Is Mark Fields going to be the Grim Reaper at Ford Motor Company? Is he the one to drive the nail in Ford's North American Coffin? It seems that some fo the rumors and anouncements around Ford would indicate so. Or in the least, the death of anything remotely interesting.
Latest is the decision to eliminate SVT's operations and with the exception of the Shelby GT500 Mustang, models. This on it's own is not enough to kill Ford. It's more a culmination of decisions and indecision that will result in the slow agonzing death of Ford Motor Company. SVT was a great operation, that inspired Chrysler's SRT line. But it's not the exclusivity of dealers, which now may result in lawsuits against Ford, that is the problem. It's more the appearance that Ford is giving up on one more aspect of business. Retreating from Special Vehicles. While GM sells SS badged versions of their Chevy brand, and Chrysler spreads SRT around all of their brands, Ford cuts the lifeline. It's just one sign of weakness and lack of vision.
Here's another sign of impending doom. I've been complaining for months that Ford has a great new Chassis for the Focus and yet in the US we get a facelifted last generation model. The excuses I'd read online and in the press were related to cost of production and price point. The new C1 Focus would cost more to produce and therefore the price would have to go up. But I've said it before, I don't buy that excuse. The Focus C1 is offered for sale in every market Ford sells in, with the exception of Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is built and sold in China and Russia and marketed in South America, Asia, The Middle East, Africa and Europe. That same chassis underpins the Mazda3, which is a competitor for the US Ford Focus. So how can it be too expensive for Ford, but not Mazda? How can it make sense in Russia and China and not the US? I've heard arguments that in these other markets, a Focus is not an entry level vehicle, while in the US it is. Bullsh*t, a Focus shouldn't be an entry level car in the US either, there should be a model below the Focus in price and size, like the Fiesta. Not just for price point, but for economy. The Japanese and Korean competitors are about to bring new B segment models like the Honda Fit here to compete with the anticipated flood of cheap Chinese imports.
Ford has been rumored to be letting the Ranger die, just as they unviel a new and improved Ranger for the rest of the world. Another stupid decision if it's true. The Ford Ranger was the best selling Compact/MidSize pickup in the US for over 15 years. When every other manufacturer made improvements to their trucks, Ford sat there and let the Ranger become stale. As every other manufacturer introduced a crew cab version of their compact pickup, Ford left the Ranger/Mazda twins out of that growing new segment, even though they sell one of the most popular crew cab compact pickups in the world, the Ranger. Was this just to save sales of the Explorer Sport Trac? That model that was passed over when the Explorer was redesigned, and is only now being freshened? Not that the Sport Trac isn't a decent model, but it's small useless cargo area can't compete with the likes of Toyota and Nissan or even GM's triplets. So why let one of the most sucessful compact trucks die? I wish I knew. The new Ranger has sharp styling and with it's 2 Diesels could position Ford to take advantage of a possible resurgance of Diesel powered vehicles in the US. As they push for alternative energy with their "Drive for Innovation" don't they recognize the benefits of having 2 diesel powertrains available for a totally redesigned Ranger?
The Panther platform triplets, once very proffitable for Ford, are now slowly being killed off. While Chrysler, GM and even Hyundai recognize the market for rear wheel drive, Ford plans to replace these cars with versions of the Ford 500. The new Dodge Charger and Magnum will see service as police and taxi fleets. Why would Ford leave a platfrom from 1979 in service for so long without any plan for a replacement? Why when they have a great rear wheel drive platform in Australia, wouldn't they tap that asset for it's replacement? There are rumors now of a Mustang based sedan that could be out in the next decade. But why the delay.
So as Mark Fields counts his Million Dollar bonus for staying through the tough times, I wonder if there will ever be good times for Ford again? I keep hearing stupid decisions, and surrender from different models segments. I almost forgot the mini van, I mean "people mover." It seems Ford realizes their mini van is crap, so they want to bring out the new Fairlane people mover and distance themselves from stink.