Ford CEO: "There's Really Not a Bad Time to Launch a New Vehicle"
No, of course not. And the sentiment is doubly true– OK "applicable"– if you're the CEO of Ford just before launching a new full-size pickup. Especially when full-size pickups sales are down 23 percent over the last three years. And falling. Of course, what else could Alan Mulally say? The F150 is still the country's best-selling vehicle, Ford has to defend its turf and the launch was planned at least three years ago. "What we have to manage is bringing down the overall volume on the trucks and SUVs," Big Al told Automotive News [AN sub]. "As we make this awesome transition to the new one." Like, totally. Big Al's "there's no such thing as bad timing" remark also refers to ALL of FoMoCo's '08 releases. As AN reports, "Ford still aims to hit volume targets previously established for the 2009 Ford Flex crossover and 2009 Lincoln MKS sedan." There's nothing on predicted F150 volumes, but Ford plans to sell between 75k and 100k Flexes and 36k Lincoln MKS per year. Big Al's theory: "Higher gasoline prices shouldn't hurt volumes of the Flex and MKS because consumers who were driving big SUVs are turning to cars and crossovers. They want improved fuel efficiency, but still may need the space of a bigger car." May? Uh-oh.
Al should know that for a lot of people, it doesn’t make economic sense to trade in a recent model Explorer for a new Edge. There is, for example, about a $20,000 difference between what you could get for a 2005 Explorer in excellent condition today and what you would have to pay for a similarly equipped 2008 Edge. Assuming 15,000 miles driven per year, the break even point is over twenty years out with $5.00 gasoline. Even allowing for warranty savings on a new vs. used car, the Explorer is still probably cheaper to keep for a long time.
I think Ford updating the F-150 is in their longer-term interest. Like Farrago was saying a week ago, gas prices are heavily inflated right now, its more of a bubble than a physical supply-side issue. The F-150 is a vehicle that has a built-in market (people who actually need trucks) so there is a basement to how low the numbers go (I wonder where that number is). I think this also shows Ford is under much better management as far as product planning goes, especially for the long term. The American automakers, and Ford in particular, used the 90's SUV heyday slush-funds to do incredibly foolish things, like buy automakers that compete with in-house brands (Land Rover SUV's). And management's thinking back then was short-sighted, they thought SUV's were here to stay and essentially let their car models rot and die on the vine, because there was no action (profits) in that demographic. This led to the death of the Taurus as a viable model, and whole brands like Lincoln became cannibalized into selling high-margin Explorers with lock-washers and leather, essentially letting the whole luxury-car biz slip away for foreign competitors and a re-surgent Cadillac. The Focus was Ford's only viable small car, and it was supposed to be a "world car" not primarily intended for U.S. consumers. Ford let the Festiva die. The Fusion being the decent, good-looking ride (why isn't THAT called a Taurus?) is an anomaly from that era, the Ford 500 was supposed to be as SUV-like of a car as possible. If Ford doesn't update their best-seller and keep it competitive, they will bleed market share to competitors. While that market is currently the unpopular one, it is critical to Ford's success and the brand equity it still has with people who like Ford. Also, ignoring the morbund demographic that light trucks currently is will leave you uncompetitive and behind your peers when it picks up again, which it inevitably will. Ford lost their car business in the '90's chasing the e-z SUV money, it would be incredibly foolish of them to make the same mistake in reverse now. And for that matter, I don't see Toyota killing off the Tundra, they will stick with it, maybe even export it, whatever. Toyota knows there is money in the light-truck business, if not today, then tomorrow. Toyota plays for tomorrow's sale as much as today's which is kind of a key to their success. Maybe Ford learned something actually.
I was right. The sales numbers are in, and the Camry (51,291 sales) beat the F-Series (42,973) for the best selling vehicle in the country in May.
Kevin, By now you should have seen pictures of the production Fiesta. Aside from smaller wheels and a less blingy interior it is damn close to the Verve. So much for the uglification process... I agree with some of the above comments: Ford gets criticized for an "old" fleet, so they upgrade... only to get criticized some more. What's up with that? We (and I include myself) are just a bunch of whiners. BTW, the person who can possibly blame Mulally for products conceived and launched before his tenure (start date circa Sept. 2006) ought to be shot, pronounced guilty of being brain-dead. Even if he mandated all-new products the moment he walked through the door at Dearborn it should would have taken 2-3 years to see the lights of a showroom.