Ford Touts "New Whiz Kids"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Unlike Chrysler and GM, Ford has managed to minimize the downward depreciation spiral that’s been plaguing business models across Detroit. In fact, FoMoCo has increased its net pricing by $1.9b in the first half of this year alone. Ford explains this achievement with a reach back to history: a team of 19 P.H.D.s tasked with managing pricing, production and option mixes is given credit, and compared with the “Whiz Kids” of the post-war era in the Detroit News. “They are unbelievable,” gushes Ford’s Jim Farley. “It’s very scientific. I’ve never seen anything like it in our industry.” The Global Lifecycle Analytics Department (GLAD) was formed in 2000, as a modern-day equivalent to the statistical analysis pioneers hired to bring Ford back from the brink of oblivion in the 1940s. By 2005 the team, led by Rose “The Silent Lamb” Peng, had figured out that “the resale value of Ford’s cars and trucks was being eroded by sales of poorly contented vehicles to rental agencies.” Go figure. Let’s hear it for statistical analysis.

Instead of just trying to sell the vehicles to push up volume, we are actually giving the customer higher value with their product and pulling back incentives. At the end of the day, they will have lower cost of ownership and higher residual value.

And how did GLAD reach these conclusions about product mix and strategy? “Before, it was more art than science. Now it is definitely more science-based,” says Peng. And though Ford is spinning GLAD’s achievements as a triumph of neo-Whiz Kiddery, the emphasis on science seemed to yield results that make sense on the good, old-fashioned common sense level. And a rule-by-spreadsheet can have its downsides. Just ask the current batch of Wall Street “Whiz Kids.” Or the original Whiz Kid, Jack Reith, who “scientifically determined ” that Ford needed a new mid-range brand, a calculation that ended up in the Edsel debacle. And I’m not even going to touch the Vietnam War or the transition at Ford to an architectonic corporate panopticon (for obvious reasons).

All the same, results do speak for themselves. And like all things Ford, those results look good… when compared to GM and Chrysler. Can you imagine GM’s Susan Docherty poring over spreadsheets for hours, or earning the nickname “Silent Lamb”? Besides, even Peng admits that the Whiz Kid allusion is pure Ford PR. “I don’t think we can compare ourselves with them,” she says. “It is enough of a reward for us when the company uses our models.” Which is something no original Whiz Kid, a pack of high-flying, we-know-best executives, would have ever been caught dead telling a newspaper.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Oct 11, 2009
    Whiz kids make a nice complement to old farts, but never a replacement. Intelligence and wisdom are two different things. Whiz kids are those who have not yet been beaten into submission by the conservative lifer old farts who believe changes are "gimmicks".
  • Don1967 Don1967 on Oct 12, 2009
    Whiz kids are those who have not yet been beaten into submission by the conservative lifer old farts who believe changes are “gimmicks”. Nobody is beating anybody into submission. I suggested that old farts can indeed benefit by having whiz kids around. But when the whiz kids start slapping hardware store novelty gas caps and turbochargers into Tauruses, you need the wisdom of somebody who's been there before to intervene. Otherwise you simply repeat history's mistakes. Remember that old farts are whiz kids too. They just have more practice at it.
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
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