California Autos Examiner

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ford Conference Call: Ford Revamps!

As with all all "live blogged" conference calls, please keep in mind that there may be corrections/changes later on. I try to convey things exactly as I understand them, but mistakes can happen.

5:40AM Good morning everybody. Were just a few minutes away from the start of the call. Let's discuss what's already been released. Firstly, the Fiesta will be sold as a sedan and 5-door hatch in the US. Bit of a surprise as I thought the smaller Fiesta might be getting a sporty 3-door. We'll see the Fiesta in early 2010.

5:45 AM As previously announced, the U.S. will be getting the next generation Focus in sedan and 5-door hatch flavors. The Focus will also be appearing in 2010. Ford also reconfirmed that we'll be getting the Transit Connect small multi-purpose van in mid-2009, but no mention of the larger Transit van. I still think we'll see the Transit replace the Econoline in the future.

5:50 AM Also listed, a new Mercury small car in 2010 and a new European small vehicle that will be a “whitespace” entry in North America in 2010.

5:55 AM Ranger lives! Scheduled for demise in 2009, the Ranger gets an extension to 2011.

6:00 AM New Lincoln seven-passenger crossover – with EcoBoost engine – in mid-2009. No real shocker there as we know that Lincoln will get its own version of the Flex. I wasn't that taken with the MKT, well see what the production model looks like.

6:10 AM Here we go. Kicking off with financials. A net loss of $8.7 billion. Recapping accomplishments: Kuga in Europe, Flex and MKS in the U.S.

6:15 AM While they keep talking about financials, let's continue reading through the report. EcoBoost will be pushed heavily, starting with the MKS and Flex. Also on the slate for Ford: PowerShift twin-clutch transmissions, start-stop engines, electric power-assisted steering, and direct injection and Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing engines.

6:20 AM Skipping ahead to the "One Ford" plan that shows platform consolidation, the report shows that under "Commercial Vans" the current number of global platforms is four while in the future that will be consolidated down to one. That would seem to jive with reports that the Econoline will be phased out and a Transit-like commercial van will take over. That would give Ford a one-two punch with a large and small Transit lineup in the U.S.

6:25 AM While we await Mark Fields and his discussion of North American product plans, let's loop back to the press release. Next-generation Ford Explorer – with unibody construction, EcoBoost, six-speed, weight savings and improved aerodynamics for up to 25 percent better fuel economy – in 2010. No real shocker here, we knew that Explorer was going unibody. New Ford Taurus sedan – with EcoBoost engine and even more advanced safety and convenience technologies – in mid-2009. We've seen the clay model already and it is a better looking vehicle.

6:30 AM New Ford Mustang – coupe, convertible, and glass-roof models – in early 2009. Ford is starting to rev up buzz for the refreshed model. How will it stack up against the new Challenger and Camaro?

6:35 AM 2010 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln MKZ sedans, on sale in early 2009, with Fusion’s and Milan’s four-cylinder fuel economy expected to top Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. My experience with Fusion rentals has been favorable even if a few trim pieces fell off in my hands. The improved powertrain of the 2010 models, previewed in the 2009 Escape, should pay big dividends. Looking forward to that monster nav screen!

6:40 AM Mark Fields on the call now. Six speed automatic rollout will be aggressive.

6:45 AM Mark is sticking to the script, so that means I've covered most of what he's talking about. Hopefully the Q&A will give us something to chew on.

6:50 AM In this report/call Mercury was confirmed to be a continued part of Ford's future. In addition to refreshed products, there is the New Mercury small car in 2010. However, there were no major shockers with regards to the brand.

6:55 AM Looking at the pictures included in the report, we are shown the current U.S. Focus and European Focus with the news that they will become the same in the future. We also see pictures of the 3-door Fiesta (interesting in that we won't get that model) and the Transit Connect. We also see the Fusion and the Mondeo with the news that they will share a platform going forward. That's not a surprise as it was expected the Fusion would jump from CD3/Mazda6 to the Mondeo's EUCD for its next generation.

7:10 AM So far the question haven't been anything that we're interested in: just financial clarifications and product questions that are rather simplistic.

7:30 AM Still on the call, but honestly it's slim pickings here folks. New Mercury and "whitespace" vehicle announced will be B or C segment.

7:45 Snore. Last question isn't a bad one: why does Ford think this time around is different than the Merkur and Contour? Answer: Americans are now more interested thanks to fuel price. I'd add that the current Ford of Europe products are hot, the previous models weren't.

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