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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The Ford Brand: Road to Recovery or Irrelevance?
Ford's Feeble Fight for Dominance
4-14-2004
GMinsidenews.com

Anyone who has seen the new Ford F-150 can attest to the effort put in to that vehicle. It is sure to solidify Ford's position in trucks, and help them maintain the best selling truck model status the F-150 has held for so many years. The 2005 Mustang looks promising as well, and is sure to be a hit - at least with current Mustang fans and the pony car / muscle car crowd. But aside from these two cars and the halo Ford GT car, Ford seems to be on a gradual decline that even they themselves have little will to fight against. It's as if they've consigned the last of their fading glory to the likes of Toyota and Nissan.

There are some at GM who might cheer the way Ford is slowly stepping into the shadows, but I see it as a sad thing. A once proud and mighty company - THE company that started it all - is putting on a good show, but the spirit is slipping away, as the engineers in Detroit increasingly throw in their towels and entrust their future to Mazda engineers in Japan and Volvo safety experts, all the while styling Ford product as something only a Rental Car salesman could love.

There are a few reasons I see a decline, while those at Ford are giving sunny Power Point presentations on their future.

Inexplicable actions like denying the US market the next-generation Ford Focus platform because of "costs" seems dangerously close to the way Chevy and Pontiac stuck with the Cavalier/Sunfire J-body for decades - a loss leading and outdated vehicle platform that gave the division a poor reputation with Gen Y while compact cars became more desireable and less disposable.

This decision Ford made to "save money" has killed the respect in the auto media the Ford Focus earned over the past few years - after finally putting behind it all of the recalls. Europe was good enough for the new platform-based Focus (shared with the Mazda 3), but the US isn't. What message does that send? What educated buyer will choose an old platform with some tweaks over the all new Mazda 3 platform with its attractive, modern design? Discount shoppers and rental fleets, that's who. Call this the marketing bungle of the decade for Ford. They are letting the Focus tread the same sorry path as the Taurus.

Yes, the Taurus, once the dominant sedan in the market, has become a pale shadow of itself, and seems to get a refresh once for every two complete redesigns of the Toyota Camry. At the very least, Ford appears to have given up on the Taurus, and sullied a name that once was more recognized as the "car of choice" than the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. And with the way Ford has ignored the vehicle, preferring instead to pawn them off on rental car agencies or with heavy incentives, its no wonder.

The problem as I see it is that Ford's people don't seem to realize that Ford is no longer the automatic choice for many Americans. A majority of buyers today don't think "Ford First", unless perhaps they are thinking about buying an SUV - the Explorer or a Pickup - the F-150. These are the two powerful models that just manage to keep Ford relevant. In other words, people go to a Ford dealership with a pair of vehicles in mind - they don't go to a Ford dealership to "shop around and buy a Ford". It's not the Ford brand itself that gets people into an Explorer by chance. That's because the brand is no longer recognized as being a brand that can offer you a top notch vehicle of every type - no matter what you are looking for. You settle for a Taurus because your company offers a discount. You settle for a Focus because you have the discount and your son or daughter wants a car (but they really want that new Scion or Honda). And you aren't even sure you are getting the best deal even with discounts - with the prices and standard equipment those Korean manufacturers are offering these days.

Ford has plans for the brand's future. The Five-Hundred, Freestyle, and concept vehicle formerly known as "Futura". These seem like noble efforts, but none of these cars seems to aggressively take on the Camry and Accord. The "Futura" is in fact a restyled Mazda 6, and yet it will take years from Mazda 6 launch until the "Futura" hits Ford dealer lots. By that time, the Accord and Camry will have undergone yet another transformation, no doubt raising the bar further. And the Mazda 6, excellent vehicle though it is, isn't winning 1st place in all of the auto magazine comparos. So the Futura, unless it is a radical departure from the Mazda 6 by its time of release, is doomed to be second-rate; and an also-ran from the start.

Ford has been on a Bland Restyling Crusade for the last few years. The Explorer, Crown Victoria, Expedition and Freestar minivan all draw heavily from styling cues of their pre-redesign versions, and in the case of the Crown Vic and Freestar, its hard to even guess that they were redesigned by looking at the exteriors. The Freestar looks so much like a Windstar that Ford had to change the name to ensure that people would recognize that it wasn't the same vehicle. Was the Windstar so hot and popular that Ford felt like making the redesigned version look like a clone? Doubtful.

The Five-Hundred and Freestyle that looked so great as concepts look a little more bland as production vehicles, and are two new names that buyers will not automatically have on their lists. They will need to fight an uphill climb for name recognition, and without standout styling - styling that the 1980's Taurus rocked the market with - this will be difficult.

The customer has little in the way of innovative and fresh design to draw him or her into a Ford dealership, and yet Ford execs seem to think that slightly above average looks, and slightly above average equipment and power are all they need to maintain market share.

GM's Chevrolet is undergoing a clear "revolution", dumping outdated product for new, fresh styling. Ford, on the other hand, seems content with "evolution". But evolution alone, isn't going to keep Toyota and Nissan from nipping at their heels, and at best may only keep the status quo - a gradual, if slow, decline. Ford needs new breakthrough product, and strong bolstering of known names like Focus and Taurus, but they just don't have it. Essentially they have given up on Focus and Taurus, in the name of "cost reduction". In the pipeline and on the lots is product that looks much the same as what was there last year, and restytled Mazda engineered products are coming far too slowly.

Ford execs seem willing to let Mazda, Volvo, and Jaguar have all of the attractive, inspiring vehicles, while Ford appeals to fans of conservative, demure styling. In an attempt to be as Everyman, Blue Collar, Plain Jane as possible, Ford is fast becoming the Vanilla brand that you buy only because you have to - and unless you plan to buy a 2005 GT or Mustang, certainly nothing to brag about.

 

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Very insightful. I completely agree with your assessment of Ford designs as "something only a Rental Car salesman could love." Especially now with their plan to continue decreasing the number of fleet sales, this will be a real problem for them.
 

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Like always, I respect you oppinions Ming, but I find this article a little on the biased side. Some strong points and predictions though! But hey I understand, Youve got to stick up for you own. Me however, I believe Ford is well on its way regardless of future product superiority or not. Every brand always has it's winners and loosers. Chevy is no special exception over Ford. Nor Toyota or Honda for that matter. Fords future will be more than fine.
 

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Chevy does have a lot more (and better looking IMO) product coming out, not to mention all of GM.
I feel the 500 will fall short. Its a much larger car, and with only 200hp it will feel very sluggish, add AWD to that, and its gunna get worse.
I agree that Fords engineers have basicly given up and are just using Volvo and Mazda chassis. The choice of leaving in older aging models is IMO a bad move for Ford, but who am I to tell them what to do... for all I care, they could sink into the red sea.
Between lack of design tallent, and lack of product, Ford is showing no improvement. Sales seem to keep dropping.
 

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Originally posted by xellow@Apr 14 2004, 11:58 AM
Me however, I believe Ford is well on its way regardless of future product superiority or not.
are you trying to say ford products aren't an issue and is on their way to success despite better products thru out the market?
 

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Regardless of your guy's biased Hopes and wishes, Im pretty sure Ford will be just fine. Because Ford does have some great product (Needed Badly I agree) on the way that no one seems to understand or care to take the responsibility to undersand. Im not saying Ming is wrong or right. After all this is how he feels and is able to back it up using logic and educated research And I respect that... However, I personally have read Many articles pointing to the doom of Chevy/GM with the same biased intent also useing Logic and educated research from wrighter who IMO had even stronger approaches and angles than Ming. I can't Stand biased feelings especialy cause it always points to the cover up of insecurity. I can smell biased a mile away. You guys can't believe every thing you read even if it's for the home team. I have to admit Im a little dissapointed in this article. thats just my oppinion & I Don't Intend on offending any one.
 

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The important thing is that ford is starting to turn profits again. You can't totally redesign all of your products without lots of money. Honda and Toyota are making money hand over fist right now, they can afford to do 4 year cycles. I think ford's turnaround efforts have been amazing given that they were billions in the hole.

About the focus, it is widely accepted that the focus is one of the top compacts on the market right now, and CR gave it a top pick in two categories. It makes sense for ford to hold off on a complete redesign when the current car is winning accolades from many different groups. It is far different from the j-bodies that were regarded as out of date when they were new.

You're right that ford has relied far too heavily on their pickups and suv's to make the money. Now they are putting emphasis on cars again. I find it hard to believe that you would so heavily attack two cars that haven't even hit the road yet (and we haven't even seen any real pictures of the 'futura').

As far as leveraging resources from Mazda and Volvo, why wouldn't Ford want to utilize engineers that specialize in handling (mazda) and safety (volvo)? Every company is leveraging their global resources, toyota, honda, GM, VW, everyone. Even Maserati and Porsche are exchanging resources with VW. Does that mean that Porsche engineers are 'throwing in the towel'?
I'll admit that I am biased towards Ford, but I think objectively you can see that their products are improving and their quality is rising.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Originally posted by xellow@Apr 14 2004, 01:03 PM
Regardless of your guy's biased Hopes and wishes, Im pretty sure Ford will be just fine.  I can't Stand biased feelings especialy cause it always points to the cover up of insecurity. I can smell biased a mile away. You guys can't believe every thing you read even if it's for the home team. I have to admit Im a little dissapointed in this article.
Well, Xellow, look at it this way - unlike a lot of GM fans, I actually WANT Ford to succeed. Maybe not as much as GM, and I'll admit I'm more GM saavy than Ford saavy, but that said, my take is coming from a pro-DETROIT POV. I don't like seeing the Big 3 crumble away, and that includes Ford.

My criticisms come from a sincere disappointment of my own - that Ford has abandoned the development of the Focus and Taurus, and doesn't have cars to effectively take their places. Heck, a Ford exec admitted they were "pulling out of the sport compact market" by dumping the SVT Focus, whether or not the 2005 Focus has a "better" (Mazda?) engine or not. I'm also disappointed with the long lead time for getting the Futura to market, if what I've read about it being a restyled Mazda6 is true. I'm also disappointed by the lackluster and purposefully conservative design of vehicles like the Windstr, with that gawd-awful two toned body cladding beige and body color blue paint job from 1996 minivans like the Astro.

My concern is that Ford is being too cautious and conservative, and will pay for it in market share loss.

So really my opinion isn't coming from pro-GM bias, but a desire to see Ford fight as hard at redefining itself as GM appears to be doing --- or another example - Nissan taking itself from irrelevance to favorite son of automobile mags status.

Ford can do it --- it just seems their attempts are halfhearted at best.
 

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*cough*



*cough*


Never mind the Windstar, this puppy is aweful (this one is a '97 Aerostar).


BTW, I'd like Ford to stage a comeback too.
 

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Half hearted? Compared to who? Chevy??? Im just not feeling it Ming.. I agree with you on a number of levels. But don't Use the taurus as an excuse to wright off great product like the GT Super Car, f-150/ Lightning, Mustang, 500, freestyle, and Futura, Freestar and Focus. THe Taurus and Crown Vic I agree, is all a joke in todays standard. All those other ford products above show great promise from Ford what Ive taken time to understand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Originally posted by xellow@Apr 14 2004, 01:32 PM
Half hearted? Compared to who? Chevy??? Im just not feeling it Ming.. I agree with you on a number of levels. But don't Use the taurus as an excuse to wright off great product like the GT Super Car, f-150/ Lightning, Mustang, 500, freestyle, and Futura, Freestar and Focus.  THe Taurus and Crown Vic I agree, is all a joke in todays standard. All those other ford products above show great promise from Ford  what Ive taken time to understand.
Perhaps you are right. I guess only time will tell.

Same goes for Chevy, I suppose. Cadillac, on the other hand, has made a clear turnaround in image and sales over the past couple of years, and I see the same happening eventually at Chevy and Pontiac.

If Ford can do its whole lineup like it has done the F-150, and create some serious buzz for the new nameplates so people don't automatically go and buy an Accord or Camry instead, then they can pull it off.

But I'm still disappointed with the Focus. If Mazda can have the 3, then this is all about keeping some factory outfitted with an old production line so Ford doesn't have to spend money on it. (Cough, Cough, Uplander CSV) I just hate seeing Detroit do stuff like this - Toyota and Co. aren't standing still. Don't think that the Auto Media will be kind to a 6 or 7 year old platform when all of the competition is changing around it.
 

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Ford has been on a Bland Restyling Crusade for the last few years. The Explorer, Crown Victoria, Expedition and Freestar minivan all draw heavily from styling cues of their pre-redesign versions, and in the case of the Crown Vic and Freestar, its hard to even guess that they were redesigned by looking at the exteriors. The Freestar looks so much like a Windstar that Ford had to change the name to ensure people that it wasn't the same vehicle. Was the Windstar so hot and popular that Ford felt like making the redesigned version look like a clone? Doubtful.
the Explorer looks more like a baby Expedition than it looks like the last Explorer. what can you really do to the Crown Vic to make it exciting? it's a car for cops and old people, it isn't an exciting car. it does drive nicely, though, and it's the last full frame, rear drive V8 car you can buy. the Expedition looks quite different from the last one. it's a little more squared off and looks a LOT better. i see the difference without looking too hard, and i bet lots of other people do too. the Freestar looks like a Windstar? not quite, but once again, what do you do to a minivan? Nissan gave exciting styling a shot on their new one, and look what happened. minivans are supposed to be functional (the Freestar is) not beautiful.

as far as cars only rental fleets can love, check out the current Impala. not exactly a car doing all of its sales without a lot of fleet help. it's just as much a rental special as the Taurus is. and in my opinion, every bit as boring.


Ford is doing better, and will continue. even though it's not as sharp as the concepts were, the FiveHundred is a pretty nice car, and will far outsell the Taurus.

the Focus is STILL a damn good car, still drives well, and they do need to keep the price down to keep young people in it. i don't know about you, but i remember buying my first new car, and the cheaper, the better. i'd much rather have an inexpensive Ford than a Kia!

what i'm worried about with Ford is the Ranger. they now have the smallest compact domestic pickup, and i hope they fix it soon. it would be a shame to see all those years as the best selling small pickup go by the wayside. i loved my Rangers, but that's one thing they need.. a bit more space.

FORD'S FINE. they're on the right track. at least i think so... i've always loved Ford trucks... they could probably make their money just doing that.
 

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Originally posted by Ming+Apr 14 2004, 01:23 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Ming @ Apr 14 2004, 01:23 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-xellow@Apr 14 2004, 01:03 PM
Regardless of your guy's biased Hopes and wishes, Im pretty sure Ford will be just fine.  I can't Stand biased feelings especialy cause it always points to the cover up of insecurity. I can smell biased a mile away. You guys can't believe every thing you read even if it's for the home team. I have to admit Im a little dissapointed in this article.
Well, Xellow, look at it this way - unlike a lot of GM fans, I actually WANT Ford to succeed. Maybe not as much as GM, and I'll admit I'm more GM saavy than Ford saavy, but that said, my take is coming from a pro-DETROIT POV. I don't like seeing the Big 3 crumble away, and that includes Ford.

[/b][/quote]
it too would rather it be "the big three" then the "detroit three". hopefullly the succuess of the f150 and upcoming mustang will give them enough profit to create some marketable products. but i dont even see ford with anything worthwild in the planning stages.

whats needed..
1.all new taurus, FWD would be ok, RWD would be better. a downgraded Lincoln Zephyr(mazda) would be acceptable, as long as it got different sheet metal.

2. the 500, needs a sportier look(more like the original concept sketch), few more HP, have a turbo or supercharged version even if limited production it'll draw attention to the other trim levels.

3.focus. it was dated before they refreshed front end recently, but now its boring. hadnt heard of the one that going to be used as replacement in europe, but sounds like a good idea. the compact market is real competitive right now, ford needs someting to compete, and the same o' focus with refresh isn't going to earn them a large enough share of the market.

4.trucks..cant mess with success.

5.ditch the designers!! get in a bunch of designers with a fresh perspective, the kind you have keep an eye or they'll come up with something crazy and against the grain. a chris bangel type.
 

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-----BIASED POST------

I could care less if Ford went out of business. Honestly, the more cars that they get built by Mazda, the less of an american company they will become. Understood, GM has cars built by other companies, but the majority of thier cars are made here, and the new concepts are made here as well. I would rather see Ford die than live on as a Mazda.

I love Mazda, don't get me wrong, but they should stay different, that is what mazda does.

I mean, can anyone here see buying a Mustang with a Rotary engine??

*edit-come to think of it, I would like to see a small Pontiac with a rotary engine!
 

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Look, Bottom line so I don't feed the hungary fire of a pointless pissing contest. I like Ford, And believe strongly in their futue direction and product. From the exciting Mustang/Lightning/GT/Concept Shelby Cobra. To the more conventional 500/Freestyle. I believe The 500 is a handsome sedan and is targeting a risky market (I can see how its considered bland in looks but its a handsome production vehicle regardless). Its this risk that may make or break what I consider a revolution. I give respect for the risk. Same goes for the Freestyle. Ford starts more trends that other company than any other company. THe freestar is also a handsome classy looking minivan getting great reviews that will be getting awd/navigational features added in the future (I however have no Idea about the sails of that minivan) As new as it is, I agree it still has room for improvment. THe Futura we know nothing about except that it shares the well regarded fun to drive mazda 6 platform which is capible of AWD and will also be available in Hybrid form, also a SVT planned for production. It seems ford has a good deck of cards from what I can see this time around so far being that they are catering to the costomes needs and demands better thatn most domestic companys.. The Taurus and crown vic are extinct platforms soon. Lets just agree to disagree from now on.
 

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i'd lean towards wishing ill on ford... but i don't really think things look all that bad for ford right now. everything (short of the mustang and gt40) is very dull and predictable... but the best sellers in all vehicle categories follow this design philosophy. the 500 doesn't appeal to me at all... but it'll appeal to many who are pleased with the current accord and camry. sounds a little overweight and underpowered, but for a big old american sedan it's smack dab in the middle of A-okay. i also think the freestyle is dullsville, but the escape is not really much more exciting looking and sells like crazy. explorer too... and F150... i can't really say that fords future products spell its demise. and while they may not be aligned to help ford gain huge market share, i don't think it'll sink them either.

for everyone who thinks the 500 is dull there's someone who thinks the malibu is ugly and the passat is crap and the camry is uninspired and the lacrosse is an old mans car. looks aside, within a year ford will have all the major markets covered, and a few entires where others haven't really treaded (AWD sedan, pony car)... so while i'd rather be slagging ford, i can't find much of a case for it.
 

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I think i have the answer to ford's problems.....its the european market, Mondeo, it should replace the taurus, like they did down here in mexico. its a great car, 6 speed manual or 5 speed automatic with pad shift. It even has HID as an option and a little 2.5 V6. Just stick the 3.0 engine in this car and the options it already has and will be a great seller and i am sure it can take those japanese cars.

Back to the topic, i think ford can recover but they just need to put some effort in their sedans.

If you want more info about the mondeo.... http://www.ford.co.uk/ie/mondeo/-/-
 

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You mentioned that the new mustang, GT and F-150 was pretty much all ford had going for them right now. I don't agree that these three are all necessarily good things. I'm not saying their bad ideas but they arn't perfect.

First of all the F-150 is great, but how long will it last untill something else comes along and takes the spotlight. GM will soon come out with something all new that I believe will be incredible. Toyota Will soon redesign the tundra and right now the Ram and Titan are at the same level that the F150 is at. The F-150 is good now but by this time next year it will just be another face in the crowd.

The GT is a really good car. It is an awsome performer but what good does it do the company. They are not going to make any profit off it and it doesn't inspire people to buy fords IMO. If i see this incredible ford on TV or at a racetrack that's not going to convince me to go buy a Taures or Focus.

The mustang is also a good car but keep in mind there in some controversy over how well it will do in the maket. Also there will be no SVT for some time.

Ford does need to concentrate more on styling and put more into their allready sucesssful modes like the Crown Vic and Taures.

(Another thing, why does ford have such boring colors on their cars. I go to a pontiac lot and i c bright res, oranges, yellow and such, I go to Chevy they got bright colors too. Then I go to Ford and all I c is dark blue, green and a hundred shades of peuter and brown.)
 

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Originally posted by xellow@Apr 14 2004, 02:08 PM
From the exciting Mustang/Lightning/GT/Concept Shelby Cobra.
except for mustang the rest are low volume vehicles, those rarely help profit , only around for prestige and bragging rights. and the crown vic/grand marquis might as well killed, since when dodge 300 police package comes out, it'll take over the market.
 
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