Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Are these nails in Ford's coffin?

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.

7 comments:

Shawn said...

I'm hoping...for Ford's sake, that there is going to be that moment for which it reveals that this isn't as stupid as it appeared to be...That there is a master plan. We'll all stand back in awe of its brilliance and self-flagellate for our doubts...

Yeah I know...it's a long shot.

Anonymous said...

Joe,
just a little whisper.

I am sure you caught AW's little note after NAIAS 06 that Fields and Bill were in crisis mode about the USDM Focus fiasco, scrambling for ideas how to fix it fast and right.

About a month ago someone at AW forums posted, that Bill and Fields found their magic solution. Since the replacement for C1 was due out in the fall of 2008 to replace C-Max, the small Volvos and Mazda3, Bill sped up the development, and added a new vehicle for that platform, a vehicle that will become the first one in production - a USDM Focus (starting production in spring 2008). The platform should now debut in the fall of 2007, on the Frankfurt Show, and it is possible the introduction of the C-Max, Mazda3 and the Volvos will also be sped up thanks to this.

There have been no other indicationtion on this specific rumor, but it fits with the other indications about Fields and Bill trying to find a solution

As a Ford fan I am hopeful. And I just thought you would like to know

Igor

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get too excited about the new Ranger in Thailand. At first, I thought as you did until I read a dissection of the truck at http://www.jwfisher.com/. It doesn't seem to be anything that you would want a Ford Blue Oval on here in the US. I'm sure it is fine for the markets it will be sold in but not as a replacement for the Ranger here. I would rather see the brand die than have it continue as an inferior product. It is really sad that the missteps of Ford management over the last 15 years or so have put them in a financial position that doesn't allow them to spend the money on developing appropriate rplacements for some of their most profitable and recognizable products. Instead they have chased after the next big fad while letting the geese laying the golden eggs get old and die.

Believe me when I say that what I just wrote pains me to no end. Several of my great-uncles as well as my dad were good mechanics who were all Ford guys. I even learned to drive on a 1951 Ford pickup. Original Flat Head V8 and three on the tree. I hope Bill Ford and Mark Fields know what they are doing, but I said the same thing about their predesessors.

T

Big Ford Fan said...

Shawn, when you add up all these scenarios, it spells doom. I only hope that Ford wakes up and realizes that it's screwing up.

Igor, I don't check AW forums, but this sounds a little off to me. The C1 is a new platform, not slated for replacement in 2008, and the Mazda3 is due for a minor facelift sooner also. The C-max just got a refresh also. So I wouldn't put much faith in that post.

T, I'll check Jeff's site, for the information that you mention. But I will disagree at this point. The Thai Ranger is being imported to Europe and Australia as well as South America. I doubt very much that it's sub-standard. The exterior and interior styling are quite good, and the 2 Diesel powertrains are excellent units. Jeff is a smart guy, but he could be off the mark on this. The new Ranger has to be better than what's sold here now, and I've read all the specs available in press releases. I don't see any problems. Ford is screwing up yet again, if they fail to bring this design to the US.

Big Ford Fan said...

T, I read Jeff Fisher's post that you mentioned, and with all due respect, I disagree with the entire thing. He complains about the Ranger's leaf spring rear suspension, but name one TRUCK that doesn't have a leaf spring rear! As for his suggestion that a new midsize F-100 would be a better fit for the US market, it's not a new idea, I've heard that before. But with the fuel price increases that are coming, I don't think it's the right move. A new Ranger with 2 new Diesels is a better idea. So, I respectfully disagree with Jeff, and since I drive a Ranger, I think I know what customers of that segment would want. And that's a crew cab and better power and economy, like a Diesel.

Anonymous said...

BFF.. actualy the C1 cycle was confired to me from numerous sources. the only questionable part of the rumor is the Focus part...

Igor

Big Ford Fan said...

Igor, you may be right, obviously if you have inside sources. But I can only base my comments on what I read in the mainstream media. If you have more concrete info, go with that. Like I've said before, I'm not a journalist, I'm just a enthusiast. But I don't trust forum posts, because as you say, they are rumors, pure and simple.