Ford's Whiz Kids Adjust Their Models For Enthusiasm

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Ford’s pointy-headed crew of sales forecasters have been compared to the original “Whiz Kids” and credited with a major role in Ford’s (relative) success in the last year. But you can’t calculate everything through statistical analysis, and it seems the models coming out of Ford’s Global Lifecycle Analytics Department failed to take irrational enthusiasm into account. Which is frankly, fairly understandable. The $37,000+ Taurus SHO starts at a full $12k more than a base model, making it a 365 hp halo more than a legitimate sales threat, and yet Ford’s forecasters seem to have underestimated demand for the turbocharged model, with at least one dealer reporting an 80 day wait on a sold order. “It’s a problem for our dealers,” Ford’s Jim Farley admits to Automotive News [sub], “we’re definitely catching up on the demand.” Mid-range SEL trim levels have also been underproduced, says Farley, along with F-150 double cabs. “If you don’t call it, you miss that opportunity and customers don’t see what they want to buy.”

But forecasting human behavior is never easy, and determining production mixes will always be a matter of trial and error. One of the few ways to improve the models is to increase the amount of data flowing to them, which is where programs like Ford’s Fiesta Movement come in. By giving 100 potential consumers access to the vehicle prior to US production, Ford claims it has gained valuable insight into the model and trim-level mix needed for production. “We have 100 customers and they all have friends and they told us exactly what they would buy,” explains Farley. Similarly, the Fiesta’s pre-production reservation system allows the Whiz Kids to plug data into their models right up to the last minute, theoretically creating the most accurate production mix. And they need all the help they can get: at 60-70 days supply across all models, Ford’s inventories are hardly too low. Refining the production mix remains a crucial task as Ford struggles out of its hole.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • FloorIt FloorIt on Dec 22, 2009

    If the whiz kids aren't arrogant they'll take this experience and learn. I worked at a marketing research firm about five years and rarely did the actual buy numbers come close to matching calculated expectations. A greater demand than expected along with initial under production is a good problem to have and solve, rather than less demand and idle production.

  • Pacificpom2 Pacificpom2 on Dec 22, 2009

    It's nice to see a decent looking American car these days, apart from Ford's obsession with chrome grills. It's a nice pointer to see where the Aussie Fords might be heading

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