Bark's Bites: ReST in Pieces, Ford CaRS
Unfortunately, I knew this whole Ford “kill all the cars” was coming a few weeks ago. While visiting a dealer, I had a conversation with a regional Ford rep who told me the company’s plan was “Mustang, Focus Active, and Trucks, Baby!” for 2020 and beyond. So it’s easy for me to say I saw it coming, but, more importantly, I can also say that I knew why it was coming.
It’s not Mark Fields’ fault. It’s not even Jim Hackett’s fault, really. Do I think he’s the second coming? No. Do I think he’s going to run the company into the ground? Of course not.
No, at the end of the day, the only person that can be held responsible for the death of Ford’s passenger cars is You. Not me. You.
I’m absolving myself of guilt here, because I bought not one, but two small Fords, and they’ve been the best two cars I’ve ever owned. Well, I should correct that statement — I actually leased my Fiesta ST, and I now wish that I had bought it, because I miss it desperately. 32 MPG, seating for four, and more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys.
But you? Yeah, I’m holding you directly responsible. You didn’t buy any of them. You talked about how much you want to save small cars, how important it is to and then you didn’t actually do it. No, you said, “I’ll buy one when they’ve depreciated enough.” Ask Saab fans how well that worked out for them.
You caved to the pressure of your friends at work, who nodded approvingly at the new Escape that your coworker bought but whispered behind the back of that poor woman who got a Focus SEL. “Maybe her husband got laid off,” they guessed. No, you didn’t want any part of that, because driving a small car in America will never be “aspirational,” but buying a crossover is “sensible.”
Enthusiasts, you get the double bird on this one. Ford gave you the two greatest hot hatches ever sold in this country (Fiesta ST and Focus RS), and you said, “Eh,” and then you went out and bought a bumper sticker. (Granted, the dealers didn’t help, either.) You talked about how important it will be for American manufacturers to have small cars available if (when) the price of fuel rises again. And then when it came time to put your money where your mouth was, you bought a truck or a crossover, because you “needed the extra space” or because “you like to sit higher when you drive.”
In doing so, you’ve robbed much of America of the ability to buy a cheap new car. In flyover country, there are many, many places where there is no such thing as an import dealer. Eastern Kentucky, for example, has exactly one Honda dealer and and one Hyundai dealer in a geography that covers hundreds of miles. But do you know what they have plenty of? Ford and Chrysler dealers. Chrysler killed off the Dart and 200 already, so that left a lot of rural customers with one option — Ford. Not anymore.
But, I gotta be honest here, guys. I’m not really blaming you (we’ll see in the comments who actually read this far, and how many people read the part before the jump and immediately hit “click to reply”). Because there is no blame here. I wouldn’t blame you for not buying a horse and buggy to prop up the carriage business. I wouldn’t blame you for flying to Oregon instead of taking a conestoga wagon and dying of dysentery along the way. Truth of the matter is that the crossover is simply a better choice for most new car shoppers in today’s vehicle marketplace.
I know, it’s a sacreligious thing to say. But for most people, the ride height and ingress/egress is preferable in crossovers. As I continue to creep along life’s curve here after my fortieth birthday, I admit that I would rather get in and out of something like an Escape than a Focus on a daily basis, and despite my best efforts to restore my youth while sweating along to Tony Horton’s videos, my joints aren’t going to get any better.
Like it or not, people my age and older buy new cars. People in their twenties just don’t. New car buyers are getting older and wealthier all the time, with an average age of over 51 and an average income of over $80,000, while the average American is 36 years old with an income of around $50,000, according to the NADA. And what fiftysomething is buying a Fiesta? It’s too cramped, too difficult to get in and out of.
Ford is a business, and they’re making a business decision, one based on the financials that have simply become too large to ignore. Yes, yes, you can talk about CAFE and NAFTA and any other acronym that you want to throw out there, but if consumers wanted to buy passenger cars, Ford would make them. People don’t want them.
I think the real question to be asked here isn’t about Ford’s decision — it’s about which manufacturer is going to be the next one to follow in its footsteps. I’m guessing that the braintrust at the RenCen will be following this decision very, very closely. If I’m GM, I’m immediately killing every car except the Corvette and Camaro, folding the Encore and the Enclave into the GMC lineup, axing Buick, and calling it a day. And when it (finally) comes time for a remodel of the Charger, Challenger, and 300, I really won’t be the least bit surprised to see them disappear.
Yes, I’m going to miss the Focus RS and the Fiesta ST, but those were both already dead, anyway. I’ve written my eulogy for the Fiesta ST — no need to do it again. At least I can say that I bought them, drove them, and enjoyed them. Who would have guessed in the age of fossil fuel regulations that the Mustang would live while the hot hatch died? These are strange times we live in, my friends.
[Images: Mark “Bark M.” Baruth/TTAC]
Akear on May 09, 2018
Hackett's just wanted to do something drastic to appease the stock holders. No auto maker in their right mind would cancel a sedan that sell 200,000 units a year. Does Ford believe angry Fusion owners are going to return to Ford. Maybe rival carmakers should offer special discounts on a Fusion trade in. If I was a Ford executive and observed the current car lineup of Kia I would be ashamed.
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