Friday, July 25, 2008

Here's the real reason Ford is in trouble...

Wow. That's all I can say when I go to the Ford UK site and take a long look around, carefully wiping the drool from the keyboard in hopes it doesn't short out. It is precisely cars like this that are needed in North America, and have been for some time. It has taken $1.40 / litre gasoline and the resulting backlash against large gas guzzling behemoths to make the automotive sector wake the hell up from their self-induced 15 year SUV coma.

Reading the Globe (and also the Mail) today, I realized that Ford in the USA and Canada still don't have a clue as to what the North American market wants or is willing to spend on a small car. They have finally announced a change in direction, but it's probably too little too late for Ford Canada.
There are plans to finally bring the European Focus to our shores, along with the snazzy new Fiesta and some other interesting-sounding vehicles by 2010, but - no wagon, and only a maybe on the 5 door hatchback. I've owned two Focus wagons, a 2001 and a 2004, both were superlative in terms of style, gas mileage, versatility, cargo storage and overall driving satisfaction. The redesign in 2005 made the Focus into just another ordinary car. They sucked all the distinctiveness out of it with the lame chrome grille and Crown Vic-inspired dashboard, as well as the overly cheap interior materials. Ford are completely missing the boat on the small crossover / wagon sector dominated by the likes of the newly-revamped Toyota Matrix / Pontiac Vibe twins, and the utterly horrible Dodge Caliber. Another opportunity lost.

A telling quote from Ford advisor Joseph Phillipi says "the key (to Ford's success) will be making those vehicles less European in terms of the touchy-feely aspects." What a profoundly stupid comment. Less European? Ford has made blunder after blunder in terms of North American model releases, and they hold up the Contour and the Merkur as examples of flops that demonstrate why European cars don't sell well in North America. Unfortunately, those vehicles didn't sell because they were really freaking crappy, not because they were European-designed. The UK model lineup is much better than what we are spoon-fed on this side of the pond.

Here's what Ford and people like Mr. Phillipi think we want:

Yeah, an underpowered engine, chrome bars on the grille, an automatic transmission, a trunk and fake side gills is exactly what I want. Riiiight.

I also love being told what I want instead of being listened to. Last year, Ford discontinued the hatchback and wagon versions of the Focus, against the protestations of the public. Those models were the only reason to buy one in the first place.

Ford Canada, so we're clear, here's what I want: This exact model, with no changes except the steering wheel on the left side.
I, and thousands like me would gladly pay a little more for the Euro Focus as is, not "Americanized". I'm sure Mr. Phillippi has considered a Woody Wagon version of this car for us dumb-ass North Americans.

In short, make this car available here and I'll buy it. Keep telling me what you think I want and be prepared for bankruptcy. It's that simple.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Is it me or is it difficult to concentrate on anything these days?

 It occurs to me as I sit at the computer with 6 different windows open and the television on in the background that I'm having a hard time concentrating on anything for any length of time. Go figure.

Take a drive and you are bombarded by information from signs and cars and the radio plus the incoming text messages and phone calls from the Crackberry device; turn on the television to any of the all-news channels and there is a ton of information on the screen at any given time. I can see the talking head, well, talk while I get weather information, stock tips, health tips, asparagus tips and what have you while my brain keeps up a running game of "Keep Away" with my eyes. The eye sees something that the brain interprets as bizarre and the information is gone as fast as it showed up leaving the brain to wonder what the hell just happened.

Does anybody read books anymore or do you just listen to audio books in the car to and from work? And is it a crime to sit and do nothing? I'd like nothing better than to sit in an easy chair and stare forward a la David Puddy for about a half hour. 

"No, I'm good."

The world is a lot smaller now. Wayyy smaller. I like it when I was a kid growing up and Toronto was a mystical place far, far away filled with wonders. Not like now. I live and work in the GTA and it's not that wonderful anymore. Maybe it's just me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

We Owe It To Ourselves do something about the appalling lack of Canadian-made goods available at the vast majority of retailers in this country. Check your shoes - where are they made? Even if they say Rockport or Clarks on the sole, the little tongue tag gives away the country of origin as China. Same with just about any garment that used to be made, if not in this country, then at least on this continent.

It's a situation that has knocked the manufacturing sector on it's ass over the last few years, and despite popular consensus, free trade is not to blame. Three years ago, the protective tariffs that helped Canadian goods compete in the international marketplace were lifted and it's been going downhill at breakneck speed ever since, according to a feature story on CBC's The National tonight. Jobs have been lost in the thousands to third world cheap labour countries, the usual gang of suspect countries being the beneficiaries of our unwillingness to pay $5 more for a shirt or pair of pants made in this country.

To remedy this, I've placed a request in to contact some of these garment manufacturers to see if there would be any interest in assembling a national web registry of Canadian Manufacturers for goods of all types, under the banner of There, you would be able to search out, say, t-shirts, or winter coats and how to buy them, with links to the manufacturers' sites. It's just an idea in the earliest stages of planning, but I know that I'm not the only one out there who's mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

I wonder where the masks our Olympic athletes are forced to wear due to the dangerous air quality wearing in Beijing are made? Hoboken? Something tells me not so much...

...and now back to our regularly scheduled lampooning of society.