extremely basic fact.

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    ticastle: I think you should reread your own post.

    Do you really think the domestics have a generation to equal the imports? If you do, then you have far more optimism than most here. I hope you’re right.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    If somebody pointed out that the Fusion was missing in action from a C&D six car four banger auto test which included an Accord (1) to a Camry (6) then totally coincidentally C&D produced a ‘special motoring supplement’ from Ford comparing a 4wd Fusion to fwd CamCord in Februarys issue, amazing how anyone could see anything devious in that.

    I wish they had included it though, Johnny L’s jottings on the 5 speed cheapo cooking version being better than any auto at any price would making great reading.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    wsn:

    If they really want to compare with Toyota, they should compare the least reliable Ford with the least reliable Toyota. It’s the lemons that truly piss buyer off.

    Just from hearsay, that would pit the 2007 Camry vs. the F250 Powerstroke Diesel. Talk about apples-to-oranges, not to mention a stacked deck!

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to starlightmica:

    Just from hearsay, that would pit the 2007 Camry vs. the F250 Powerstroke Diesel. Talk about apples-to-oranges, not to mention a stacked deck!

    We are talking about brand quality (and the perception of quality). We are not talking about cross-shopping of one model.

    Who would be buying a 2007 Tundra? A significant number of buyers will be those who were disappointed with F trucks and who thought the Camry was good enough.

    Most buyers assume uniform quality within a brand’s lineup. And they certainly remember bad apples for a longer period than good ones.

  • avatar
    allen5h

    SherbornSean wrote: Robert, I don’t doubt that the C/D test was biased, but I do applaud Ford for taking on
    CamCord, even in that forum.

    And the main article contained this: Ford PR declined to provide test data or methodology. Sources who attended the event report that one of the test Accords’ radio and VSA (Variable Stability Assist) were non-operational, and Ford ‘aides’ touted the Fusion’s features, but not the Toyota or Honda’s.

    There is no doubt in my mind that in this comparison Ford’s products received extreme levels of scrutiny from Ford expert mechanics and engineers that fixed all new-defective warranty items, while the Honda and Toyota products did not get this same benefit from their respective expert mechanics and engineers.

    I am looking forward to the time when Ford will conduct a more honest and fair comparison whereby all the products will be randomly purchased from retail dealers and compared with all new-defective warranty items unfixed.

    I believe randomly purchasing in retail stores is how Consumer Reports sources their test/review vehicles.

    **********************************************
    Sherman Lin wrote: The catch phrase perception gap or percieved quality is constantly put forth on internet forums by defenders of the big 2.5.

    Typically a portion of the JD Powers 3 year durability survey is put forth as proof that there is no quality gap. For some reason citing recalls from Toyota is also bandied about as proof

    Part of the problem is that they still do not recognize there is a problem. Most people I know base their concerns on quality on their actual ownership experience.

    Most problems seem to crop up after 3 years.

    Benchmarking a vehicle to the 3 year mark is not going to cut it.

    JDP used to have 5 year ratings but they where discontinued. Interestingly, these 5 year comparison numbers where very punishing for the domestic 2.5.

    **********************************************
    ash78 wrote: The market of people who “simply won’t buy a Japanese car because it’s Japanese” is only going to shrink over time–according to a recent study linked in the previous article’s comments….

    …so where’s your allegiance going to be when thousands of jobs are created in your area, including your cousin Earl’s new $25/hr job at the Hyundai plant?…

    It is very perverse when a bloke walks into a domestic car dealership because “he wants to buy American” but once his new ordered car arrives he finds out it was trucked in from Mexico. This happened to me in 1997, and I swore that from then on I would buy based on best value for my money, not country of origin or lowest price. (And to do more thorough research too.)

    Very, very insulting to me that this manufacturer is now advertising with “this is our country.”

    **********************************************
    tlcastle wrote: And my point with Honda’s 30 year effort on Accord wasn’t that Ford needs 30 years to develop a credible competitor to Accord. In fact, I find it hard to imagine how you could come to that understanding based on what I wrote. My point was that Honda has poured a terrific amount of consistent effort into the brand “Accord” over a very, very, very long period of time, and this is what automakers must do to succeed, and the Big 2.5 fail over and over and over and over and over and over to understand this extremely basic fact.

    Also, keepaustinweird wrote: SuperAROD – Yes, the Taurus brand has broad awareness/recognition, but for what?

    I would argue that in most people’s minds, Taurus conjures: rental, mediocre and other terms that I doube Mullaly and the FoMoCo gang would find useful.

    So maybe you see something I don’t, but I don’t think that Taurus is anything to build a brighter future off of.

    When the dimunitive Honda Accord first hit our shores over thirty years ago many considered it to be a very low quality product, for several reasons.

    Many thought the very small size was not appropriate for the American market. Some considered the rear hatch’s plastic striker/locking mechanism parts to be a bad joke. And many considered that the laughably underpowered small 4 cylinder was made even more laughable for the engine’s penchant for breaking head camshaft bearing journals.

    Honda could have paid the jokers at C&D to conduct a bogus comparison with crippled competitor’s products, but Honda went another route.

    Honda did not throw away the “Accord” branding. Instead, they worked hard for many years to improve this brand. The “Accord” brand is now a huge sales success, generating profits for both the dealers and the manufacturer. What a difference three decades of hard work makes.

    Yes, I am biased. I am now the proud owner of a 2001 Honda Accord, built in Ohio, purchased new, and glad I paid the extra money over competing lower priced products.

    Just yesterday I went to Walmart to look at DVD recorders. Walmart’s lowest priced model did not have a brand name anywhere. Not on the display model, not on the box.

    This is what happens to products that do not have any consistent branding. They become the lowest cost to purchase items on the market, because consumers perceive that throw-away in the garbage branding is for throw-away in the garbage products.

    **********************************************
    Mulally does not need to pay the clowns at C&D to help him sell cars; all he needs to do is build a better product. I understand that the former is quick and easy while the latter is long and hard, but in the car business the latter is what builds product/brand credibility while the former is what destroys it.

    So far, I am not impressed with Ford’s 35 million dollar man. But it is still early in the game. Time will tell.

    Lastly, I want to give Robert Farago my esteemed thank you for making it possible for the proletariat to come here and debate/criticise/whatever about cars in a civilized manner.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    My 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis just broke 60,000 miles, and it is the first car I've ever owned that made it to 60,000 miles without a single trip to the dealer for any sort of warranty work. That includes my wife's 2000 Toyota Corolla, that had to have the engine's top end rebuilt for piston slap. Of course, this Ford is an old school Ford, designed back before all the MBA and marketing goobers took over The Ford Motor Company, and came up with the idea of dumping all their old customers to try to get the "beautiful" people to buy their products.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Even if Ford is building better cars, the warranty support and poor dealer network will still keep me (and probably many others) from shopping under the blue sign again – possibly forever. If I slap down thousands of my hard earned cash and take out a 5 year car mortgage, I want to be treated likes a human being after the sale.

  • avatar
    rtz

    From what I’ve seen of Mark Fields, he seems like a pretty good person.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to Allen5h:
    When the dimunitive Honda Accord first hit our shores over thirty years ago many considered it to be a very low quality product, for several reasons.

    IMO, the original Accord was already as good as any American sedan in that range. Otherwise how can they sell more and more every year?

    The popular perception worked against Toyota/Honda back then. But they overcame the adversity. And now the popular perception is working for them.

    In that sense, the D2.5 do not have a right to complain. They had that same perception advange for 20 years and offered inferior products.

    The D2.5 can regain the perception advantage, if they can endure 20 years after they start to offer superior products.

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    Cheezewedgie –

    As a Honda/Toyota fanboy myself, I’d note that Honda and Toyota don’t have very good dealer networks. Saturn beats them all.

    Actually that makes for an interesting case study. Saturn has great dealers and crap cars. Honda has great cars and sub-par dealers.

    Guess we know the answer to that question. ;)

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Ford is really taking a beating on this board, and as an Accord owner (and lover) I would just like to point out a few things in Ford’s favor.

    1. The Fusion is by many accounts in the same league as the Accord and Camry. Not because I say so (I actually have never been in one) but because Consumer Reports, Edmunds, lots of buff mags, Farrago and even Jonny Lieberman say so.

    2. Rather than sit on their hands with a decent model, Ford continues to invest in the Fusion. They brought out an AWD drivetrain, which is unmatched by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chrysler and GM. They clearly get that they can’t leave the Fusion out there for decades without real updates, because they know that competitors continue to improve their products.

    3. Rather than produce superior vehicles for 20 years and wait for consumers to figure it out, they are continuing to provide marketing support to the Fusion long after its introduction. Maybe you don’t like the C/D tie-in, and think that somehow because an Accord’s radio broke that it means the Fusion doesn’t handle well, that’s your opinion.

    Ford understands that one of the reasons the 500/Freestyle isn’t selling well is that they stopped pushing it shortly after introduction. Ford understands that they can’t just snap their fingers and sell 300K of anything anymore, and they are continuing to invest in both the Fusion product and brand.

    At the same time, Ford has killed lousy product like the Taurus and Windstar, drastically cut fleet sales, and sent home half the workforce. In Detroit next week, we’ll see that Ford is considering introducing new RWD sedans and is looking at their successful European vehicles for support.

    Isn’t this what most of us have been telling Ford to do? I’ll say this: Robert may be right that Ford and GM are going down, due to the cumulative effects of 30 years of disinterest and disinvestment. But at least they’re going down fighting, you have to give them that, no?

  • avatar
    tlcastle

    Dr. No:

    I don’t understand what it was about what I wrote that bothers you so much. My point was simply that building a midsize family car better than the Accord and Camry are unrealistic goals in one generation or probably even 2 generations, for Ford and GM and Chrysler. I see this suggestion offered frequently in the automotive press (not necessarily by TTaC). I believe these suggestions are futile and impossible.

    I do believe the big 2.5 can survive in the medium term by building CREDIBLE alternatives to the Japanese stars. This is a reasonable, conceivable thing they could actually achieve. And once they do that, in a generation or two, I think it’s entirely achievable for them to build cars that beat Accord and Camry, because those two cars are far from perfect.

    My second point was that Honda and Toyota understand the critical importance of brands, and the domestics don’t seem to get this.

    Although you didn’t come out and say it, I’m guessing you believe Ford and GM don’t have the luxury of waiting 2-3 generations to build cars that are objectively better than Camry and Accord. Fine, but here’s why I disagree. A large segment of the US car-buying population either prefers domestics or will ONLY buy domestics. This pool of goodwill provides a huge safety net to the domestics, and frankly they’ve been coasting on it.

    But in my opinion, if the domestics build credible alternatives, even if they’re not better than the Japanese competitors (and Sonata), they can make a profit that can be rolled into future generations that might actually beat those cars.

  • avatar
    michaelc2006

    How about the tagline for the Ford Edge? “Stay sharp with the edge, and leave dull behind”. The final topper….

    “The Edge is never Dull”.

    Is this the best they can do? There’s not enough cheese in Wisconsin for this cheesiness…

  • avatar
    monteclat

    According to CR, the fusion is NOT more reliable than the 4-cyl. Accord.

    The fusion looks good on the outside. It handles well & is reliable. Great. If Ford fix up the interior, i might buy one.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    Taxman 100 wrote: My 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis just broke 60,000 miles, and it is the first car I’ve ever owned that made it to 60,000 miles without a single trip to the dealer for any sort of warranty work.

    All this talk of reliability and we really don’t have any real data to prove a thing. Consumer Reports data is provided by its readers, that gives it a bias from the beginning. JD Powers data is the result of surveys of new car buyers and tells us what, which cars owners like immediately following the purchase decision. Then we have personal accounts of car nightmares of how this car or that car failed.

    The only way that we will ever know which cars are the most reliable is to get the data from the manufacturers on the warranty claims and repairs after warranty. Of course this will still be incomplete data because some people don’t ever return to the dealer after warranty, some I know don’t even go to the dealer when their warranty is still in effect.

    I have owned 20 some cars in my 50+ years and most of them were used cars purchased without regard to reliability data from any source. I purchased what I could afford and what I could see was clean and good condition.

    Among those cars which include American, German, French, and Japanese makes I only had a warranty claim on my 04 Honda Accord for a power steering pump. All of the others had repairs and maintenance during their life which I would consider to be par for the course. As a note the most expensive repairs and maintenance I had were on my Porsche and Mercedes Benz, both known for their reliability in the 70’s when I owned them. My most trouble free cars were a 67 Lincoln Continental, 1989 Ford Crown Victoria, a 1976 Buick Rivera, 1974 Chevrolet Malibu, 67 VW and my 2000 Toyota Avalon. From my personal experience the American brands win, the Germans lose and the Japanese brands are a draw.

  • avatar
    writewing

    Toyota management knows that its mfg. tolerances are 5-6 times better than Ford and GM, thus a much better product, longer life, fewer repairs, etc. Until domestics close this gap, pun intended, the game is over.

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    “Our mind-set hasn’t changed regardless of what our financial position is,” said Beth Donovan, Ford’s small car marketing manager. “We want to win.”

    Kinda gives one a notion of the scope of Al’s problem.

  • avatar
    fahrvergnugen11

    wsn:
    We are talking about brand quality (and the perception of quality). We are not talking about cross-shopping of one model.

    Who would be buying a 2007 Tundra? A significant number of buyers will be those who were disappointed with F trucks and who thought the Camry was good enough.

    Speaking of which, did anyone catch the latest line of Toyota Tundra commercials in which they showed how much bigger and sturdier-construted the brakes, tow-bar subframe, and chassis assembly of their Tundra than the same punier components their competitors offer?

    And to really hit it home, the man performing the voice-over has that rugged, texas twang that seems to communicate to their intended pickup truck audience that the Toyota Tundra is not only more rugged than the Ford/Chevy/Dodge pickups, but the Tundra is just as “American”, if not more.

    That tells me that Toyota is going after the Big 2.5 trucks in their own backyard and is trying to steal their lunch money. If these commericals start to hit home with the Texas/Southwest market, it won’t be long before that message starts resonating with the heartland. And once that happens, the Big 2.5’s race to bankrupcy court will accelerate even faster….

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    The pace of lost market share among the Big 2.5 would convince a fresh student of arithmetic that they can’t continue on their current path for another 10 years. I don’t think the talking heads of the Big 2.5 believe they do at current trends. I hope they do.

    I think Mulally is a great choice for Ford, and I am optimistic they can succeed, if on a smaller scale. Maybe Ford will start selling airplanes….just kidding. I like Big Al. Now if he would only hire me as a member of a product focus group.

    GM has some solid product in the pipeline. But even GM knows it must prune its fruit trees (Buick is one soft Apple). I think they need new design talent, because I’m not convinced they couldn’t pull another Aztek out of their hat. Please, no.

    I’m less familiar with Chrysler’s path, but I know their trucks need a major refresh. And whoever green-lighted a 4 door Charger needs to be put in charge of floor mats. The point is, the Big 2.5 can get it done, but no auto manufacturer has forever to get it right.

  • avatar
    Gotta Chime In

    2. Rather than sit on their hands with a decent model, Ford continues to invest in the Fusion. They brought out an AWD drivetrain, which is unmatched by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chrysler and GM. They clearly get that they can’t leave the Fusion out there for decades without real updates, because they know that competitors continue to improve their products.

    SherbornSean – you also mention repeated that “Ford understands” various points.

    If that’s the case, why the hell did it take them this long to figure those things out? And what proof do you have that they will really turn the corner in light of such epiphanies? I personally saw the Focus die on the vine – why do they contain to make poor decisions (rhetorical)? THAT is why they fail.

    Good commentary on the redesigned Focus and 500:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070107/ap_on_bi_ge/ford_s_car_gambit

  • avatar
    Gotta Chime In

    Whoops – HTML not WYSIWYG

  • avatar
    KixStart

    That Detroit News study referenced in this editorial, and in a comment to the previous editorial on Chrysler:

    http://detnews.com/graphics/2007/0102jdpower.pdf

    is extremely interesting to me.

    For a start, there are some thought-provoking disconnects between perception and reality. Second, the study leaves me with many questions. First, is the “Asian” end of this bi-modal? Would there be sharp differences in perception between Korean and Japanese vehicles and brands? As noted, fuel economy scores could be driven by ratio of car to truck population. I suspect there’s an fuel economy difference between Japan and Korea – by class, there may be a different overall fuel economy difference because there’s few or no Korean pickups on the market. How did that ALEAP survey of fuel economy work? Is it a reliable study of real-world fuel economy? I’d dearly love to see the results of that.

    Did the original survey actually probe differences in Korean and Japanses brand images? Or was this tripartite study picked deliberately by a sponsor to minimize the chances of a clear Japanese “win” in certain rankings?

    Beyond my curiosity about study methodology and data not revealed, I found certain aspects of the report simply depressing.

    While I’ve been burned by Ford, I wouldn’t say that I’m avoiding American brands; I’m not buying American brands at present because I don’t believe they offer the value and reliability that I want but I’m willing to consider them when I believe they do. I figure most of Ford or GM’s previous victims think like I do. The numbers do appear to say, some – but not a large number – don’t. A small slice of respondents is simply avoiding American cars (although this could be a convenient way of saying they don’t trust them at present). There’s also momentum to consider; people like to identify with winners and this is is going to lead to some American brand avoidance.

    Consequently, I’m stunned that the top reason for avoiding “Asian” cars is simply that “they’re Asian.” It’s practically pathetic that aversion of domestic buyers to Asian brands is Detroit’s chief “strength.” This is what’s keeping Detroit alive! If this buyer group shrinks, their purchasing power falls or their attitude erodes, as happens whenever any one of the Big 2.5 sells them a lemon and they see a satsified neighbor driving an Asian brand… It’s not a pretty thing to contemplate…

    It’s pitiful to note that another strength is actually concern for The Big 2.5’s financial health (as in, “I’d better buy a Chevy and help rescue these guys”).

    I note that this survey referred to the 3-year reliability survey where the American brands do, indeed, seem to be catching up. However, what drives the perception of reliability doesn’t end at the 3-year mark. I wondered if the 3-year survey was picked to make some execs in Detroit happy. Then another commenter mentioned the 5-year survy was apparently discontinued. This makes me wonder if JDPower is simply milking Detroit for all they’re worth(*).

    The survey also pulls out a recurring theme from TTAC; poor fuel economy, or reputation for poor fuel economy, is hurting the Big 2.5. Bring out the [email protected] diesels! Where’s the hybrids? Get a move on, [email protected] it! I happened to run across something else recently that suggested consciousness of global warming is affecting “intent to buy” if not actual purchase much more often than I had suspected (Good!). Detroit, if you build it (a high-mpg car), they will come! Probably. It could well be that elevated concern for global warming is also tied to the demographic that’s avoiding the Big 2.5 (younger, better educated, more money), in which case some flagship high-mpg, diesel or hybrid models might not help the Big 2.5 all that much. OR it COULD bring that demographic back to GM. Yes, it would get them extra consideration from me.

    As awareness of the Global Warming threat increases (yes, [email protected] it, it’s real), this concern for fuel economy is only going to increase. Detroit should have seen this coming years ago. In fact, even if a lot of very good science happens to be wrong (it’s not), the idea a Global Warming threat will still drive up demand for fuel efficient cars.

    GM, Ford and Chrysler can only get so much mileage out of waving the flag. Yeah, in doing so they’re playing to their base but that strategy leads nowhwere but shrinkage. They’ve got to take a hard look at why people are buying Asian vehicles and compete on those terms.

    By the way, I’ve also seen a LOT of TUndra ads lately. They’re good ads; I hope those new GMT900s are good trucks.

    (*) Someone else mentioned the difficulty of getting reliable reliablility data. This survey used the JDPower 3-year numbers. I use CR; they put considerable effort into aligning the numbers to remove some of the skew of self-selection. I also check Edmunds user reviews. JDPower says the Asian brands lead by a little. CR says the Asian brands lead significantly. Edmunds reviews (I haven’t done a comprehensive survey) favor Asian brands in the categories of vehicle I’ve considered. My conclusion: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If all three sources agree, then there’s a quality/reliability advantage to the Asians that Detroit can’t just hand wave away.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Good point, KixStart. Where are the diesels? It’s not like GM/Ford couldn’t have been selling passenger cars and small pickups with diesel engines for the past 20 years. Once the prices went back down in the late 80s, all the domestic diesel options were gone.

    Look at VW and Mercedes. They both offered diesel choices during the 90s and into the 2000s. I won’t be in the market for a new car for a while, but if I did suddenly have to buy one, I likely wouldn’t give the domestic makers a first glance. Their stuff is ugly, inefficient, and the interiors are crap (in general). GM keeps advertising 30 MPG…Ohhhhh, how exciting. It’s 2007 now, and they’re still pushing vehicles that only get 30 MPG on a good day.

    I believe Global warming is real (67 degrees in Portland, Maine on January 6??), so I think that we need to act as a group to slow is as much as possible. Supporting manufacturers that just don’t seem to get it doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. I hope the Detroit based companies survive, as I grew up in Southern Ontario, which has an economy that is largely driven by automotive manufacturing. But I won’t buy a domestic car until:

    1. Cars that appeal to me are introduced (Where’s the Euro Focus, or the Mondeo? I might make sexy time with a 2007 Mondeo if it was offered)
    2. Fuel economy goes up dramatically. (Where’s the diesel Euro Focus, and the diesel or hybrid light trucks?)
    3. Interiors are improved (look at VW and Audi interiors, and build it. It’s not that friggin’ hard)

    Well, that’s my 2 cents, from a 29 year old guy that makes decent money, and would like to preserve the planet we are currently borrowing. Listen up big 2.5: If you build it right, I might actually buy something from one of you in 2010. Now get to work on some cars that don’t suck. Chop chop!

  • avatar
    rodster205

    C&D did a comparison in the Dec. 2005 issue with the Accord 1st and the Fusion 2nd. Nothing about either model (of consequence) changed from the 2006 to 2007 model year. The 12/05 test used a FWD Fusion though.

    This pub stunt was done to create commercials (coming to a screen near you) as even any idiot still reading C&D can look back and check the prior test.

    Oh yeah, one other little thing…..
    The ALL NEW ACCORD will be out this fall…
    How many more years until an updated Fusion? 3? 4? 8?

    Any wagers how the Fusion will fare? The new coupe is now on display at the NAIAS, and since the sedan will have a similar front you can get an idea about the looks of it.

  • avatar
    MgoBLUE

    SherbornSean:

    I concur with your statement and position. At least the 2.5 are fighting.

    I’ve heard many say that all of this came about because of GREED. The Big 3 trying to maintain their robust market- shares, and focusing on profits and wall street instead of products and customers.

    I share your sentiments, SherbornSean. I believe they can “get back in the game” and I’m certainly not rooting against them. But the vehicles in my garage (not D2.5’s) are there because of the overall utility and value that they offer, and because of the experiences that I had with my prior vehicles, both D2.5’s.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    tlcastle:
    January 6th, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Actually that makes for an interesting case study. Saturn has great dealers and crap cars. Honda has great cars and sub-par dealers.

    It’s simple. Honda and Toyota dealers don’t have to be nice and happy to sell cars. They have lousy dealers because thier product is so good that they can get away with it. A Honda or Toyota dealership is an excuse to print money-why bother trying too hard if money falls into your lap without blinking?

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Did anybody ever think that the Fusion was just plain better, and that is why it won. The Fusion won in the “fun to drive” catagory . It does not have to do much, to “out fun” the appliance Camry. Fusion also won in the “syling” catagory. Has any one looked at an Accord lately? The thing is horrible front and back!
    Do not think the Amerericans cannot build cars, they can, and they will prove it. With all the strong offerings comming out of the big 3 this year and next, the future is going to get interesting.

  • avatar
    writewing

    Dear partsisparts, I wish you were correct about Americans’ ability to make good cars. The Fusion, frankly, is not attractive. I just bought an Accord partly because of its good looks (I guess beauty is in the eye…), but it also runs like a top. After 2 Acura’s we’ve hardly noticed the change to a less expensive Honda product.
    Also there was an accident nearby on a side road; head-on between a Fusion and a Mercedes. Guess which driver was killed and the other literally walked away.

  • avatar
    nino

    With all the talk about quality, where I believe the problem lies is not necessarily with the cars as much as the after sale experience. I’ve stated here my views on this with regards to GM dealers, but after an initial bad experience with a Ford dealer, they’ve gotten much better. This is the key.

    Things can and do go wrong with mechanical things. It is how they are handled that contributes to a positive customer experience. This is where the 2.5 need to work on.

    As has been pointed out, Ford has made a few good handlers in the recent past. Contour (the SVT version was a blast), the Focus (ditto on the SVT version of this car), the New Edge Cougar, were all better than decent handlers. I see this in the new Fusion as well. If Ford goes about refining the Fusion as well as bringing over the Euro Focus (even as a Mercury Comet, maybe?) as well as improving the 500 and Freestyle which are based on a very good Volvo platform, I see some hope for them.

  • avatar
    AGD

    I see many of you guys appreciate Mazda for Ford’s reliability improvements. But here , in Europe, all Mazdas are considered redesigned Fords – in fact Mazda 6 is the current Ford Mondeo.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Whitewing
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I hae owned several Hondas and I feel the new are not the cars the old ones were. Well, at least the new ones don’t rot. My Acura was way to expensive to sevice. But I was told by my dealer that it is a high line car so they are expensive to repair!
    As for the accident you saw I would expect the Benz would win this one. I would want my 50k car to protect me better than a 20k car. Also as you know it is how you hit not what you hit.
    Just check out how many old Tauruses you see compared to the number of Accords and Camrys. And how they have aged.

  • avatar
    writewing

    Dear partsisparts, Your correct about the expense of Acura maintenance. That plus the cost of gas: all Acura’s require premium, turned us to a V-6 Honda Accord.
    A relative of mine has regular meetings with the top Toyota people, both here and in Japan; so he’s in the know. Toyota will be the dominant car mfr. within 2 years. It’s market cap already exceeds the combined m.c. of all domestics. Again, severalof the key elements of their success are their obsession with close mfg. tolerances resulting in long-lived and tight autos, and an incredibly short design-to-salesroom timespan. I also own a Solara Convertible and it’s terrific. The third car in the garage is a Nissan Xterra, and we have confidence that each one of them will start in the morning. Writewing

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Whitewing:
    I agree with your assesment of Toyota. They are in a relentless pursuit to be #1 and I think they will get it.
    My assortment of Fords in my driveway are tight and long lived. My 96 Taurus has 240k and runs strong and my 99 Taurus wagon has 136K and has also been great.
    BTW they start up every AM also. Unlike my neighbors MDX.
    I also have an 06 Fusion and so far it has been great.The driving dynamics of this car just keep getting better as the car gets more miles on it.

  • avatar
    writewing

    Dear partsisparts, I envy your experience with Fords. I gave up after 10 years of a love/hate relationship with my ’91 Explorer ($6,500 in repairs, many unanswered letters to Ford). Finally sold it for $750 with only 110k miles. One experience like this can sour a customer for life. Similar recent experience with a Chrysler Sebring convertible. Also had a disastrous ownership of a beautiful ’86 Olds years ago. How many chastened domestic mfr. car buyers are out here? Scads me thinks.
    p.s. it’s WRitewing (play on words re: my political bent)

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    WRitewing:
    I understand your problem with American manufacturers. but 2 of the cars in question were built 16 and 20 years ago. 20 years ago Hondas rotted off their frames.Toyotas blew head gaskets like they were going out of style. Things change.
    BTW the sebring is more Mitsubishi than Chrysler.

  • avatar
    monteclat

    Ford quality is a perception gap in deed. I didn’t know about this until today http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/11/ford_lemon_lineup.html


Recent Comments

  • dal20402: It’s just a matter of time before every charging network takes every smartphone payment system, with...
  • akear: You are screwed during a power failure.
  • dal20402: Yes on both points.
  • ThomasSchiffer: @A Scientist, Probably because the drivers behind the wheel tend to be very aggressive and do not...
  • dal20402: Prediction: the proportion of spots with electric chargers will rise with the proportion of EVs, and will...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States