Ford’s Car Cancellations Give Us Pause: Opinion

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Since Ford Motor Company announced in its Q1 earnings report that it would do away with nearly every single traditional car model in North America, leaving only the fan-favorite Mustang and the crossover-inspired Focus Active, just about every publication under the sun has had an opinion to air. Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Dan Neil expressed concern that American buyers were being corralled into crossovers and SUVs in order to help give Ford a break with regard to meeting tightening fuel-economy requirements. Tom Appel, writing for The Daily Drive blog at ConsumerGuide, suggested Ford’s retreat from traditional car markets doesn’t matter, as Japanese automakers will swoop in to take up any lingering market share.

Meanwhile, two Automotive News writers – Michael Martinez and Richard Truett – wrote completely opposing opinions on “The Great Cull” (as we’re now calling it). Martinez called it “the right move,” citing Ford’s claim that it’s been losing money on “traditional sedans” while they take up valuable production capacity. Truett called it a “mistake,” saying that Ford is axing necessary products in segments that will never entirely go away.

In truth, the North American automotive market is a complex, intricate thing; opinions run the gamut from “absolutely for” to “absolutely against” precisely because no one person truly knows how Ford’s decision will turn out. Shortly after Ford made the announcement, an article from The Detroit News proclaimed that this summer would be the most expensive driving season in years due to higher gas prices. High gas prices have, historically, been a major driver of small vehicle sales, and while many pundits will tell you that Ford’s contemporary crossover models are every bit as fuel-efficient as their sedan counterparts, do consumers know that? Or more importantly, do they believe it?

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Many dealers, meanwhile, are concerned that with fewer small, inexpensive models on offer, Ford won’t have the sort of “entry-level” products that can turn first-time buyers into lifelong customers. The company’s President of Global Markets, Jim Farley, assured The Detroit News last month that “affordability is… a part of our brand promise.”

“The price point that’s affordable to most Americans is still important. Our ambition is to grow [our lineup] and hit all the price points. The only thing that’s changing is how they’re going to look.”

As you like it, Mr. Farley, but the 2018 Ford Fiesta has a starting MSRP of $14,205 to the EcoSport‘s $19,995. The $5,790 separating the two could pay for an awful lot of options on the former.

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We could go down the list, highlighting every single point and counterpoint until we’re blue in the face, but ultimately, our feelings are this: Ford’s decision to cut down nearly its entire North American car lineup is sudden and drastic, and that gives us pause. The Taurus had to go; its glory days are well behind it. As much as we enjoy the Fiesta, that car, too, sold too slowly in North America to justify its continuation. Plus, if we had to hazard a guess, we’d say the margins are likely none too high on a $14k subcompact car.

The problem is that Ford didn’t stop there; the company also axed the mid-size Fusion, and most of the Focus range, deciding that of the next-generation model range, only the crossover-like Focus Active would make an appearance. Crossovers and SUVs are claiming more and more market share, it’s true, but plenty of buyers will always prefer cars, and when the North American market finally reaches equilibrium, Ford might be shocked to find sedans nowhere near extinct.

Imagine if the Fiesta’s 46,249 US buyers in 2017 could be corralled into Focuses, or if the Taurus’ 33,242 buyers could have been sold Fusions (a car that sold 209,623 units across the US in 2017, by the way; not exactly peanuts). Better still, imagine if – as Automotive News‘ Richard Truett suggested – Ford had found another automaker to partner up with on one or more of its car models, sharing a platform, a production plant, and perhaps some amount of mechanical content. We hear several of GM’s car models could be on the chopping block. That company could have made for a sensible partner.

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Instead, Ford has committed to a grand, sweeping round of model eliminations that will leave it with an aspirational two-door coupe, and a car that splits the difference between sedan and crossover, with promises that it will explore further opportunities to introduce additional “lite” car utility vehicles in North America. Whether the impending tidal wave of new Ford crossovers and SUVs produces a few duds or not, we find it likely that Ford is about to lose a few customers.

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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5 Comments

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  1. Again, my last Ford is my 2017 Ford Fusion Sport. I don’t, and will not buy a suv, cuv, truck, and etc.. Ford wants Toyota to rule the car world so be it. I guess they want . me to buy Japanese or GM.

  2. Bottom line business decisions either turn out to be wrong or right. Fords decision is obviously wrong and the reasons are straight to the point
    1) Cars they sell are sales they steal from their competitors

    2) There are people who buy cars and SUV/Truck only from one manufacturer. They failed to consider how many F-150 owners have spouses with Ford Cars. Imagine these customers now buying a car in a GM or Toyota showroom with a Silverado or Tundra catching their eye.

    3) Not everyone can afford an SUV/Truck. Ford has focused on margins (as GM has) when everyone knows the auto industry is a volume industry. Volume is not driven by innovation or technology but placing both in the right mix relative to overall pricing or affordability. Lately, Ford has missed the mark on this point badly, and the new CEO at Ford will continue to bring Ford down the wrong path. They brag about building 18,000 Navigators a year but GM does 60,000 units on Esclade and Yukon Denali variant.

    4) For any product to remain in demand it must be updated and invested in. Ford Taurus is now entering year 9 without a major change. Now this would not be a big issue if Ford was using the Taurus as a “bargain” vehicle with lower pricing and less content, but that is not the Ford approach. Secondly, once the Fusion became the size of the Taurus during its 2013 redesign that set the internal cannibalization of sales for the Taurus. Given that the Continental rides on a longer wheelbase perhaps Ford should have considered putting Taurus on that wheelbase with substantially different body and interior look.

    5) Past pull backs by US Automakers such as closing divisions (Olds, Pontiac, and Saturn for GM) (Mercury for Ford) (Plymouth for Chrysler) never led to the anticipated outcomes. Buyers went to foreign automakers and remaining divisions were underfunded.

    Ford closing Mercury and now killing off all cars just six years later shows this. All the money being saved by not having to market Mercury should have been able to fund losses or lower cost of production on cars in an effort to be able to survive on lower margins.

    6) Acura, Lexus, Audi, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Infiniti, and Volkswagen are the beneficiaries here. Marcchione at Chrysler killed 2 car models last year out of weakness not strength and based on ego that Alfa Romeo or some other Italian Brand could be a volume seller in the US. To date this has not worked out, however, given that GM may follow suit, this could work out now.

    7) Killing cars is not smart. What if consumer tastes shift or some-one comes out with a real full size sedan (116 inch wheelbase and up) that’s reasonably priced then where does this leave Ford? Stuck in 2010 or 2013 in 2021?
    8) They should fire the new CEO and put $ 3 billion back into pure car development from the $12 billion allocated to the “electric dream” program. Electric is a propulsion system not a vehicle type and with SUV/Pickup crowd this is not a popular option due range limitation

    Believe me, I could add more but I am sure everyone gets the picture. Time will tell given how “badly” other business decisions worked out for Detroit. It is possible we will lose what is left of the US Auto Industry as it is just a matter of time until people tire of SUV’s and want real full size cars that are now efficient with only the Europeans and Asians having the product. Detroit advertises SUV’s over cars and now has rebates on all SUV’s. Wait till they start to lose money.

  3. If the American car industry is to work, here is how it’s going to have to go:

    1.) Kill Ford & Lincoln: Everything in their lineup sucks. There is so much money wasted on this whole entire company and all of its subsidiaries. This will free up trillions of dollars to better invest in the other two American car lineups.
    2.) Kill Tesla: Without this giant waste of uselessness, this will free up more money.

    3.) General Motors
    A.) Chevrolet: Chevrolet does need to cull a few vehicles from its lineup such as the Spark, the Sonic, the Trax, the Equinox and the Traverse. This is what a good Chevrolet car lineup would look like
    A1.) Cruze: The Cruze is a good little car with a lot of potential but it’s on the wrong platform, Switch it over to the Alpha-II platform and make it a hatch only configuration and start from there. The Cruze should get a base 1.6L Turbo engine and then step up to a turbo diesel option, the 275hp 2.0T RS and at the top a 350hp SS variant of the 3.6L N/A V6. all cars should have an AWD system but with the 275hp 2.0T and the 350hp 3.6L V6, those cars should have high performance AWD systems, Brembo brakes, sport tuned exhaust systems, heated and air conditioned Recaro alcantara seats, a 1LE-type suspension on the SS model, flat bottom heated steering wheels with Alcantara on the SS model.
    A2.) The Chevrolet Camaro: The Camaro is the near perfect pony car/Muscle Car but there are a few tweaks to be made, namely visibility and trunk space, other than that the Camaro is pretty good but its lineup could use some work. The base model Camaro should be a 275hp 2.0T Berlinetta with a focus on comfort and economy. With a 10-speed automatic drive-train and comfortable magnetic ride suspension and good brakes the Berlinetta would be a great little sporty coupe for those not looking to be the fastest thing around but quick enough to have fun while still being super comfortable. Next up would be the Camaro RS package with a 5.7L V8 mild-hybrid derived from the 5.3L V8 making about 420hp with a 10-speed automatic behind it with an optional 6-speed manual. The car should have the standard SS suspension and brakes, full size spare, and drive train and standard single mode exhaust system. Above the RS should be the SS-396 (6.4L) V8 with roughly about 495hp, 10-speed auto, 1LE equipment standard, 6-spd manual option, a 4″ lip spoiler, vented hood (SS-396 style) optional Borla dual mode exhaust system, optional SS/RS ground effects package, full size spare, Alpine stereo, HUD, FLIR night vision pedestrian/Animal detection system and well appointed interior. Above that should be the Z/28 with a DOHC 5.0L V8 pushing out 550hp, 6-speed manual transmission only, DSSV suspension system, 3pc 5″ tall lip spoiler, Z/28 specific scooped hood, True Mid length Tri-Y header design, resonator only exhaust system with cats, Recaro interior, 5-speaker stereo system w/ Navigation/Track display, minimal insulation, tire inflation package, lightweight wheels, ZL1-1LE brakes, etc. Above that should be the ZL1 with the Supercharged 6.2L V8 pushing 725hp with ZL1 1LE equipment standard, smaller wing spoiler (Think Bumblebee spoiler and Bumblebee appearance package), Standard Borla ATAK dual mode exhaust system, Tri-Y header design manifold etc. Lastly a Yenko Camaro with a 600hp 7.0L V8, 10-speed auto, a very comfortable interior, current level ZL1 suspension and brakes, Polished and black 20″ Yenko-specific wheels, unique 3″ tall rear lip spoiler and Graphics & appearance packages.
    A3.) Malibu: Alpha-2 platform sedan with the 275hp 2.0T, a 350hp 3.6L V6 RS and a 420hp 5.7L SS package. the 2.0T and the RS should be standard AWD with the RS being the sportier of the two while the 2.0T should be committed to premium comfort as a standard daily commuter car with amenities such as heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, a Bose stereo system and things like that. The RS should up the Ante with a sportier interior while the SS tops the mold with the V8, active dual exhaust, performance tuned 10-speed, Brembo brakes, magnetic ride suspension and things like that and RWD only.
    With that, the Chevrolet can work on it’s SUV lineup which should look like this
    A4.) Chevrolet Blazer: Colorado based SUV with a diesel and a 350hp 3.6L V6 needs a ZR2 package and a lowered SS-396 package to fight with the Durango SRT.
    A5.) Chevrolet Tahoe: based on the new silverado needs an off-road Tahoe Blazer Z71 5.7L V8 as well as a Diesel package
    A6.) Chevrolet Suburban: same as above but without the off road package.
    I’m not going to go into the Chevrolet Truck lineup to in-depth because there isn’t much needed as far as improvements. I will say the Colorado needs to have a lot more design cues from the Silverado and there needs to be a 495hp SS-396 Silverado in the very near future above the RST Silverado. Other than that the Chevrolet lineup would work good like this

    B.) GMC/Pontiac: Everyone all over will tell you that Chevrolet really messed up when they let go of Pontiac in favor of Buick. Pontiac was a much better and much more popular car and a much nicer car. Here is where GM has a golden opportunity to do something right. Sell a Pontiac car lineup under the GMC umbrella this way Pontiac only needs to worry about cars and maybe a decent crossover type vehicle and the lineup would look something like this.
    B1.) The Pontiac Firebird: The best looking and most expressive Pony car should make its return on the GM Alpha-II platform as a running mate to the awesome Chevrolet Camaro. a more luxurious and tech-filled car, the lineup should include the base Pontiac firebird with a 300hp variant of the 2.0T, a 5.7L 430hp Formula, a 500hp Trans Am WS6 and the 730hp Trans Am Firehawk. The Firebird should have a different styling than the Camaro even though they are on the same platform with a much more comfortable interior (Denali-level), magnetic ride suspension and Brembo brakes through the whole lineup, a more premium Alpine stereo and navigation system with track mode on the Firehawk, an integrated wing (4th Gen style but more aggressive) dual scooped hoods, a more aerodynamic front end than the Camaro, full LED lighting outside, digital instrument clusters, etc. Everything from the Formula to the Firehawk should have T-tops with the frame being a built in roll cage for the car. No convertibles.
    B2.) Pontiac Grand Prix: Alpha II platform sedan like the Malibu but again more premium and with three levels including the base 2.0T 275hp, a 3.6L 350hp GT and a 420hp 5.7L V8 GTP. With it being on the Alpha-II platform and the 10-speed automatic with Brembo brakes and magnetic ride, the Denali-level interior heated and cooled seats, Alpine Premium stereo system, navigation, FLIR night vision detection, etc this will be a premium level performance sports sedan.
    B3.) GMC Jimmy: Same as the Chevrolet Blazer but with a twist. This will be one of two vehicles outside of Cadillac with a high performance Turbo V6 engine. Dropping the 420hp/480tq variant of the XTS 3.6L V6 with AWD Brembo brakes, 10-speed automatic, Magnetic ride lowered suspension, wide 20×9.5″ wheels 275/35R20 tires and a performance oriented interior under the Typhoon name plate.
    B4.) GMC Canyon: Colorado platform pickup with the 350hp 3.6L V6 and the Baby Duramax Diesel along with being the second vehicle outside of Cadillac with the 420hp/480tq 3.6L Twin Turbo V6 as the Typhoon but with the Syclone name plate.
    B5.) GMC Yukon and Yukokn Denali: To differentiate the Yukon from the Tahoe & Suburban and also keep it completely separate it from Cadillac, I would go with more of a Hummer H2 design where it looks alot more squared off and rugged but with the new GMC Sierra body language. The only two engines that should be in this vehicle are a V8 Duramax Diesel and a 475hp 6.4L V8 with the 10speed auto behind the gasoline engine and an Allison Transmission/Dana Axles behind the Duramax.

    C.) Cadillac and Corvette: The corvette has done a marvellous job under the Chevrolet brand but its time to elevate the Corvette to its true potential as a Supercar and with Cadillac’s new twin turbo V8 engines pushing a whole lot of horsepower, I don’t see why a 600hp Corvette Stingray, a 750hp ZL1 and an 800hp ZR2 Corvette with the new twin Turbo V8 engines are out of the question along with a 700hp fully electric AWD corvette. All of these vehicles should be rear engine cars and compete with the top cars from Lamborghini and cars in that league. Everything in the Cadillac lineup should come with twin turbo V6 and V8 engines including a completely redesigned Cadillac Escalade that would be more angular and follow the cadillac body language. Along with cars like the Escala, the Elmiraj, the XT6, XT7, the XT5 and the CT5, the CT6 and even the new CT4 should look nothing like anything else in the GM lineup. Now of course vehicles such as the CT4 and XT5 won’t be super hot on the horsepower list but they should at least have 400hp with Electric variants. Actually it would be nice to see everything in the Cadillac lineup have electric and electric performance variants.
    Buick; Stop BSing around, Build the Avista and the actual Avenir (Call it the Riviera since Avenir is now a trim line), Put the Buick on the Alpha-II Chassis and the Riviera on the Omega Chassis, give the Avista a GS package with the current ATS-V suspension and brake system plus AWD, drop a 405hp 3.6L V6 hybrid under the hood and call it a day. Take the Riviera, do all of the same stuff and call it a day. Turn all of the SUVs into Electric vehicles and that be it.

    FCA
    Dodge, The Muscle Brand: Muscle cars deserve to live on and there is no reason that they shouldn’t given the knowledge and technology that we have. However there are changes that need to be made.
    A.) The Dodge Challenger: Once we move to the new Maserati platform my suggestion is that there only be four variants of the Challenger. The Challenger should move to the ’72 Challenger body styling inside and out with models and equipment as follows:
    1.) The Challenger SE: A 400hp turbo 2.4L four-cylinder AWD coupe, 18″ wheels, pursuit level disc brakes front and rear, comfort-sport suspension, well appointed interior
    2.) The Challenger T/A 5.9L Taking the 5.7L Eagle, bumping the displacement to 5.9L and then taking the full Apache top end, exhaust manifolds and exhaust from the current SRT-392 and placing it on this engine should net roughly 485-495hp all while being on the new platform should put this car as a better “Challenger to the Camaro and Trans Am idea. The new Challenger should go to the ’72 Body style with a blacked out T/A scooped hood and a slightly taller 4” lip spoiler. The interior should have slight revisions but nothing major.
    3.) The Challenger R/T 7.0L: A 540hp 426 Hemi V8 is not a car to be taken lightly on the streets. This car should have more “Cuda” styling to it such as the Gull Wing Spoiler, Shaker hood, functional front fender gills, functional rear fender brake scoops, heated and cooled Recaro seating, Alcantara heated and cooled steering wheel, Alpine stereo, etc.
    4.) The Challenger Hellcat: 725hp, wide body, front fender gills, rear fender scoops, 5″ tall rear lip spoiler with Gurney lip, Cuda style dual hood scoops, Hellcat/Demon suspension and performance pieces, comfortable premium interior.
    B.) The New Dodge Charger: With the new platform, the ’99 Charger Concept body styling but with more of the 73 Charger styling cues removing the full width track tail lamps and going to a quad headlamp setup with LED trim rings like the Challenger has which will give it more of a GTX look with the evolutionary SRT-style body work. Power trains should be the same as above with the 400hp SE, a 485-495hp Charger R/T 5.9L, a 540hp Charger Daytona-426 and a 725hp hellcat. The Daytona should have it’s own specific Gull wing spoiler and body work while the Hellcat should have an aggressive integrated rear spoiler with slightly wider body work on the front and rear fenders, an Air grabber hood specific and specific interiors on each level.
    5.) The Dodge Durango: The New Durango should be on a more Dynamic package with the same engine options as above but every Durango should be on an AWD setup. The Models should be as followed:
    a.) Durango GT
    b.) Durango R/T 5.9L
    c.) Durango R/T Scat Pack 426
    d.) Durango Hellcat
    Ram Brand Trucks: Pretty much perfect but that Cummins should have 8 cylinders. Also either the TRX or the TR need to be a 426ci powered street performance truck. and there needs to be a Ramcharger SUV. Other than that, perfect.
    Chrysler: Chrysler is in a unique spot as it currently is in desperate need of a revival
    Pacifica: Move to a RWD based AWD chassis setup. Base model Pacifica Grand Touring should have a 400hp turbo-4 with a comfort ride suspension and all the features of the current Pacifica. Above that should be a Pacifica R/T. Equipped with a Mopar-specific ECU tune, cold air intake, upgraded turbocharger and a high flowing dual exhaust system, the R/T should put out around 430hp with improved torque and performance feel. This should have a sport tuned AWD system and suspension, Pursuit brakes, aggressive aerodynamics, blacked out grilles, black housing LED lighting front and rear, wider 20×9″ wheels, a sporty interior, with a front center console, flat bottom steering wheel, Alpine stereo and an overall sportier feel.
    300-Series: The Chrysler 300 should drop the big square styling and go back to a sleeker design like the 2002 model with the newer Chrysler front end body language: The three models should include
    a.) 300 LHS: 400hp turbo-4 standard luxury
    b.) 300 Concorde: 400hp turbo-4, premium luxury model
    c.) 300M: 485hp 5.9L ultra premium luxury/performance model (R/T Charger equivalent)
    Chrysler (Crossover): Durango based 5.9L Hemi????
    Jeep: Not much to say where jeep is concerned other than they should trim the whole lineup to these models below
    Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited: Perfect
    Jeep Cherokee
    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Jeep Wagoneer
    Jeep Grand Wagoneer

    Lastly, Both GM and FCA America need to upgrade their performance and accessories catalog not to mention their aftermarket catalogs. Most people love to accessorize their vehicles and make them unique so why not offer more of these options right from the factory. Both companies have ties with both Borla, Corsa and Brembo but people also love wheels, lights stereos, tint, graphics, interior kits, etc. Why not offer this stuff from the factory. Offer glass options that solar tint like sunglasses. It Trust me, people would rather get parts backed with factory warranties so they don’t have to wait for their warranties to run out. Most people want cars that perform well and the market it still hot for performance vehicles and for aftermarket parts. If the automotive companies were smart, they’d focus on things like this to make so much more money after the initial car sale.

  4. correction on the Ram TR and TRX. The 7.0L Banshee should be the off road and the Hellcat should be the street performance truck. Sorry, my mistake

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