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Ford: Restoring Prestige and Honor
The Ford Motor Company, along with rival General Motors, has been going through a time of severe testing due to concerns about product quality and relevancy, profits, and long term viability. The net result is that Ford is planning on closing numerous plants and will lay off as many as 30,000 employees, a historic cutback that may only be the tip of the iceberg. Is Ford finished or will the company be able to regain strength and compete successfully in the years ahead?
Ford has certainly taken its lumps and for good reason. Profits in the North American market are nonexistent with losses actually in the multibillion dollar range. Despite the red ink, all is not lost for the “blue oval” as the company remains very profitable overseas. In addition, its three U.S. divisions have much to offer if some serious changes are incorporated. Here are my suggestions for change:
Ford -- The strongest division for the automaker is the one that bears its name. Ford’s strength is in its line of pick up trucks and SUVs. Select car models including the Mustang and Fusion are also strong sellers. Ford’s weakness can be found with its small car line, the Focus, and with dated models including the Crown Victoria. Better for Ford to scrap their small car lines altogether and import cars from Mexico or overseas. In addition, the company should concentrate on overhauling the Crown Victoria and introducing an all new Ranger compact pick up truck. Finally, Ford is getting out of the minivan business as crossover vehicles, such as the all new Edge, will replace that category. This latter retreat is wise as the category is saturated and the expense of developing a successful new minivan can be diverted to concentrate on shoring up other product lines.
Mercury -- Many have been predicting that Ford would scrap its Mercury division altogether. However, among the many management decisions announced recently indicate that Mercury will stay. Together with Lincoln, the two brands are weak and are in need of much assistance. Mercury cars for decades have been nothing more than reworked Ford models therefore its brand identity has been diluted. It is time for Ford to help Mercury come up with a clearer “personality” and a line of vehicles that are inspiring, not boring. A good start would be to develop a car all Mercury’s own, such as a retro Cougar coupe.
Lincoln -- There was a day when Lincoln and Cadillac battled for preeminence for sales leadership in the American luxury car category. Lincoln long ago ceded the fight to Cadillac, a GM division with new and exciting products. Currently, Cadillac outsells Lincoln by more than 2 to 1 and does battle with the likes of Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes. For Lincoln, a new Town Car is needed plus a decision must be made regarding just how much the division should rely on trucks and SUVs to identify the brand. Currently, Lincoln line up includes more truck models than cars. Reviving a historic model, such as the Continental, could be a smart choice and putting some money into the LS is another. Curiously, the make is changing the name of its newest model, the Zephyr, to the MKZ after only one model year.
Ford is floundering and it is particularly noticeable in two divisions, Mercury and Lincoln. Its Mazda connection, which has yielded several models including the Escape and Fusion, has been a success. Tapping its Volvo association to help with larger cars and with engineering would be wise and Ford should work closer with its Jaguar division to produce additional vehicle lines. The current LS, derived from the Jaguar “S Type” is an example of an earlier collaboration that wasn’t utilized to its fullest extent.
All hope isn’t lost for Ford, but the company’s image has been tarnished. The seed of greatness remains, but the company must act quickly in order to regain consumer confidence and stop the ever deepening erosion of its sales base to foreign makes.
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