Ford CEO Vague on Car Replacement Plans; Lincoln Continental's Future Still in Limbo

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Anyone hoping to glean specifics about upcoming products during Ford Motor Company’s annual shareholder’s meeting likely walked away unsatisfied. During the Thursday meeting, the company’s leaders touted Ford’s plan to freshen its lineup and align its products with changing American tastes.

Killing off the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus was necessary, CEO Jim Hackett claimed, adding that the decision doesn’t mean the company plans to leave those buyers in the lurch.

“We want to give them what they’re telling us they really want,” he said. “We’re simply reinventing the American car.”

As Automotive News, which reported on the meeting, points out, that remark came in response to criticism over the loss of cars meant to appeal to entry-level buyers. It’s true that sales of Ford small cars were on the wane, but not everyone’s in the market for a subcompact EcoSport that nearly kisses the $20k mark before delivery and nets 29 mpg on the highway.

The company’s upcoming Focus Active (a cladded five-door with a 1.2-inch suspension lift) will soon be the only small car in the brand’s lineup, with the exception of the Mustang. Considering a 2018 Focus SE hatch retails for $20,540 before delivery, it’s unlikely the Active will come in any cheaper. Hacket didn’t divulge what “reinvented” cars might appear.

“We don’t want anyone to think we’re leaving anything,” Hackett said. “We’re just moving to a modern version. This is an exciting new generation of vehicles coming from Ford.”

Besides the culling of the sedan lineup and a looming explosion of light truck models, the automaker hasn’t spent much time talking about the bottom of its lineup. With pricier trucks and SUVs as its bread and butter, maybe it doesn’t have to. It has mentioned, however, that it plans to continue adding models in different segments and at different price points. Will there be additional crossover-ized cars, perhaps one that slots below the Focus Active? Or is Ford just talking about the upcoming Ranger pickup, Bronco SUV, “baby Bronco” crossover, electric Model E crossover, electric performance crossover (originally dubbed the “Mach 1”), and Focus Active? Time will tell.

We’ll also have to wait and see what happens to Lincoln’s cars. Ford remains tight-lipped about the fate of the Fusion-based MKZ and flagship Continental, despite two recent reports — one claiming the model’s toast, the other claiming a retro-inspired successor is in the early stages of development. Hell, we’re still unclear as to when exactly the Fusion bows out of the lineup.

The Continental will continue “through its life cycle,” Hackett said, without mentioning a new generation.

For now, Ford’s, ahem, focus remains on getting those higher profit trucks and SUVs out the door and reaching its $25.5 billion cost-cutting goal by 2022. Then there’s the issue of Ford’s stock price, which can’t seem to gain any upward momentum. Executive chairman Bill Ford said he shared the frustration of shareholders.

“Look, we want to get the stock price moving,” he said. “The business can get fitter, and it will get fitter.”

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • El scotto The days of "Be American, buy America" are long gone. Then there's the mental gymnastics of "is a Subaru made in Lafayette, IN more American than something from gm or Ford made in Mexico?" Lastly, it gets down to people's wallets; something cheap on Amazon or Temu will outsell its costlier American-made item. Price not Patriotism sells most items. One caveat: any US candidate should have all of his/her goods made in the USA.
  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.