Launches Matter: Incoming Ford COO Holds Course, Promises Better

launches matter incoming ford coo holds course promises better

Addressing a crowd at the Wolfe Research Global Auto, Auto Tech and Mobility Conference in New York City on Tuesday, Jim Farley said he sees similarities between Ford’s present situation and that of the 2009 financial crisis that nearly sunk the Detroit Three. He feels it in the hallways of Ford’s Dearborn HQ.

As automakers grapple with a number of challenges in a rapidly changing industry, Farley, who takes on the role of Ford’s chief operating officer March 1st, outlined how he plans to deliver his mandate of a global pre-tax margin of 8 percent. For starters, there’s the issue of launches.

Things went badly when it came time to deliver the all-new Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator last summer, forcing the automaker into an expensive — and embarrassing — emergency fix program that saw it truck freshly minted SUVs to Flat Rock Assembly, two states away, for repair. Sales of the vastly important Explorer sank 26 percent in 2019.

That botched launch, plus high recall costs and one-time charges associated with the company’s global streamlining effort, led to a cratering in profit. Ford’s fourth-quarter earnings report earlier this month led to a stock plunge.

Yet Ford isn’t clueless in the face of crisis, Farley told the crowd. “Decisions get made quickly” in times of adversity, he said. “It’s very natural. Everyone at Ford Motor Company knows the situation we’re in.”

That said, the exec admits Ford must “fix a number of things.”

First order of business will be getting bloated warranty costs under control. Farley said the company saw $5 billion in such costs over the past year, well above previous annual tallies. Next comes product, and hopefully a more seamless introduction to market.

“We have to get our launches right,” Farley said, adding, “Not just the Explorer launch. We have about 10 global, enormously important launches. They have got to land well.”

The team tasked with bringing these products to market will need to be quicker on their feet, he said, able to identify quality problems in hours instead of months. New talent brought on board will need to be a cut above, and the focus should remain on doing well in North America before any other market.

“It’s all about North America and the recovery of China,” he said, gazing into the near future. Part of Ford’s growth plan in its most profitable region will be a stronger push for its commercial vehicle lines.

Lastly, in order to nudge Ford’s stock in the right direction, Farley wants to see milestones, concrete examples of the company’s plan coming to fruition — and he wants investors to take notice of them when they occur.

When asked about the company’s culture, Farley admitted the Blue Oval needs a “re-awakening,” but hesitated to go into specifics, claiming the culture in the Glass House is fairly good already. Having execs and managers always on the same page, working towards the same goals, is key. “There were issues people knew about that just weren’t being resolved,” he said, referring to the warranty costs. “I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that

[Sources: Detroit Free Press, Reuters] [Images: Ford]

Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Mar 02, 2020

    • Ford must “fix a number of things.” • “We have to get our launches right,” Farley said, adding, “Not just the Explorer launch. We have about 10 global, enormously important launches. They have got to land well.” Cue 1980's-style montage wherein the Ford Motor Company learns in 2 months how to perfect its ~48-60 month new vehicle launch process. Soundtrack TBD (something along the lines of "You're the Best"). You like history? I like history. Here's an article about Ford working to improve its launch process - an article from *2013* (seven years ago):

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Mar 02, 2020

    These issues of muffed launches and not ready-for-prime-time components were also heavily present during the Mulally era.

  • Matt Posky A lot of dune buggies aren't street legal and plenty that are aren't really fit for any kind of sustained highway driving.Unless you live in a state where it's pretty much wide open for vehicle mods and the cops don't care how wild your ride looks, you're probably towing it to its play space. While the Manx should be street legal and capable of making it to the dunes without outside help -- arguably part of its appeal vs other options -- it's hard to assume a majority of owners won't still opt to drag it behind their pickup or SUV.
  • Pmirp1 That is one more color than they have added to Grand Cherokee or Grand Cherokee L in three years. White, Grey, Silver, Black and a dark boring red. No Blues. No Forest Greens. No Beige. It is as though Jeep forgets they own the green SUV market and yet they refuse to give us any rich colors.
  • Golden2husky Customers should simply not buy this with such stupid markups. But since this is a "limited edition" model there will be those stupid enough to pay it. I walked away from a Supra for my wife because the dealer wanted a $20K markup on a $54K car...this Before the pandemic. Screw that. I worked way too hard for my money to throw it away. If I'm going to give my money away there are plenty of causes I support and dealers ain't one of them...
  • Arthur Dailey In the current market many are willing to pay 'extra' to get a vehicle that may be 'in stock'/on the lot. An acquaintance recently had his nearly new vehicle stolen. His choices were rather limited a) Put a deposit down on a new vehicle and wait 4 to 6 months for it to be delivered. And his insurance company was only willing to pay for a rental for 1 month and at far less than current rental costs. b) Purchase a used vehicle, which currently are selling for inflated prices, meaning that for the same vehicle as the stolen one he would need to pay slightly more than what he paid for his 'new' one. c) Take whatever was available in-stock. And pay MSRP, plus freight, etc and whatever dealer add-ons were required/demanded.
  • SCE to AUX I like it, but I don't know how people actually use dune buggies. Do you tow them to the dunes, then drive around? Or do you live close enough that the law winks as you scoot 10 miles on public roads to the beach?As for fast charging - I doubt that's necessary. I can't imagine bouncing around for hours on end, and then wanting a refill to keep doing that for a few more hours in the same day. Do people really run these all day?A Level 2 charger could probably refill the 40 kWh version in 6 hours if it was 80% empty.