Blue by You: With a U.S. Ranger Raptor Off the Table, Ford Frustrations Mount
News this morning of Ford deciding not to bring the Raptor Ranger to American shores (via Autoblog) whipped your normally placid author into frothy indignation, prompting him to print off a Blue Oval and emphatically throw his entire collection of competition-grade Elkadart Razor steel-tipped darts at it.
Okay, maybe the situation is not that dire here in the office. But given some strange product decisions, Wall Street frustrations, and a mystifying new ad campaign, we’re left with one inescapable question:
What in the name of Henry Ford is going on at The Glass House?
Longtime readers (thanks, all three of you) know of my affinity for the Blue Oval, especially its Lincoln division. I maintain my relationship with the brand is a textbook definition of Stockholm Syndrome. Despite a myriad of reasons not to, and a driveway currently occupied by a Dodge and GMC, I’ve owned a dozen of the damn things. Three Escorts, an Edge, countless Crown Vics, the Lincolns. And – I think – it’s one of the reasons I keep hoping for the place to succeed.
Yet, today’s news of Ford deciding not to take on the ZR2 and TRD Pro pickup trucks is another blow to the nadgers. Most of the stated reasons for not doing so fall squarely in the “um, okaaay” file, ranking up there with my excuses for why I didn’t take out the garbage or remember to bring milk home from the corner store. Too close in price to an F-150 Raptor? Please.
This is not to say we’ll never see a Ranger Raptor, given that there will undoubtedly be more generations of Ranger trucks in the years to come. Maybe we’ll get one then. Maybe not. Ford fans in America, the home of wide-open spaces and off-road parks, would finally have a foil to their Chevy and Toyota buddies on the trail.
It remains bewildering as to why Ford is abandoning wide swaths of the market, from small cars to family sedans and now off-road midsize pickups (the latter being an admittedly narrow niche in which to play). My current theory is that Ford will morph the Mustang into a sub-brand, not unlike what Toyota has done with the Prius name. I can’t believe I just used those two marques in the same sentence.
Some of the clues to such a decision are there, not the least of which is the shadowy figure shown above, captured as a still from Ford’s new ad campaign with Bryan Cranston. That’s most definitely a Mustang logo, illuminated and appended to something that really appears to have a taller tumblehome than today’s Mustang. We know Ford was playing with (and allegedly abandoned) the idea of using “Mach 1” on an electrified vehicle of some sort.
Ford’s got an image problem right now. Blame it on a few long-in-the-tooth products, blame it on a boss whose management has been described as “cerebral,” or blame it on a disinterested Wall Street. Whatever the issue, at least top brass are committed to doing something – a point driven home at this week’s dealer meeting in Vegas, according to quotes gathered by Bloomberg reporters.
“When you have a moment like we’ve had as a company, you’ve got to look in the mirror and say, ‘What can we change to make it better?’ And it was a long list,” explained Jim Farley, president of global markets. “It all added up to the same thing: We’ve got to get serious about loyalty. The biggest ah-ha moment was when we saw our lead shrinking.”
There it is. Nothing gets the lead out of an automaker’s boots like loyal customers beating a path to the competition’s F&I office. Whatever it takes, I truly hope they’re back to form soon. I’ll pour one out for the Ranger Raptor later tonight but, before I do, let’s give the last word to someone who’s toiled at the Blue Oval for over a decade.
“Ford just seems to be at its best when it can make a comeback,” Farley said at the dealer event. “This week is the first step.”
[Images: Ford Motor Company]
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