By on August 29, 2018

Ford formed a team this week, called it the “Enterprise Product Line Management (EPLM) group,” and put it to work with the company’s marketing, engineering, mobility, and product development arms to overhaul the company’s product lineup. The goal is to study what customers want and use that information to build more profitable, competitive vehicles.

The team is split into ten smaller divisions that will focus their efforts on a specific model or product group — including everything from electric models to rugged off-roaders. However, EPLM won’t simply be responsible for their development — it’s also in charge of making sure customers are engaged with everything Ford offers, and that the products are brought to market swiftly, sell well, and remain profitable to manufacture. That’s a pretty full plate, if you ask us. 

Ford’s profit margin for its global operations sank to less than 3 percent in the second quarter of this year, while North American margins slipped to 7.4 percent. Ford hopes to get a handle on that and raise its profit margin to 8 percent globally by 2020, with North American sitting pretty at 10 percent. EPLM is expected to be a large part of that process.

“Our most successful franchises — from F-150 to Mustang to Transit — are anchored in an obsession for the customer, deep product expertise and an unyielding commitment to strong returns,” explained Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets. “By taking this approach, we can raise the bar across our product lines. Each team will have clear accountability for winning in the marketplace and delivering profitable growth.”

Headed by Jim Baumbick (pictured), vice president of EPLM, the ten teams will be responsible for Ford’s F-Series, urban utilities, rugged utilities, family utilities, performance vehicles, commercial vehicles, electric vehicles, compact trucks, luxury vehicles, and emerging market vehicles. And those people will be incredibly busy, as the automaker intends to increase its number of nameplates by 2023. In doing so, Ford wants to possess the most new models of any manufacturer — targeting an average vehicle age of 3.3 years for its future fleet.

However, those models will also serve as a precision strike, focusing on the kind of vehicles people are most likely to buy as Ford goes about culling sedans and hatchbacks from its lineup. It places a lot of pressure on Enterprise Product Line Management, as any failures stemming from the strategy could be placed directly upon its shoulders.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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35 Comments on “Job One: Ford Creates Special Group Tasked With Developing “Profitable, Competitive” Vehicles...”


  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Isn’t that kind of the point of every company to create profitable competitive products? Well done Ford, you’ve figured out Running a Business 101.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      This! But after reading an Auto Extremist article on Farley it seems he’s prone to making vapid comments like that.

      I just get the impression Ford needs to clean house – like fire the whole damn crew clean house and restructure like New GM did.

      I’m not saying that’s what really needs to happen but Ford constantly has systemic issue. They get it right for about 5-6 years and the same old stuff rears its head.

      Or maybe just get out of the car game altogether and turn Ford into a brand for another company that just gets it

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        I’m not saying Ford shouldn’t do some housecleaning, but I’m not sure GM is an appropriate model. After all, the GM product is largely mediocre, and a few models aren’t even that.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          @ Rocket, they are in better shape and even GM’s mediocre products are as good or better than the Ford equivalent and I say that as a guy who generally like’s Ford’s stuff (well the enthusiast stuff anyway).

          @ R Henry, I can’t disagree there Bill Ford seems like a nice guy but he would best serve the company by showing up for photo ops and just collect the dividends.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        The “house cleaning” is not going to happen…because the executive how needs to leave has the the Ford last name.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        The “house cleaning” is not going to happen…because the executive who needs to leave has the Ford last name.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      My thoughts exactly. Form a team to do the work that is the job of the entire company. What does everyone else do there???

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    “the ten teams will be responsible for Ford’s F-Series, urban utilities, rugged utilities, family utilities, performance vehicles, commercial vehicles, electric vehicles, compact trucks, luxury vehicles, and emerging market vehicles”

    So would the F-150 Raptor fall under F-Series, rugged utilities, or performance vehicles? Or somehow all three?

    • 0 avatar
      salmonmigration

      F-series because it’s a trim of an F-series truck.

      Better question would be the Expedition. Rugged utility or family utility? F-series? It doesn’t seem to fit any category very well. Will Ford be killing off the hugely profitable Expedition?

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    LMAO!

    Isn’t every vehicle meant to be profitable and competitive?

    Just wait until the non-commercial pick-up truck fad goes the way of the personal luxury coupe from the 1970s (remember Cutlass Supremes, Monte Carlos, T-Birds, and Cordobas that minted so much money for Detroit?)

    Then what will the F-150 Motor Company do?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    My word. I have been shooting Ford’s management ideological bail on these recent moves. But maybe they are just incompetent and incredibly lucky.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Two schools of thought I guess. One is just make the thing you want the way your vision dictates. For Toyota/Lexus it’s quality, reliability above all – people seemed to have liked that over the decades. For BMW it’s ultimate driving machine – people seemed to have liked that over the decades too. For Harley Davidson it’s listen to everyone who wants more chrome until these things turn into a caricature of themselves and those folks we’re listening to age out of riding our product – how’s that worked?

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Slathering chrome upon chrome has worked well for Harley for the past 25 years. I’m not a big fan but do like the 883 and the Street Rod/Night Rod but, if I recall correctly, Harley has over 50% market share globally for on road large CC bikes.

      If they’re serious about entering new segments, and by serious I mean taking a hard look at the competition and making a competitive product, they might just find a way out.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Start the Ford deathwatch?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    People desire and will go out of their way to buy a Tahoe, Wrangler, or 4Runner. People settle for an Edge, Traverse, Rogue, and other random crossovers. I’m betting good money the former is more profitable than the latter even if it sells fewer examples.

    Solid axles, BOF construction, and big engines, even if you only sell 100k examples a year it brings a lot of people into the showroom, something no amount of ecosports can do.

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      the thing is that the Edge + Fusion, if both were competitive, would be just as profitable as Tahoe, etc.

      Honda figured it out with the CR-V + Civic. Toyota with Camry + Highlander (to be RAV4).

      Somehow Ford can’t?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_CD4_platform

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_K_platform
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_New_Global_Architecture

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Ford is the king of commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles have low margins.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “The goal is to study what customers want and use that information to build more profitable, competitive vehicles.”

    through all the years of its existence, they still din’t figure out that customers want reliable cars?

  • avatar
    relton

    If they fill this new team with all the people who designed or approved all of Ford’s mediocre cars and trucks, they’ll probably just have more of the same.

    The way Ford presents this is so idiotic I can’t believe it. It just tells me that the top management doesn’t get it.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Somewhere, Homer Simpson is spitting out his donut. D’Oh, indeed…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have an idea for the domestic OEMs. If you want competitive vehicles, just buy Camrys and Accords and slap Ford badges on them. Problem solved, especially if nothing else works.

    Seriously, don’t the carmakers, whether Ford or Chevy, set out to make competitive vehicles at the outset? If not, see ya.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    I LOVE lingospeak: When a “product” becomes a “franchise” it says volumes to me about the relative incoherence of the company in the marketplace it operates in. It strikes me as odd that a firm as large and tenured as it is cannot make a suitable margin on a whole schwack of “mobility solutions”. Talk about phoning it in. Boy are they going to hit the fan if the F150 mill slows down, THEN I want to be fly on the wall in FoMoCo HQ.

  • avatar

    Please note that the list of categories – Ford’s F-Series, urban utilities, rugged utilities, family utilities, performance vehicles, commercial vehicles, electric vehicles, compact trucks, luxury vehicles, and emerging market vehicles – contains NONE of the types of practical sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons that are the overwhelmingly most popular family vehicles in Europe and much of the rest of the world.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    As a newly minted Mustang owner, I tend to thing of it is a “Mustang”, not a “Ford”. And getting that kind of status – where the model surpasses the brand is difficult to do. The BMW 3-series used to have this, not so sure about now. Some, like Toyota and Honda, managed to do both (in terms of perceived reliability).

    I have no real interest in another other Ford model since I find most of them sub-par to what I want in a car. F150 is maybe an exception. And the upcoming Ranger and/or Bronco could also gain interest from me. But it has to speak to me – both in performance, and, more importantly, design.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    This sort of like when a police department establishes an “anti-crime task force”. Isn’t the whole PD supposed to be “anti-crime”? Isn’t all of Ford supposed be about building “profitable, competitive” vehicles?

  • avatar
    iddqd

    maybe there`s method to the madness…
    Ford CEO was recently in germany visiting local plants..
    and since the US sedans/hatches are sub par compared to `ours`(i`m german), Ford could always import those to the US market, once the demand is there…
    seems they want to go up-market, where the better margins lay- understandable, similar strategy to VW (here in europ that is, in teh US, VW is a medicore badge)-
    only that VW still has lower brands filling the need for non-premium cars..
    we`ll see.

  • avatar
    mojeimeje

    Remember how awesome Ford was in about 2012. The brand new Fusion and Escape came out. Brand new Focus and 400 hp Mustang came out a year before. Fiesta ST and the new Transit came out a year later.
    6 years later, only the Mustang was redesigned. All others that were sales hits initially were given facelifts only.

  • avatar
    Groovypippin

    The answer is not an ever-expanding line-up. The answer is identifying what your core products are and being committed to constant improvement and predictably frequent generational updates. Too much product at Ford is left to wither on the vine and become grossly uncompetitive. Better to stop producing something entirely than let it limp along forever as a heavily incentivized joke, ruining your brand’s reputation and resale value.

    They need to treat their entire line-up like they treat the F-150 – 100% commitment to it being the best vehicle in its class.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    It sounds like two forces at work here: 1.) the demand by the short-term stockholders to put their interests above all else–to cut the development of all vehicles except those of the highest profitability (which cuts R&D costs significantly but puts long-term viability at risk–but before those chickens come home to roost, these stockholders have long since cashed out), and 2.) Ford is responding to President Trump’s threats to Mexican imports (remember where the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion are made) by discontinuing, among others, the models that will face a huge price increase (either by the prospect of tariffs or by the need to manufacture them in the United States), making them price-uncompetitive. (The Taurus is already pretty much a marginal car, sold mostly to fleets.)

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