Frank Beckman of the Detroit News is one of the most respected journalists in the Motor City — and elsewhere. Recently, he made this observation:
“You would think that with the country’s problems, the White House wouldn’t worry about television ads. But when automaker Ford aired an ad recently in which a customer took a swipe at GM and Chrysler by saying he ‘wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by the government,’ the administration just had to micromanage. Our reporter learned that ‘the White House contacted Ford to discuss the ad, and the company has now pulled the popular spot.’ Even if the White House didn’t apply outright pressure to drop the commercial, such inquiries represent coercion. After all, Ford remains at the mercy of the federal government over issues like the emissions and fuel-economy standards ... intervening in Ford’s advertising is a blatant political act that threatens Ford’s sales and the American jobs that depend on them.”
How has Ford Motor Co. managed to compete so well in the marketplace? Product! Led by the Ford Division’s F-Series and several innovative passenger cars, Ford is able to reduce debt and, who knows, they many even bring back dividends to investors.
Ford has three of the top-selling vehicles in the U.S.: The F-Series, Ford Fusion and Ford Escape.
There is more good news from Ford. As reported in Road and Track, “The $25,830 Ford Focus Hatchback is the top-of-the-line Titanium model with leather interior, a twin-clutch six-speed PowerShift transmission, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors and voice activated MyFord Touch navigation system with Sync … The standard 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-4 produces a healthy 160 horsepower. EPA mileage is 27 mpg city/37 highway. The basic list price is $22,765."
Have you heard of ZIPCAR? It is a company that rents cars at an hourly or daily rate. Among ZIPCAR’S customer base are more than 250 U.S. colleges. Well, its business of renting to college students is superior to bicycles and skateboards traveling Charleston’s one-way streets — going against traffic.
Anyway, Ford will provide about 1,000 cars to ZIPCAR in the coming year. Another favorable result for Ford is the company’s decision to promote V-6 engines on the F-Series. In the past, truck buyers have flocked to the V-8. Now, the turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 is outselling the famous V-8.
And, how is this headline from Automotive News astounding?
“Coming to America: Ford’s 3-cylinder Fiesta”
Ford has developed a new 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine dripping with Ford’s EcoBoost fuel-sipping technology: turbocharging, variable-valve timing, offset crankshaft and other goodies. So, according to Automotive News, here’s the logic for a U.S. three-banger Fiesta:
• Production of the 1.0-liter engine starts in Europe in the spring of 2012.
• Ford says it fits only in its three global small cars; the Ka, Figo and Fiesta.
• Ford will not sell the Ka or Figo in the United States. The Ka, made at Fiat’s Tychy, Poland, plant, is too small and the India-built Figo is a Fiesta derivative aimed at developing markets.
In addition, the recently revealed Evos concept takes Ford design forward. The Evos represents an evaluation of Ford’s so-called Kinetic design language and aims to give the next generation of the Ford brand’s global cars a more premium appearance.
While the car will look more premium, pricing will continue to stress value, says J. May, the automaker’s global design chief.
“We have a new generation of customers around the world, and they are fascinated with technology, which we happen to be working on quite a lot,” Mays says.
“They also have an insatiable appetite for premium design. And by premium I don’t just mean expensive design, but vehicles and products that look premium. We want to give the mainstream customer the feel of luxury,” Mays concluded.
The Evos concept has four full-wingdoors, and it is about the length of a Ford Focus and width of the Fusion. The concept has a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It is also understood future Fords will show a new face, with a one-piece grille instead of the two-piece grilles found on the current generation of global Fords.
The Evos concept is the work of Ford’s design team in Cologne, Germany, with input from the company’s global design team.
Dr. George G. Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A Charleston SC 29401.