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Thread: Dearborn Debacle?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Dearborn Debacle?



    What will become of Ford?

    The automaker just posted record losses -- $12.7 billion, or $6.79 per share for the '06 calendar year, with fourth quarter '06 red ink amounting to a staggering $5.8 billion.

    This is devastating news; well beyond the worst predictions of industry analysts. Ford's new CEO says he has a plan to return the company to profitability by 2009, but that will be a tall order, chiefly because so much depends on a die that's already been cast -- in the form of several new/heavily updated models, including three new Lincolns (MKZ, MKX and Navigator) as well as several new Fords (Edge, Fusion; a revamped Explorer SUV, etc.).

    The company's future hinges on how well (or not) these models do. It's true there are others in the pipeline -- but they won't be here until at least late 2007/early 2008 -- at the soonest. It's doubtful Ford can afford to bleed another year-plus. And it will take time for any new 2008/2009 models Ford has coming to make much of a dent in either the marketplace or the company's bottom line.

    So the future hangs on what Ford's got right now -- or will have, in the near-term future.

    It's a dicey situation.

    The biggest open wound is Lincoln-Mercury. Like GM's Buick and Oldsmobile divisions, Mercury was created decades ago as a "stepping stone" between working man Fords and top-of-the-line Lincolns. This made sound sense when American car companies dominated the U.S. market -- and buyers loyally worked their way up the ladder, staying within the Ford Family of Fine Cars. But today, Mercury seems glaringly superfluous. Like Oldsmobile, there is a great history there. But also like Oldsmobile, what exists today is not like what once existed -- and it's very debatable whether Ford should (or even can afford) to maintain three full-line divisions. Especially when every single current Mercury model is an obviously tarted-up Ford -- with little to recommend it beyond a higher price tag and a few trim gewgaws.

    As for Lincoln, Ford (like GM) needs to have a luxury line to remain a major player in the business. Cadillac turned it around; so Lincoln can, too. But it will be tough going; and one can only marvel in stunned stupefaction at the way Lincoln simply gave away the high-end SUV market it once owned as a virtual fief -- by allowing the once-dominant Navigator to slide into third-tierdom -- and at the way it just gave up on the potentially excellent rear-drive LS sport sedan. This one could have been a BMW contender, had it been developed rather than left to languish, unchanged and unimproved.

    Now Lincoln finds itself having to rebuild from the ground up -- and everything's riding on the new MKZ entry-level sedan, MKX crossover and all-new Navigator SUV. All three are nice enough vehicles; but is "nice enough" good enough?

    The MKZ's an obviously rebadged Ford (and built on a front-wheel-drive chassis in a market that has gone dramatically back to rear-drive). It feels sluggish and heavy compared with class-leaders in this segment, such as the BMW 3-Series.

    The Navigator -- once the king of the hill in its segment (indeed, the original Navigator created the segment) comes to market packing a weak (in comparison to what's available) 300 horsepower V-8. Its chief rival, the Cadillac Escalade, offers 100 more.

    And the MKX crossover is a solid effort -- with interesting features like an oversized "panorama" sunroof -- but comes to market in the wake of literally half a dozen or more similar vehicles from other automakers, many of which (such as the Lexus RX and Acura MDX) are better established or (as in the case of Audi and Mazda) better-regarded as brands.

    Just getting people into the showrooms will be quite the challenge.

    And Ford itself?

    The Mustang is a huge hit -- all by itself, carrying the reputation of Ford on its retro-muscular shoulders. But the current design is already two years old -- and there's only so much a specialty vehicle with an inherently limited potential buyer pool can do, bottom line-wise. What's needed is a mass-market success story -- something along the lines of what the original Taurus accomplished for Ford back in the mid-1980s.

    But there is nothing like that in Ford's current lineup. Or more precisely, nothing in Ford's current lineup that seems to be drawing in customers like the original Taurus did. The Five Hundred and Freestyle sedan/wagon were supposed to do the trick, but that hasn't panned out (sales of the Five Hundred in the last quarter of 2006 were down 22 percent; the Freestyle free-fell 23.6 percent).

    Brand-new/just launched vehicles like the new Edge crossover (also sold as the MKX in Lincoln trim) and Fusion (which does triple duty as the basis for the Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ) are not "bad" in terms of their design, driving characteristics, features or price. But are they exceptional? Stand outs? Do they have sufficient gravitational pull to attract would-be Toyota/Honda/Nissan customers -- reversing the trend of the past 20-plus years?

    That is the heart of the matter.

    What happens with Lincoln's latest offerings will give us a clue as to the likely outcome. If the new Navigator, MKZ and MKX aren't able to rehab the division -- or at least bring it back into contention -- it's not a good bet the less adorned versions of the same vehicles will do much better as Fords.

    Or for Ford.

    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    I think if the Aussie Ford Falcon was LHD it would be a good seller in US. It is slighly bigger than now defunct Taurus.

    Falcon's new model due 2008 is supposed to be RHD and LHD compatible.

    Sadly it is a case of world markets, and I only hope Ford does not go down a GM Daewoo road.
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    I think if the Aussie Ford Falcon was LHD it would be a good seller in US. It is slighly bigger than now defunct Taurus.

    Falcon's new model due 2008 is supposed to be RHD and LHD compatible.

    Sadly it is a case of world markets, and I only hope Ford does not go down a GM Daewoo road.
    Let's hope not!

    More cars with the style and panache of the Mustang would be a start...

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Like GM, Ford's most funamental problem is its legacy of mediocre/poor product - and equally mediocre/poor treatment of customers.

    Buyer loyalty is hard to rcapture... and Ford lost a lot of former Ford buyers to Honda and Toyota over the years... see my "Dearborn Debacle" posted in this section for more on this...

  5. #5
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Like GM, Ford's most funamental problem is its legacy of mediocre/poor product - and equally mediocre/poor treatment of customers.

    Buyer loyalty is hard to rcapture... and Ford lost a lot of former Ford buyers to Honda and Toyota over the years... see my "Dearborn Debacle" posted in this section for more on this...
    An import in the US ..South African friend of mine....... said he wouldn't buy US because of the treatment he received when he was in the market for his first car..... he is now a Honda driver. He also claims he is trully an african american, having been born in Africa but a US citizen.
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Like GM, Ford's most funamental problem is its legacy of mediocre/poor product - and equally mediocre/poor treatment of customers.

    Buyer loyalty is hard to rcapture... and Ford lost a lot of former Ford buyers to Honda and Toyota over the years... see my "Dearborn Debacle" posted in this section for more on this...
    An import in the US ..South African friend of mine....... said he wouldn't buy US because of the treatment he received when he was in the market for his first car..... he is now a Honda driver. He also claims he is trully an african american, having been born in Africa but a US citizen.
    I personally know about five people who were once loyal GM/Ford/Chrysler customers who "went Jap" - and will probably never comeback...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    I personally know about five people who were once loyal GM/Ford/Chrysler customers who "went Jap" - and will probably never comeback...

    Have nver owned a Chrysler, but they have always appealed to me.....they have always been just a little different

    I still want a 300C .....even with diesel!
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  8. #8
    mrblanche
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    I currently own 2 Chevys, 1 Ford, 1 MGB, and one Ford with a Chevy engine.

    I'm open minded. I test drove the Pacer when it came out new. I've test driven Chryslers; I just never found a Chrysler dealer who acted like he wanted to sell me anything.

    One of the big failings of our businesses today, and one of the great entrees for the small businessman, is service. I can't believe how buisinesses act like I have nothing better to do than wait around for them to get around to helping me give them my money.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I currently own 2 Chevys, 1 Ford, 1 MGB, and one Ford with a Chevy engine.

    I'm open minded. I test drove the Pacer when it came out new. I've test driven Chryslers; I just never found a Chrysler dealer who acted like he wanted to sell me anything.

    One of the big failings of our businesses today, and one of the great entrees for the small businessman, is service. I can't believe how buisinesses act like I have nothing better to do than wait around for them to get around to helping me give them my money.
    Australia too!
    Do you think nearly seven months is acceptable to wait for a dealer to contact mefor a test drive I booked back in July... They won't get my $$$ but I would ahve lked the test drive.
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  10. #10
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I currently own 2 Chevys, 1 Ford, 1 MGB, and one Ford with a Chevy engine.


    One of the big failings of our businesses today, and one of the great entrees for the small businessman, is service. I can't believe how businesses act like I have nothing better to do than wait around for them to get around to helping me give them my money.
    The sales woman at the Toyota store where I got the RAV4 was of an entirely different kind, extremely pleasant, efficient, and helpful. I was amazed! Perhaps the entire store was that way but not for long, I fear. The place has been bought out by a larger operation and will be moving to a 'better' location. Probably get a showroom full of alpha males eager to prove how tough they are.


  11. #11
    mrblanche
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    Re: Dearborn Debacle?

    Most dealerships these days don't have salespeople. They have "catchers" whose only job it is to get you inside the building, where actual negotiations are handled by specialized managers.

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