By on May 22, 2016

Jim Farley, Image: Sam VarnHagen/Ford

Motor Trend, a part of the “TEN: The Enthusiast Network” machine, grabs the marketing attention of automaker C-suites in ways that this humble blog can’t — and won’t.

Using its clout, you’d think Motor Trend would dig up the goods when given the chance to sit down with Ford’s main man in Europe, Jim FarleyYou’d think wrong. Instead, Motor Trend offers up this stunning, 530-word game of interview softball.

To MacKenzie’s credit, he does lay out some of the challenges facing Ford of Europe in the future: traditionally budget-conscious brands (Hyundai) are moving up, luxury brands (ze Germans) are moving down, and Ford is seemly stuck in the middle with nowhere to go.

Therefore, you’d think MacKenzie would dig up the goods and lay out a plan for Ford’s European future. After all, the piece is titled, “What Ford is Doing to be More Competitive in Europe: An Interview with Jim Farley.”

Instead, we’re presented with passages such as:

“We have to be selective with where we compete. We can’t be this brand with all this choice. We have to stop investing in nameplates where we have no line of sight for profit.”

Some Ford model lines will therefore disappear over the next few years, though Farley won’t say which. Ford sources suggest the Fiat 500-based Ka is one on the list, however.

None of this is new news. Many have suggested the death of the Ka is nigh.

Impressed with what Daimler has done with AMG, Farley wants to better leverage Ford’s ST and RS performance brands. “Our performance heritage is so strong, and we have real credibility,” he says. “I think it’s high time for us to give more people that experience.”

Isn’t that what the Ford Performance-gasm was all about?

And when speaking of going up-market:

That something nicer is Vignale. Initially offered on the Mondeo (aka Fusion), Vignale, which among other things offers special paint, Bentley-quality leather, and VIP dealer service, has now been introduced on the Kuga, Edge, and S-Max. Only 2,000 Mondeo Vignales had been sold in the first four months, but Farley says 20 percent of buyers traded a premium brand vehicle to buy an ultra-luxe Ford.

Farley insists Vignale is not a Lincoln substitute. The concept will not be coming to the U.S., where Lincoln is again being revamped to take on luxury brands, and he says it doesn’t rule out Lincoln returning to Europe. But when it comes to premium, the Blue Oval is clearly hedging its bets.

Emphasis mine.

“Why is Vignale not a Lincoln substitute?” would have been a great question to ask here. Lincoln is floundering on this side of the Atlantic as the same time that Ford continually makes bank. Do you really think more people would buy a Lincoln MKZ over an ultra-luxurious Ford Fusion? Maybe in China.

Between 2005 and 2008, North American pickup truck buyers said, “Nope, the F-150 is fine,” when presented with the option of buying a rebadged F-150 in the form of the Lincoln Mark LT. Since then, Ford’s been adding as many trim levels to the top of the F-150 as the market will bear — and it seems the market can bear even more than the OEMs offer.

I’ve contended that Ford will go downmarket in Europe ever since my brief encounter with Farley before Ford shipped him off to Europe. Even Motor Trend thought the exchange was interesting enough to run it then. Yet, MacKenzie failed to probe Farley about that side of the low- and high-end squeeze.

Maybe we’ll see more in the second inning. Or maybe we’ll see more Apple Car urination.

[Image: Sam VarnHagen/Ford]

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9 Comments on “Motor Trend’s MacKenzie Plays Friendly Game of Interview Softball With Jim Farley...”

  • avatar

    Well, you may not like it – but both Ford and Motor Trend’s marketing ploy worked – you reposted it, which you might not have done had it been less softball.

  • avatar

    I’m seeing an older Hymie the Robot.

    But I’ve been taking Percocet for a few days.

  • avatar

    A quick glance at Good Car Bad Car and a back of the envelope calculation later: it looks like with the MKZ and MKC, the Lincoln volume floats around 10% of the comparable Ford volume. For the MKX/Edge, it’s closer to 20%. For the Navigator, it’s about 25% of the Expedition.

    This seems like a pretty straightforward calculation on Vignale – other than the part where Americans will have no idea how to pronounce it, and, if instead it was to be a metal-themed trim, since Titanium is already used, which means that they probably could only use Platinum, except Cadillac did already – is how profitable (or not) this 10-20% is per product and whether they can be shoved over to the Ford dealer or not.

    They will have more trouble trying to establish cachet through engine differentiation – e.g., the 2.3 Ecoboost for the MKC but not the Escape – if it’s the Escape Beryllium Finale XL edition. On the flip side, there is no point in moving Lincoln back to Europe with the current US volume.

    • 0 avatar

      “Platinum” is used by more than Cadillac. Nissan uses it (and even has a “Platinum Reserve” trim which frankly sounds more befitting a wine) and Ford already uses it on the F-150 and Explorer.

  • avatar

    Yeah, I imagine the Fiat-based Ka isn’t long for this world. The Figo, already on sale in India and Brazil, will almost certainly spawn a new version for Europe though.

    What blows my mind is somehow the Galaxy and S-Max are still around and distinct from the Edge and the Fusion/Mondeo wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      There is room for the MPVs in Europe. They are both CD4 based now and occupy the space that the Explorer and Flex do in the US. Those products are right for Europe, and the Explorer and Flex are right for the US.

  • avatar

    Roadkill, Hot Rod Garage, and Engine Masters are the only TEN shows worth watching.

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