The only way I can best describe just how radical Ford’s future product push is in terms that even the casual observer of the auto biz can understand is that what Mulally and his team have done is actually skipped a model cycle with these new cars headed for the U.S. market, so instead of doing a series of baby-step changes over the next three years, Ford will bring its 2012-2014 products forward to the 2010-2011 time frame in a blaze of models and configurations that will set the U.S. market - and its competitors - on its ear.
We’re talking a full range of smaller, more efficient sedans, sport coupes, crossovers, people movers and even urban delivery vehicles that will change people’s perceptions of what the Ford Motor Company is almost overnight.
Will Ford still make trucks and some larger vehicles? Absolutely. There will be a core group of American pickup buyers needing the vehicles for work applications, so that business will remain steady for the foreseeable future. It will be a much smaller market than what it once was, but it will still be viable for years to come nonetheless.
The sad thing is that GM is capable of this. They have great fuel-saving, stylish, and affordable product overseas at Opel, GM do Brasil, and yes, even GM Daewoo (one reason why Chevrolet Europe is finally booming). But with "Americans don't want small cars" Bob Lutz at the product helm, and questionable decisions by Rick Wagoner make me think "baby steps" --- kicking and screaming and protesting all the way --- is all GM will actually accomplish.
Sitting in the corner, pouting, arms folded, baby-stepping their vehicles down from full size truck-based SUVs into the next largest segment: Giant 8-passenger crossovers that get only moderately better fuel economy and still cost around $40,000....that is GM's apparent plan. Who know's maybe it will work. With an the eggs-in-a-basket Volt (in an industry plagued by battery supply fears), and a trickle of other good product, weighed down by super-sized Crossovers (even the Equinox is getting larger, which is amazing in this environment), they drag their feet against a rebirth. GM's is hardly the stuff of radical moves like Ford's to change their image. Bob Lutz's nonchalant crushing of GM Minicar hopes for U.S., with a shrug and a "we never planned to sell them here anyway, glad you liked the poll" attitude is just a tiny glimpse into the mentality at GM.
Waiting for that glorious reversal in gas prices that is long-lived, or waiting for Americans to get used to $4 gasoline, hoping that Americans will keep buying far more and far bigger than they actually need. That's GM's plan. After years and years of making $10,000 profit on mega SUV's you would figure that they could have worked another angle to make profitable cars. Like tech-packed smaller cars targeted to trendy Apple fanatics, for instance.
Instead of chasing the consumer and trying to get a small, young family into what they really need, like a Zafira or something even smaller, they'll keep pushing (with the help of dealers looking for the up-sell) for Americans to buy the "bigger is better" mentality like it was 1999.
All that, in the face of the crazy popularity (1 day on dealer lots) of premium small cars like the MINI.
And before you say that "no one expected this, it will take years to change" - go look at my Commentaries here dating back to 2004. GM had fair warning from all corners of the web, but they chose to ignore it for their cash cows.
I've never been a Blue Oval fan, mainly because they were even worse than GM with their hyper-dependence on selling glorified farm vehicles to suburbanites, and bone-headed moves like cutting the Focus Wagon while salesmen admitted to me that the ones they ordered always went quick (but in so many words they preferred up-selling potential wagon buyers into Escapes and Explorers)....but in just a few articles reading about what Mullaly is doing? I'm quickly becoming a Ford fan...
Why? Because I've long wanted an American car maker to stand toe to toe with the Japanese and Europeans and prove that an American-headquarted car company in Detroit can build the world's greatest cars again- even small cars
, not just the most profitable excess-mobiles. And Ford seems prepared to do just that.
Time for a round of applause for Ford: