By on December 20, 2007

1996-ford-bronco-picture-on-snow.jpgIt’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas; at least in Dearborn. Ford has reinstated merit raises for their white collar workers. Bonuses for its blue collared brigade are under consideration. Ford’s global manufacturing guru Joe Heinrichs figures “it’s important to reward people for doing the right thing.” Which is… three straight quarters of besting Wall Street’s paltry projections and slowing the Way Fordward’s cash burn. With the long anticipated sale of Jaguar and Land Rover only days away, it would seem that Mulally’s machine is running smoothly. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

No question: FoMoCo’s financial outlook is festively plump compared to last year’s lump of coal. That’s mainly due to the fact that Alan Mulally’s minions have slashed and burned their way through the Blue Oval’s bloated bureaucracy. After paying off the United Auto Workers, they’ve taken an axe to Ford’s chronic overproduction, shuttering plants, eliminating shifts and generally cleaning house.

Bottom line: the Blue Oval’s downsized their cash burn from an estimated $17b per year, down to a measly $12b to $14b per year.

To celebrate this turn of events (i.e. better balance their books and lighten a debt load that makes Paraguay look flush), Ford recently spawned 62m more shares of common stock. And the stock found buyers too, thanks to the ongoing belief that you (and by that I mean Ford) CAN cut your way to prosperity. Why all Ford has to do to turn its ass around is… right-size the company to the point where production meets demand!

Only demand for Ford products shows no signs of recovery. The truth is, Ford’s “product lead” turnaround is still stuck in neutral. Indeed, the Blue Oval Boyz market share continues to erode. Reviewing their latest internal report card, Ford’s number crunchers cringed when even their employer failed to meet its modest market share projections: 13 percent. Currently (through November) Ford reps just 12.4 percent of the North American pie, and the slice is getting smaller by the day.

Not surprisingly, fingers were pointed outside the Glass House, at FBOC (Factors Beyond our Control). The usual suspects were all present and accounted for: the “faster than expected” market shift from SUVs and trucks to small cars and crossovers; the rise in fuel prices and the fall in the economy as a result of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Absent, of course, was any acknowledgement that, at this point, they should know better.

Ford simply ignored the North American customer. As analysts (and TTAC) have pointed out on numerous occasions, FoMoCo’s mélange of motorized product is truck heavy. Currently, the Ford brand offers customers six car models and nine trucks. Mercury’s ratio is better at 4:3 (cars to trucks). Lincoln, FoMoCo’s luxury marque, is more vulnerable, with only two car platforms and three trucks.

With the demise of the Panther platform (Crown Victoria, Mercury Marquis, Lincoln Town Car), three car models will disappear from the Ford roster, resulting in an even heavier truck-based portfolio. The Ford Focus is FoMoCo’s smallest model, its only American economy car. The 2007 TTAC Ten Worst nominee’s moving slightly more units than the vine-withered model it replaced. The automaker’s next next big thing, the Ford Flex, is just that: another big “thing.”

Bottom line: through November, FoMoCo’s car sales are already down over 24 percent from last year. So even the few Ford passenger cars available aren’t winning over consumers.

Auto analysts Robert Barry (Goldman, Sachs & Co) and Rod Lache (Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.) both reckon Ford’s decade long decline is nowhere near done. Not unlike Toyota, Honda and Nissan, Barry realizes that “demand growth will be greatest for smaller cars” and that without them, Ford’s market share is simply “unsustainable.”

Worse, Barry also contends that Ford’s current production-related savings are fleeting at best.  Because of increasing regulatory demands (i.e. new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards), Ford will need to spend more on each and every vehicle produced. In his analysis Barry figures the new UAW contract will save Ford about $4b in “structural cost reductions.” The automaker will need that money, and then some, to the tune of $11.9b, just to keep up.

The Detroit News reports that Ford Americas President, Mark Fields expects the 2007 US light vehicle market to hit its lowest mark in about a decade (16.4m units). Fields also expects that number to fall further next year, to around 15.3m units. Figuring 12.5 percent market share, that means Ford will move around 1,912,500 units. 

Of course this all depends on an economy that, the Federal Reserve figures, is poised to continue to weaken. “Modest” Mark said Ford is “planning conservatively.” They’ll “look at things on a month-to-month basis” and “take appropriate actions if things go worse than expected.”

Bottom line: Happy New Year!

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54 Comments on “Ford Death Watch 39: Bah Humbug...”


  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    With the Crown Vic and it's siblings set to disappear, Ford sells nothing I'd want to buy.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Great points Matthew. I have never thought of these things before. Gosh, Ford is in real trouble and they don’t seem to know it.

  • avatar
    DaPope

    They’ll “look at things on a month-to-month basis” and “take appropriate actions if things go worse than expected.”

    Whoa. They actually HAVE MBA’s on staff? What kind of company, particularly one with the complexity of their widget design and production, can actually play it month-to-month?

    Crazy.

  • avatar
    Rollmo

    Boy did Ford ever drop the ball, they should have pressed the last non- aluminum structure XJ8 into Panther platform duty and had a hell of a car. The bean counters could have had a field day with all the wood, leather and electronics and with very little or no development cost the full sized Ford could have been dragged into at least the mid 90’s. I suspect that the 4.6L engine may have even fit if they were too cheap to expand production of Jag’s excellent V8.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Ford will probably not go under, but I would not buy their stock. Or their cars either.

  • avatar
    V65Magnafan

    I have a 2000 Crown Vic. My cousin has a 7-Series BMW. Our driving is urban/suburban with occasional highway jaunts–mine in and around Toronto, his in and around NYC. I’ve driven both cars.

    Now, consider this with an open mind: On a suburban route, considering only ride comfort, visability, steering feel, responsiveness below 80kph/50mph, NVH, do you really think there’s that much difference? How many tens of thousand of dollars are these barely noticeable differences worth to you? The firmer seat? The stronger spring on the throttle pedal?

    Now, through the Alps, or on the Autobahn, maybe the extra sixty thousand dollars for the BMW makes sense. In suburban Toronto or NYC? I don’t think so. Through the Virginia-North Carolina mountains? Not even there. With winter tires in 16 inches of unplowed snow in Toronto? Nope.

    Oh, one major difference: My 2000 Crown Vic doesn’t have that huge control pimple on the console. My cousin’s BMW has it, but he just laughs at it. A complete waste of time and energy.

    I test-drove an off-lease 2007 Crown Vic a few weeks ago. With the unpublicized suspension and steering upgrades, the car was even tighter and more responsive. Of course, if you only study Ford’s advertising, you’d never know.

    My point is this: How much would it cost Ford to design a new front clip and rear end? Do a new dashboard?

    The Panther is actually a very fine chassis. The car development was paid for years ago. With a fresh facelift, this car would sell.

    Who runs that company? It boggles the mind.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Well, I never thought, I’d say this but I think Ford earnt their bonuses, this year! Financially, they got their house in order (apart from the cash burn!), which is key to their turnaround. The bonuses are also key to keeping their staff loyal to the company. In turnarounds, there’s nothing worse than staff who do not give a flying fig about what they produce. This will do their reliability no good!

    However, Ford still have another key part to fix which is their sales. In order to turn this around they need to look at their cars (every single one) and work out a way to make them more attractive to North American customers. This will mean a lot of money will have to be invested in R and D (which will do their cash burn no good) and need people who actually LISTEN to customers. I don’t think Ford need to concentrate too heavily on their reliability (it’s OK) as long as they make cars with some flair; one only has to look at Renault, Peugeot and Citroen to see how you don’t need reliability to sell cars.

    Brand portfolio-wise, Ford have nearly cracked it. They can have “Ford” as their global “everyday car” brand, have “Volvo” as a global luxury brand and use either Mercury or Lincoln as a luxury brand for North America. There may be some overlap in North America for Mercury/Lincoln and Volvo, so it might be prudent Ford to get Volvo customers over to Mercury/Lincoln and then get Volvo to withdraw from North America and concentrate on the rest of the world, I hear China and India are up for grabs…..?

    The “Ford” brand could try bringing one or two models from Europe to see how North Americans take to them. Maybe they could use either Mercury or Lincoln (depending which one Ford use as their North American luxury brand) as an experimental brand? Though, this could quite dangerous as it could end up as Ford’s “Saturn” so, this would be better when Ford are back to better health.

    The trouble is, customers are losing patience with Ford. I hear on these forums all the time how people would love to buy a Ford if they made a decent car. So time is running out for Ford to completely overhaul their car range. They only have 1 year to make at least 5 cars (roughly) which customers want to buy in order to achieve profitability in 2009 (as Mr Fields predicted).

    Tall order……

  • avatar
    radimus

    Ford simply ignored the North American customer.

    They’ve been doing that for decades, and it explains a lot of the mess they are currently in.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Ford should be like Dodge (only more mature and business-like) and sell only manly RWD vehicles (trucks, ponies and Panthers(!)). Mercury should handle all FWD/green vehicles (a Honda for domestic buyers). Lincoln should sell only large, aspirational RWD and AWD luxury cars and SUVs (as should Cadillac). It’s all very simple. Each brand should have a distinct raison d’etre that customers could easily understand and each brand could build on that product Ffocus. Of course Ford doesn’t have the money to implement a mantoy/mantool-appliance-luxury strategy in a way that the franchisees (especially Ford franchisees) would accept. Building up the confused and currently meaningless Mercury brand wouldn’t come cheap, either. Jill Wagner is all Mercury currently has, and she really should be selling Harleys Fords to men, not Mercurys to appliance buyers. In any event, Ford needs much bolder moves if they really intend to sustain all three of their domestic brands into the distant future.

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    I’m car shopping right now, and I stopped at a Ford dealership and looked at the new Focus.

    I know everybody hates the car, but I kind of liked it and it drove fine.

    Then, it came time to deal.

    I didn’t buy a Focus, and product mix is only part of the reason Ford is in trouble.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Looking at things month to month is all Ford can do at this point.
    F.B.O.C are a reality.Matching production to demand is painfull for blue collars.The alternative is more painfull.
    Will N/A go into recession?Who knows?Will the demand for small cars increase?For some buyers maybe.Mid size I see as the expanding market.The Fusion/500 is a really nice car.
    Right now I see fuel prices and the housing market killing Pickup/SUV sales.
    Folks will accept gas prices in time.Driving habits will change.Moving closer to work,drive less,car pool etc.The housing/morg thing wiil pass.Trucks and SUVS will make a comeback,not to the glory days of 5 or 6 yrs ago,but don’t write the truck market off yet.
    If Ford can stay alive,and I believe they will,
    That stable of Truck/SUVs will look pretty good.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I can’t believe the FBOC mentality. These guys run a company bigger than some governments. They are responsible for a lot of people and resources. Where is the leadership?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    V65Magnafan: I test-drove an off-lease 2007 Crown Vic a few weeks ago. With the unpublicized suspension and steering upgrades, the car was even tighter and more responsive. Of course, if you only study Ford’s advertising, you’d never know.

    Did the ’07 Crown Vic have an MP3 plug in?

  • avatar
    v65magnafan1

    V65Magnafan: I test-drove an off-lease 2007 Crown Vic a few weeks ago. With the unpublicized suspension and steering upgrades, the car was even tighter and more responsive. Of course, if you only study Ford’s advertising, you’d never know.

    Did the ‘07 Crown Vic have an MP3 plug in?

    Oh nuts. Back to the shopping list.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Folks, as much as I love the Panther platform. It’s time has come to bid it adieu.

    Why?

    Because the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis will be doing direct battle with Camry’s and Accords that get 40 mpg in the coming years.

    Because if you continue to produce a ‘legacy’ vehicle, a lot of consumers will associate your offerings as yesterday’s technology.

    I personally love the Panther platform… and RWD V8’s for that matter. I currently have three of them (T-Bird, Mark 8, Police Interceptor) as well as a Roadmaster Estate Wagon that is perched on my driveway. They’re all great cars but even when gas was $1 a gallon they were all tough sells.

    The T-Bird couldn’t hack it with an Accord or Camry that offered far better fuel economy and the perception of better liability. The front wheel drive coupes were far more sophisticated and higher quality even then (Eclipse, Celica, Integra, 240SX, etc). Most members of Gen X and even many boomers never considered the weighty and bulbous T-Bird. The existence of the Mustang and Camaro at the same price levels also hurt it even more. It was a sales flop.

    The Mark 8 couldn’t hold a candle to the Lexus coupes. Not even close. The level of engineering offered on those vehicles was far beyond the Mark 8’s capability and the assembly quality of Lexus at that time was simply the best in the industry. As a used car today it’s a great buy. But even if the performance and design had been improved it would be a very tough sell.

    The only Panther vehicle of that time which could have probably weathered a bit of the storm was the Crown Vic. Ford actually had an asset on their hands with the association of the Crown Vic as the police car of choice (at least once the Caprice went out of production). That could have appealed to SUV drivers and may have tied in nicely with the offering of the Mustang at the same price level. Unfortunately, Ford never invested in the model and now it’s really a rolling relic. A great car. But not equivalent to the other current models that sell in the same price range.

    Ford’s unsystematic destruction of so many good names will be one for the record books. I think the new crew is doing a great job but the company will have some very rough sailing for the next three to four years. Too little R&D and long product cycles have lead to some large liabilities that go well beyond the balance sheet.

  • avatar

    The market is shrinking, they’re reducing production/slashing infrastructure and still losing money by the truckload…so let’s give bonuses to white collars for slowing down the hemorrhaging? Fantastic idea.

    Ford hasn’t done the right thing in years, and their shortsightedness continues to amaze me.

    But Rollmo’s idea of an aluminum Panther sounds pretty nice to me. Think of a Corvette Z06 style butt whooping but at the $25,000 family sedan price point. (a fair starting price considering the current Panther starts around $18k) In this case, living in a dream world is fun.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Fields also expects that number to fall further next year, to around 15.3m units.

    Personally I think that’s wildly low expectations and an example of recency bias affecting peoples’ judgment. The Big-3 seem to be jumping on this car-depression bandwagon to explain lower production, seems to me that Toyota and other foreign makers are going to be scooping up massive chunks of market share next year.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    so not only does Ford have to give bonuses to prospective customers it has to give them to its staff to keep em coming through the doors – but of course you have to give out bonuses to the senior execs, how could you face them at the club otherwise? The blue collar staff?(“crickets….”)

    Maybe its time for Ford to get out of building cars, seems they don’t really want to do it but you know tradition and all that.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    In defense of Ford, I am quite happy with my 2007 Ford Fusion. When you factor in the discounts, it is a competitive car in the segment and it is pleasant to drive, even the 4-cylinder version.

    The nutty thing about Ford is that you can buy a varient of just about every vehicle in their lineup for $25K. That includes Fusion, Mustang, Taurus, Taurus X, Explorer, Escape, Edge, F-150, and Club Wagon.

    The brand cannibalism at the $25K price point is astounding.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Here’s my suggestion for a quick-and-dirty update for the Panthers. Ditch the perimeter frame. In 1960, Chrysler Corp. converted most of their car lines from body-on-frame to unibody, using much of the existing sheet metal panels. Extra u-shaped sheet metal pressings were welded onto the floor panels to replace the former frame rails. It worked surprisingly well back then and it increased structural integrity and reduced curb weight a bit. Imagine what today’s CAD tools could do to streamline the process. Oh, and add an independant rear suspension, FoMoCo already proved the desirability of this on their big SUVs. New front/rear clips, dashboards and seats and they would have a line of cars that have no direct competitors (in US or anywhere) and that would satisfy the motoring needs of a great many people.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I hope Ford has some interesting concepts or some definitive plans come January. There isn’t much in the current line-up that’s promising. The Flex looks nice and will probably sell OK, like the Edge is selling OK and like the Fusion is selling OK. Where are the Civic/Corolla, Accord/Camry competitors? Or are they fine having Mazda handling that part of the market with the 3 and 6?

    Mercury and Lincoln? Are you going to do something with them or not? The Milan is a better car than the Fusion, actually it’s what the Fusion should have been but it doesn’t really have a purpose. Lincoln? Is there anything they make that people buy? I’d hazard a guess that Buick might outsell them (excluding fleets). I really don’t see why it’s so hard to develop unique looking/feeling product for these two brands.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Maybe there are just too many car companies making too many appliances. It is fun looking at the lack of foresight in companies and these disasters make great studies in business schools. Turning around giants like Ford and GM take a lot of time and they may have used up their time and with so many other companies making cars we may have just got tired of Ford and GM.
    Who knows, 30 years from now there may be a car company from Bangladesh eating Toyota’s lunch.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    It is not possible to hack your way to prosperity. Ford has been hacking away for years now and with each passing day less and less is left.

    Oddly enough, the executive staff pay doesn’t go down as they shrink the organization, even though when a company is growing that growth is used as an excuse to pay the bosses more.

    Ford has exactly one reasonably competitive car on the market in the US, the Fusion trio. It is still nowhere near a top-five bestseller though.

    Getting out of the minivan business and the large RWD car business means there are two more segments where Ford isn’t even going to play.

    Other than the F150 and it’s derivatives the rest of FoMoCo is a bunch of also-ran products.

    The time and effort they wasted on the Blackwood, Lincoln LS, Thunderbird and GT40 all should have been going into making great mass market cars in sizes small, medium and large.

    And for **** sake, get rid of the Ford=F, Mercury=M, Lincon-MK_ naming disaster.

    Better yet, forget the whole thing. Shut down Ford’s US car operations. Make Ford trucks, Mazda volume cars and Volvo premium cars and just call it a day. Putting energy behind the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury car brands is just good money after bad.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Ford had to give the white collar workers a bonus this year. Considering raises and bonuses have been on hold for several years, 14,000 people were just laid off, and 3 or 4 restructurings happened in so many years in the midst of a total product line revamp, they had to do something to retain what talent is left there. They did succeed in downsizing and coming out with a slew of competant vehicles.

    Unfortunately, they have now completed the product offensive, save the F-150, Flex and the Verve. It may be 3-5 years before we start to see model updates.

    While the current vehicles are all decent machines, not one is a certifiable hit (ok maybe the Edge is a hit but doesn’t sell in recovery volumes). Not only that but the Taurus is a genuine dud, the F-150 volumes are drastically declining due to factors no new model can reverse as its profit margin is dwindled, the Focus is a dud, Lincoln and Mercury are a total mess, and the Verve isn’t even on the horizon. Their market share is only going to fall from here until the next total product revamp.

    Until they can stop focusing on downsizing and restructuring and put all hands on deck to create a total game changing blockbuster hit or continually refresh their lineup to keep it competetive they will spiral toward death.

  • avatar

    Folkdancer, Toyota is not eating Ford’s lunch as such it is more like Toyota eating the lunch that Ford handed Toyota. If you refuse for years to make high quality small cars and if you refuse spend money to keep your products fresh your customers will find someone who will. Toyota is unlikely to do that, their not as stupid as Ford’s prior management.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    “the “faster than expected” market shift from SUVs and trucks to small cars and crossovers”

    Oh please, faster than desired maybe, but gas has been going up for at least 4 years.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Guyincognito: While I don’t necessarilly disagree with your premise regarding Ford’s product issues—-you did overstate the depth of the issue related to their product cadence….its bad but not dire.

    By MY ’10—in addtion to the freshened F150, new Flex and Verve—-the following will hit….freshened Mustang and Fusion as well as new Global platform Focus.

    Addtionally—while we can have a good discussion regarding Lincoln’s brand management—-the brand is far from dead. It’s 2007 sales are up 10%+ and I expect them to grow next year as most of the new MKS sales will be incremental to the brand. Additionally—the rear drive MKR has a decent chance for production by MY ’10. Last—-with the Fusion re-fresh metioned above—comes a freshened MKZ that won’t be such an obvious badge engineering job—-it will have unique sheet metal, engine, and features.

    If Ford is able to keep quality / reliability up—they have a chance if they can make it to fall 2009 (MY’10)

  • avatar
    jurisb

    mazda, please get rid of ford, buy out all your shares and show them what ford as an automotive company is able to engineer themselves. hahahahahah. hahahahahahahah. ( an evil laughter in background, and music from star wars .)

  • avatar
    durailer

    Ford’s biggest problem is that Mazda and Volvo are making better Fords. The Focus is pointless next to the 3. Why buy a Volvofied-Lincoln when you can have a real Volvo? The Fusion/Milan are decent siblings, but suffer from middle child syndrome as big brother Taurus is lavished with attention.

    The Panther Platform shows the way, at least on paper. It’s fine that the Crown Vic is a fleet queen as long as the Grand Marquis is a deserving flagbearer for Mercury, and what’s not to like about a big RWD luxury Lincoln? Shame that the design three decades stale, you really can’t blame Mulally for axing this dinosaur; but it still has a loyal following, so a ground-up Panther refresh would be a wise investment for Ford (and just might steal some customers back from Lexus).

    If Germans can make modern RWD V8s, why can’t Americans?

    At least their trucks are doing what they’re supposed to… until they’re badged as Lincolns.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    umterp85 :

    Ok, new models may arrive in 2-5 years, but based on Ford’s past history… Still even if those models maintain or increase the volumes Ford is seeing in those segments now, I doubt they will offset the decline in volume, much less profit, of F-series trucks.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Years ago, when the Ford Escort-based Mercury Lynx was getting stale and not selling well, Ford replaced it with a badge-engineered Mazda 323, the Mercury Tracer. The old Ford Escort continued “as is” for a couple of more years.

    Seeing as Ford is lacking in the small car area, Ford should consider letting Mercury sell a badge-engineered Mazda 3 as a new small Mercury.

    A badge-engineered Mazda 5 selling as a Mercury would add some sales volume, too.

    The Focus can continue as is until Ford comes up with a replacement.

    Let’s give Jill something worthwhile to hype.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Guyincognito: Time will tell. That said, the one vehicle that interests me against the profit problem you speak to is the Flex.

    Depending on how this concept is executed in production form and marketed—I think it has the ability to trump the minivan in a differentiated way vs. the larger CUV’s (or should I say SUV’s)….differentiated style + unique functionality. I will be anxious to get a closer view when I head to Detroit for the NAIAS. Also, I think Mr Farago has given the Flex idea an inital “thumbs-up” as a vehicle to watch in ’08.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I was badly burned by a Ford product. Nonetheless I would not like to see Ford go down.

    After nearly three decades of development the Ford Panther platform should be the most reliable on earth, notwithstanding Ford value engineering designed to rob owners of every iota of value

    North Americans are not looking for BMW 7-Class performance, and won’t pay for it anyway. New front and rear clips and a revised dashboard would set the Panther up for another 30 successful years.

  • avatar
    moawdtsi

    You guys sure do have a boner for the Crown Vic. We had a dark blue ’88 growing up, even though it had a 5.0 it was one of the weakest, slowest cars I have ever driven. It had a nice ride in a straight line, I’ll give it that, but that’s what you get in a grandma car. I remember even when the car was fairly new I would jump up and down on the rear bumper and it was like jumping on a trampoline.

  • avatar
    Luther

    What if Ford started building competitive cars and still nobody shows up?

    Oh…Wait….

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Ford, Ford, Ford, what are we gonna do with you?

    I mean, if you allow me, I’ll give you a little interesting tidbit from Brazil. Ford was happy and content as the 3rd largest maker in Brazil with a market share in a closed market of about 20 to 25% (with our closed market, this was the norm for maybe 40 yrs, VW had between 40 and 50% and GM around 30 to 35%). But, there came along a persistent little bugger in the name of Fiat, who started out here in the late 70s and early 80s.

    Little by little (in an interesting parallel to the US market) the Italians (similar to the transplants there) increase market share by building, wait for it, more reliable , better-looking, economical, smaller, in a word a better product. Their market share slowly rises, 20-odd ears later, guess what? They (the transplants – Fiat) are the leaders! (with around 28%, VW 25%, GM 20% , Ford 10% and others under 4%).

    Last week, Ford launches the new Ka. Starting at about USD12 000, for no AC, no power steering, no electric windows it is nonetheless price-competitive. However, Ford has set about re-inventing the wheel. You see, in Brazil, when a new model is launched, the old one is usually kept in production. This allows the car maker to keep volume up because they have an older car to compete on price, but they also have the “new” model that because of the new sheetmetal will command higher price and more profits. Not only did Ford not keep the “old” Ka (good maybe for image, but bad business practice, regardless) they have targeted it squarely at the Chevy Celta! What’s wrong with that you say? Well the Celta is only the 4th best sold car in Brazil! Since all these cars are basically the same size and market segment, shouldn’t Ford have aimed the new car against the VW Gol, Fiat Palio and Fiat Mille (1st, 2nd and 3rd) respectively if their target is to increase market share to the point of becoming a really massive car producer in Brazil again? How are you going to increase market share if your aiming to beat the 4th best?

    I like Ford. Have had 3 of their cars. Own one now (though it has been the most dissapointing car I’ve ever had). But, like most of you, I don’t get them. I don’t think they get it either. Let’s see then how the future pans out since it would be truly sorry to see a company that has introduced so many great cars fall into the black hole of oblivion.

  • avatar
    rtz

    Fords got no new product and nothing lined up. No way can sales increase in any way.

    An electric Focus that was cheaper then the Tesla and faster with more range… That would sell.

    Here’s your miracle battery all ready to go:

    http://www.b2i.us/profiles/investor/ResLibraryView.asp?BzID=546&ResLibraryID=22794&Category=987

    Motor, controller, charger, and a pack of those batteries. Just use the existing vehicle line up and offer every current model as an electric. That will annihilate the competition as suddenly they now have nothing!

  • avatar
    kjc117

    Ford will live off of Mazda, EuroFord, and Volvo.
    Notice: they will not sell Mazda and Volvo because they need to live off of them.

    Ford NA=F150 and its offspring.

    Our company fleet cars are Taurus (old Ford not new Volvoplatform ) and a few Crown Vics. I don’t care what you Ford fan boys say. These cars are only good if you drive in a straight and smooth road!!!

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Jerry Flint is a columnist for Forbes and writes on automotive topics for others as well. He has been making pointed critiques of the 2.8 since before there was a TTAC. Actually he has been at it since before there was an Internet!

    His latest column is titled Mistakes People Make and he nails Ford but good for it’s latest pronouncement from on high, that Ford is going to have a global “design language” so that Fords look the same everywhere. Talk about a bad idea. Have a look:

    http://www.forbes.com/business/forbes/2007/1224/054.html

  • avatar
    durailer

    @ moawdtsi and kjc117

    those are fair assessments, now try driving a Lexus luxobarge in anything but a straight line (with the suspension in comfort mode… no cheating).

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    umterp85:
    Depending on how this concept [Flex] is executed in production form and marketed—I think it has the ability to trump the minivan in a differentiated way vs. the larger CUV’s (or should I say SUV’s)….differentiated style + unique functionality.

    The Flex is merely a squarer & wider Taurus X built on the same platform – the interior layout is virtually identical, and thus there is nothing unique about its functionality. Ford didn’t have the funds to put sliding doors on the Flex which would have differentiated it somewhat.

    Power sliding doors and more interior space for less money are just a few of the reasons why us minivan owners are going to stay that way.

  • avatar
    geeber

    starlightmica: The Flex is merely a squarer & wider Taurus X built on the same platform – the interior layout is virtually identical, and thus there is nothing unique about its functionality.

    The same thing could be said about the original Mustang versus the Falcon, and the original Honda CR-V versus the old Civic “tall roof” wagon. I don’t think anyone is going to argue with the sales success of the Mustang and CR-V.

    Looks and image still matter with vehicles, and the Flex looks more upscale and unique to me than the Taurus X. Also remember that the mechanicals of the Taurus X are solid, so there is still plenty of steak here…the Flex will give it some much needed sizzle.

  • avatar
    adam0331

    Back in the early 80’s Ford didn’t have much to crow about. Then along came the original Taurus. Not only was in revolutionary, but it put fresh life into the company. By the early 90’s they were talking about 5 of the 10 best selling with a fleet that was entirely (at least minimaly) designed off Taurus styling. There’s even a book from the early 90’s documenting how the Taurus saved Ford.

    We all know the history since then. All water under the bridge now, can’t undo the past mistakes. Although there are differences today the answer is still the same – Ford needs a blockbuster revolutionary product.

    As an ex-owner of the original gen 1 Taurus I hold a soft spot for Ford. At the time – late 80’s – it was a winner. It could compete with the Camry and Accord everywhere except quality (although I put 200k miles on mine with only minor maintenance) and it was far ahead of anything GM or Chrysler were offering at the time. Then they introduced the SHO model which was well ahead of its time as well, IMO. I didn’t consider the competition until the mid-90’s.

    Point is, the talent and ability is there. They just need to use it. I’d buy a Ford if they came out with this generations Taurus.

  • avatar

    Ford Just announced that they have chosen a Indian company to sell the Land Rover and Jaguar products too, more needed cash for Ford eh?

  • avatar
    casper00

    Bottom line Ford, GM and Chrysler can produce some of the cheapiest crappiest cars in the market but they will never go out of business because we have people in this country that keep putting money into the big 2.8 to produce crappy cars. Year after year after year it’s the same thing. “Ford simply ignored the North American customer” why? is it because the rest of the world havn’t driven thier cars long enough to realized that what they are driving is a piece of junk?

  • avatar
    PLZwiseup

    casper00 :

    Sorry you tried too hard.

    I just found an European Mondeo 2.3L review and correct me if I’m wrong. The author ( a seasoned auto journalist) hinted S-Max there are stealing the meat from German brands.

    Yes. THEY SHOULD PROVIDE THE BEST PRODUCTS HERE.

    link: http://www.autosavant.net/2007/12/new-ford-mondeo-23-liter.html

  • avatar
    Macca

    So, moawdtsi you noticed that too, huh? After just a couple months of thoroughly enjoying both the content and comments on TTAC, I’ve learned that there are a few common beliefs amongst TTAC’ers…in no specific order:

    1.) Panther cars collectively are the ‘ultimate driving machines’.
    2.) FWD = FAIL wheel drive. Further, those that drive FWD suck at life.
    3.) The Camry, especially the latest model, is an abomination.
    4.) The redesigned Accord is an unmitigated disaster.
    5.) Wagons rule, CUVs drool.
    6.) New car purchases are for fools.

    Now that’s not to say that I’m not in agreement with any of these statements, it’s just my observation.

    Personally I don’t really get the fascination with the Panthers. Such a love affair smacks of ‘lowered expectations’ to me.

    And if Ford has taught us nothing else over the past several decades, it is at least a stunning display of how not to run a car company.

  • avatar

    Macca : Your comment (and moawdtsi's) is very close to flaming, which is strictly verboten. But I'll leave them both, and point out that… 1. Many TTAC commentators do NOT share these sentiments 2. Less than two percent of people who visit TTAC EVER comment. Do not mistake our resident squeaky wheels for a homogeneous group.

  • avatar
    Macca

    Robert:

    That wasn’t meant as a flame at all…just strictly some observations I’ve made after reading many (way too many, according to my wife) comments. The Panthers are quite respected among many posters, which for some of their attributes, I can understand why. Large, RWD, roomy, and surprisingly decent fuel economy along with a smooth ride. I can see how many highway commuters would appreciate these qualities. For me, I’ve just never been too keen on the styling, nor the interiors, but that’s just me. I just don’t think I’ve ever come across more unchecked love for those things – I really had no idea they had quite that much of a following. Looks like Ford is going to loose quite a few potential buyers with the Vic gone.

    I also happen to be the guy who slows down (for sometimes in excess of 10 miles) on the highway for a white Crown Vic/Grand Marquis behind me in the distance, only to find out that it’s just a “civilian” car.

    Wagons do seem to be quite popular amongst many posters, and this is probably the one point that I agree with – if only there were more mainstream wagon choices without having to lay down serious cash for a ‘upscale’ brand.

    Being more mindful of the reader-to-poster ratio, I guess I should have said that from my (very unscientific) observations, it would seem that many TTAC poster’s (less than 2% of TTAC readers) believe…

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Point is, the talent and ability is there. They just need to use it.”

    Donald Petersen was the guy who led Ford’s recovery in the first generation Taurus timeframe, and he was later run out of town for disagreeing with the nomination of certain Ford family members to the Board of Directors. He was probably the last really great leader Ford has had, current management included.

    I suspect that the engineers, designers and project managers from the original Taurus are probably gone as well given the decades of turmoil, early retirements and layoffs at Ford.

    The point is, the talent referred to may well NOT be there any more.

  • avatar

    Macca, the sample you are using to make these vast conclusions is not random, it is self-selecting, therefore not appropriate.

    By the way, I think the Crown Vic is kinda lame (seriously, V8 with 240 HP…), I think FWD-hate is so 1996, wagons offer less than minivans but at more cost, the new Accord Sedan is awesome in its own generic way, and, well, yeah, new car purchases are for fools.

  • avatar
    Macca

    “Macca, the sample you are using to make these vast conclusions is not random, it is self-selecting, therefore not appropriate.”

    I know…really, it was intended as a joke – nothing personal, not an attack on anyone. It was misconstrued as something more, but oh well.

    Certainly, some ideas, like Panther-love, seem to be decently common, as it has stood out in a number of comments sections, with little to the contrary.

    “I think FWD-hate is so 1996…”

    Definitely quote worthy!

  • avatar

    I can see where you are coming from Macca. As for the whole FWD versus RWD debate, the 300 and the Mustang have proven there is a market for such vehicles and that they also have not slowed the sales of Camrys and Accords.

    RWD is a niche but some on this forum do seem to think that it is a magic bullet for Detroit’s problems.

    The most consistent fallacy that I see people make in their opinions is to assume that their tastes and preferences are either universal truths or at least mirrors that of the general population.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Way late getting in on this, but I thought I would throw in my two cents worth (Okay, so it’s not even worth that much on the open market).

    1.) Panther cars collectively are the ‘ultimate driving machines’.

    That’s a bit of an overstatement. Yes people on this board, as well as every other general car oriented board that I have frequented, typically trumpet the value of Crown Vics, but I don’t recall reading any posts touting them as the ultimate driving machine (other than possibly one person on another board that i used to frequent).

    2.) FWD = FAIL wheel drive. Further, those that drive FWD suck at life.

    I really don’t see that in the postings here, particularly the second part. There are those that prefer rear wheel drive, though, and they have every right to feel that way and voice their opinions.

    3.) The Camry, especially the latest model, is an abomination.

    While I wouldn’t put it quite like that, the Camry redesign is p— poor IMHO. But, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    4.) The redesigned Accord is an unmitigated disaster.

    Eh. (Shrugs shoulders.)

    5.) Wagons rule, CUVs drool.

    Wagons do get an unfair rap given that they are typically the best solution for the average family out there.

    6.) New car purchases are for fools.

    Maybe not for fools, but a used car purchase is more economical than a new car purchase. I think that the people who recommend used car purchases, wouldn’t use the term fool for those who buy a new car. The last two cars that I bought were both new. I just wanted a new car, and I could afford it. I do plan on buying used again from here on out though.

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