California Autos Examiner

Friday, July 18, 2008

How Bold Will Ford's Moves Be?

Ford Plans Small-Car Retooling -

The WSJ has an article about Ford's impending announcement regarding the production of European models here in the U.S. The big question is how big a gamble will Ford make and how quickly can it push to enact those changes?

Here's what we know to be fact:

1. We're getting the next generation Fiesta as a sedan and either a three or five door hatch.
2. Our Focus will synchronize once again with Europe's Focus arrives when we get the next model changeover. We'll get a sedan and five door hatch.
3. We are getting the Euro-Focus based Transit Connect small delivery van.

Up for debate would be whether or not Ford would be bring the Mondeo to our shores once again. The last time this was attempted, as the Contour, things didn't turn out so well. In the plus column is the fact that the current Mondeo is a beautiful car, something that couldn't be said for the Contour. Where the Mondeo would sit in the lineup amongst the Fusion and Taurus would be another issue. The current wisdom is that Ford will not bring the Mondeo here, but the WSJ article makes it seem as though there is hope for the Mondeo yet.

Not mentioned in the WSJ but considered fairly likely is the Ford Transit, the full sized delivery van that has done so well for Ford in other markets, but has never made it here to our shores. Given the stellar sales of Mercedes' Sprinter, it's all but a done deal that the Econoline van will make way for the Transit.

What about the Ka? The shrimpy little car is a long shot, but not totally out of the running. My own personal experience with the current generation Ka is that the Fiesta is about as small as you'd want to go but given that the smart fortwo is selling so well, the Ka might draw in some buyers.

One vehicle that I'd simply love to see brought over here is the S-Max, a gorgeously styled seven seater MPV that slots between the smaller C-Max and the larger Galaxy people movers. However, all the talk has been about the C-Max probably in a large part because Ford has the Taurus X/Flex/Edge handling the larger side of things. None of those vehicles are as zippy as the S-Max, however, so I'll keep my finger's crossed.

The sporty Kuga crossover has been pegged by a lot of publications as being a future replacement for the Escape once it has run its course (which will be a few years).

Now, how soon can Ford make things happen? The WSJ article says that some deadlines might be as short as 18 months. It is unclear to me which models would be pushed that aggressively.

Some executives have memories like elephants and they undoubtedly remember when Ford has previously attempted to synchronize its lineups on both sides of the Atlantic. However, Mulally is coming in with not only a fresh perspective, he also has access to a very attractively styled linup of vehicles. A quick perusal of Ford's UK website reveals very few dogs.

From what I've seen of the automotive industry, the biggest successes come when cars aren't rushed to market without the right equipment or feature sets. If Ford allows enough time for these vehicles to be customized for American's wants and desires, then I think it will have great success. Look at the Fiesta that we'll be getting: all indications are that both the sedan and hatch will be stunners. Not only that, but when cars are as good looking as this, buyer's won't quibble about stacking on tons of pricey, profit making options. It may not be F-250 loaded to the hilt kind of cash but it will certainly rake in far more profits than any Aspire could have ever aspired to.

According to the WSJ we should be hearing all about Ford's plans as part of its second-quarter earnings report which would be next Thursday, July 25th. I'm anxiously awaiting the news and I hope for some surprises.

Now go on out and watch The Dark Knight, one of the best movies I've seen in awhile.

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