By on June 3, 2008

2008-lincoln-mks-06.jpgNo, 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. 

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15 Comments on “Ford CEO: “There’s really not a bad time to launch a new vehicle”...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    Think of it this way: the Flex has the space of an Explorer, can tow 4500lbs, costs the same, yet gets 5mpg better highway.

    The MKS puts Lincoln back into the luxury market, hopefully the interior quality is there.

    Despite the gas prices, Ford still needs a competitive truck, and the new F150 will keep them in the lead

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Ford CEO: “There’s really not a bad time to launch a new vehicle”

    Yes, there is. Before it’s ready is a bad time.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    In mid-America the F-150 is still their biggest seller, followed by Foci, Fusions and Escapes.

    So, bringing out a freshened F-150 simply makes sense. Still I’d bet dollars to donuts that they’d better off, if the European Focus was ready for US production. I’ve noticed that it is already on sale in Mexico.

  • avatar
    detroit1701

    The Euro Focus and Kuga will replace our Focus and Escape in 2010.

  • avatar
    BKW

    Look at it this way:

    Explorer sales have hit the toilet, and the Flex is as homely as a mud fence. Who’s gonna buy one?

    The Lincoln lost what little it had of the luxury market years ago, so who’s gonna buy a MKS, especially since it’s nothing more than a Ford under the skin?

    The “new” F150 is nothing more than a modest restyle. The hideous front fenders look like they were grafted off a Nissan Frontier.

    Ford oughtta call the new F150 the miracle model…if it surpasses the 2006 F150’s sales figures, it’ll be a miracle!

  • avatar
    Mud

    …and the launch was planned at least three years ago.

    In today’s rapidly changing times, 3 years is like 30 years.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Ya know—-I see all sorts of cynical comments and complaints (most right on point !) on the age of the Ford fleet on this site and how they let their product rot on the vine.

    Ford updates the fleet and what do I see….cynical comments and complaints. You can’t have it both ways.

    Look—all of the updates need to happen and were planned 2-3 years ago. Ford has recognized past product mix mistakes and is getting new “car” product to market in the form of the Euro Focus, Fiesta, and refreshed Fusion.

    Do I wish it was ’09 vs ’10 that the full product portfolio refresh would happen—without a doubt….Ford would be in much better shape.

    That said, am I happy that Ford has a solid product plan to get to back to bright—absolutely.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Freshening the F150, even in a falling market, is something Ford simply has to do. You can’t let the best seller rot. I like the idea of the Flex, but am skeptical about it hitting 100k units per year. I hope it does, but the US market has not been kind to the Pacifica and Taurus-X.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    May’s sales results have not yet been announced. However, there is a good chance that the Toyota Camry sold more than the Ford F-150 in May. In April, Toyota sold 40,016 Camrys and Ford sold 44,813 F-Series pickups, and gas prices have only gone up since then.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Well he’d be right if he were talking about the Verve. Almost embarrassed to admit it, but that was my favorite car at the Detroit show — probably because it looks a lot more like a Honda than a Ford.

    Of course it’s still a concept, they haven’t run it through the mandatory uglification process yet.

  • avatar
    netrun

    I’m with Mulally, if you can provide a better product than you currently have on the market, it’s never a bad time to launch the new one. All of the costs associated with design/development/launch are all sunk anyway, you might as well sell it. You have nothing to lose.

    That said, I wonder whether Toyota has told their Tacoma “refresh” team to slow down their efforts since they’d probably like to stop the bleeding. Seeing as GM is taking the hard way out and shutting down four plants, very soon Ford may have the newest, most advanced truck out on the market for a long time.

    That’d make Ford the smartest guys in the room. It’s been a long time coming…

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    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.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    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.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    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.

  • avatar
    James2

    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.

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