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.


Anonymous said...

I have thought that Ford abandoned the Focus and dug up the Escort again with the latest lame redesign of what sadly was once a cutting edge car. Dropping the different models was a dign of lost faith in their own product line. Talk about writing on the wall.

K_Raven said...

Yeah, let's see, even the Japanese emulate the Europeans for their upscale models, Toyota with the Lexus, Infiniti for Nissan, and Acura for Honda, with BMW and Mercedes two of the more obvious targets. And a Ford executive thinks Ford should be less European, going against what has been an extremely successful formula for the Japanese. And why would Ford be in trouble with that kind of reasoning? Hey give that man a multimillion dollar bonus for that nugget of wisdom.

Nothing to see here, please move along.