By on December 21, 2009

Show me the model mix (

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.

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17 Comments on “Ford’s Whiz Kids Adjust Their Models For Enthusiasm...”

  • avatar

    I never would have guessed that the refreshed Taurus (especially the SHO) would be relatively hot out of the gate given it’s looks  and it’s price (and it’s plastic interior).  But good for Ford. 

    • 0 avatar

      Were you expecting the Taurus’ interior to be made from one solid piece of wood? Besides it’s not like cars priced around the Taurus’ bring much to the table in terms of ultra refinement anyhow. You have to spend a lot more money if you’re looking for that…

  • avatar

    Mid level and high end SHO are selling well?  Good for Ford.  My prediction is once that demand is met, the lower trimmed models will be more popular as it gets cross-shopped with the Impala.

  • avatar

    Ah, so everyone was wrong about the level of demand for a $37,000+ Taurus.  Big surprise.  That’s why most enthusiasts aren’t marketing people.  And vice versa.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen 1 or 2 Tauri here in the heart of Domestic-land, but never would have guessed the numbers told a different story than my own sightings.

    I’m not a big fan of the styling, but it’s pretty nice. The “tiny windows/high beltline” trend seems too go a bit too far on this one.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The high beltlines are at least in part a response to the desire for better side impact protection, particularly when the impacting vehicle is a truck.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Horner, I’m willing to believe high beltlines can be better protection in the event of a side impact, but I’ve not seen any reports that mention structural changes made to take advantage of taller sides. If there’s nothing but sheet metal for a foot below the beltline, it would seem the car remains just as vulnerable. Have you run across a piece on this?
      Also, the fact that roofs and windows got squashed (i.e., reduced “crush zone” for occupants heads) while beltlines rose leads me to suspect this is essentially a styling fad.  I guess I still like the proportions of a BMW 2002.

  • avatar

    Maybe this is due to a “Buy anything but GM” phenom?
    Having a supply deficit on anything in this economy is a real feather in Ford’s cap.
    I too am mystified at the demand for a $37k Taurus. Too bad Ford doesn’t release its full set of demo data on who is buying these and where.

    +I always thought it was funny that they tried to move the Taurus up, and have the Fusion occupy the more-affordable-midsize-sedan bracket that Taurus started out as. Why not reverse that?
    Oh, well

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, willman, interesting question…model names have traditionally moved downward in price brackets and the new name has gone to the new top model. I don’t know if they did this on purpose or it just happened.

      But then Fusion is kind of a weird name anyway. It reminds one of nuclear fusion which is too expensive to happen, cold fusion which is likely to be the same kind of shuck as global warming, or a kind of jazz music that not very many people listen to. Or maybe confusion….

    • 0 avatar

      Part of the mix up is due to the fact that Ford dropped the Taurus name in favor of the 500, part of a misbegotten notion that having all model names begin with the same letter (F for Ford, M for Mercury) was a good marketing strategy. When Mulally came on board, one of his first questions was why did they drop the Taurus name, one of the most recognized brand names around. I think that when they brought it back, they opted to move it up more into Crown Vic territory.

  • avatar

    Ford weren’t the only ones wrong about the Taurus. Farrago dismissed it as part of his Ford deathwatch series (before it was even on sale) and many other automotive blogs balked at the $37K+ price of the SHO. Good for Ford – aiming high is the only way forward.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Now that is funny, Ford caught not having enough Taurus SHO’s in the production plan just months after many armchair quarterbacks declared the SHO a looser.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen, brother.

      Its just like the soon to come Fiesta.
      All the car nuts are demanding the hatch, yet evertime one is offered, the general dumb ass public picks the sedan.

      Having driven this Taurus, I really would like one.
      But got the MKS with ecoboost instead.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Nothing wrong with a little scarcity to increase desirability.

  • avatar

    Are these the kids who market / advertise the S  H O as SHOW?

    Real winners if ya ask me.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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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