Archive for the 'Ford' Category

Ford RS500 ….

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Though Ford is very much an American car company, they have done a few things right over the years, in particular was the launch of their European-design models the Ford GT40 and the RS500 series. Ford reintroduced the GT a few years ago, and they are back to making more “economical” hot hatches with the RS500. The options list is sparse, but it does offer to launch the driver to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.

At the end of the day though, it begs the question, “why isn’t this car made in the US for the American market?” Wake up Ford, and smell the petrol!

Tracked: MINI Cooper E

Monday, April 12th, 2010

It is fair to argue that a car isn’t a car until it has been driven on the Nürburgring. A 20+KM public road in Germany, it is driven by professionals and amateurs alike in every road-worthy car imaginable.  The current record for a production car is 6:48 in a Radical SR8LM sports car. Gumpert’s Apollo sports car comes in at a still brisk, 7:11. A slightly altered MINI Cooper E concept car – well, just watch and see!

Not amazingly quick, but at least it outpaces a Ford Transit van as demonstrated by the great Sabine Schmitz in this video:

The Key to Automotive Profitability is Easier Than You Think

Monday, March 31st, 2008

2008 Ford Focus

Hardly a day goes by when an American automaker isn’t making an announcement that negatively impacts either the consumer or the workforce. Today was different. I would like to thank LeftLane News for bringing to focus a story about Ford, GM, and Chrysler. All three operations have seen what has historically been their respective worst years ever so far this decade. While decade isn’t over yet, it looks like they have “survived” the worst of it. But when we analyse the causes of this downfall of the Big 3, one place to look as at production.

Specifically, let’s look at the options list for the 2007 Ford Focus. According to Ford, the venerable Focus line had an astounding – wait for it – 100,000 different options combinations. 80% of sales came from just 4,000 or 4% of the available combinations. That means that 20% of sales required an extra retooling of 96,000 combinations. Talk about a money suck. And the problem got twice as bad when you went to the dealer because if you were a consumer smart enough to know what you wanted, you had the devil’s own job of getting exactly the car you wanted. That meant that Ford was forced to slash prices on vehicles sitting on the lot for not weeks, but MONTHS! The logistical headaches were more than enough reason for Ford to rethink how it produced and marketed its automobiles.

iPod Generation NOT “down” with British Auto Brands?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

While reading an article from LeftLane News, we got quite a laugh after learning that many of America’s youth (the young-ish looking people with tattoos and iPods stuck to their ears) don’t recognize the Land Rover brand as British, nor do they recogize a competing brand, Lexus, as Japanese!

The article follows:

“58.4 percent of U.S. college students surveyed by Anderson Analytics believe Land Rover is an American brand. Only 18.5 percent of respondents correctly identified the marque as British.

Land Rover LR2


Where art Thou Mondeo?

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Our friends at Winding Road magazine recently spent the time and money to go to the Geneva Motor Show, one of the top motor shows in the world. Where there, they spotted the all-new Ford Mondeo.

We noted some months ago that Ford was opting not to sell their hot hatchback Ford Focus ST and Ford Focus RS in the USA, a market that craves large engines and fast cars. It is no wonder Ferrari’s number one market is the gas-guzzling American market. The Mondeo is no gas-guzzler. It is a well-designed and well-engineered family sedan, much like the Fusion in the American market. But make no mistake, it is most definitely not the Ford Fusion. What this represents is a poor marketing effort on the part of Ford Motor Company. It also signifies a synergy lost in a global company. Ford could save money by eliminating the Fusion and using the Mondeo in the USA. A smart move, but instead the company struggles and has to sell of its profitable Aston Martin division, and brand that did not fit into the streamlined strategy of the future Ford PAG.

The conclusion is that we should not be surprised about this ill-advised move considering they have brought back the Taurus name – a name synonymous with boring sedans.


Aston Martin: A Perfect Fit For Prodrive?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

On Monday, Ford announced that they sold their profitable brand Aston Martin to a consortium of buyers, including the owner of racing competitor Prodrive of the UK. This means that Aston now goes back to British ownership – at least partly. In addition, a well-known Aston Martin collector is investing in the buyout as well as two well-financed investment companies Adeem Investment Co. and Investment Dar, both of Kuwait. Ford will retain US$ 77 million (about 8.5% of the company). The whole deal is worth $925 in much needed cash for Ford Motor Company. Ford will still retain three brands in its Premier Auto Group: Volvo, Land Rover, and Jaguar. Ford has previously stated that Jaguar is losing money, and Land Rover (despite widespread quality problems) is said to be profitable. Both are known “British” companies.

As for Aston, we can expect to see some leverage on the buy-side of this deal. It is unclear if the two Kuwaiti investment companies are planning long-term investments, but a lot of leverage could mean a quick turn-around. Unlikely would be for David Richards, the chairman and founder of Prodrive, and John Sinders an Aston collector and racing backer, to resell the company in the short-term. Both seem to view this as a long-term investment.

Strategically, Ulrich Bez will remain the CEO of Aston Martin, and will continue to drive the product lineup in the future with the Rapide, a four-door Aston Martin, which will compete against the Maserati Quattroporte and the Porsche Panamera (due out in 2009). We should expect that plans for the Rapide will be accelerated to generate more revenue and better return on investment over the next few years.

On a final note, for those surprised by the Prodrive investment, we should note that Prodrive has considered investment in a production vehicle before. The well-known racing company commissioned a technologically advanced vehicle, the Prodrive P2. Prodrive couldn’t be bothered to put the sophisticated car into production, but we could view the purchase of Aston Martin as a foray into production sports cars. No doubt we could see Prodrive technology in future Aston Martins, thus giving Aston a specific product advantage.


Thoughts on Ford’s PAG

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

The Financial Times first reported in early January that Ford was considering selling the Jaguar unit of the Ford Premier Auto Group, the Ford Company’s luxury division. Jaguar has been in the Ford stable since the 1980s, the same decade that Ford began to assemble the PAG.

Alan Mulally told the FT, “All good businesses continually review their portfolio, and we will continue to evaluate ours going forward.” Good plan Alan! With that statement Ford is on the right track. But then again this statement comes weeks after Ford announced that they were looking for buyers of the Aston Martin name, PAG’s ultra luxury supercar division. Oddly, Ford’ Don LeClair told the FT just days later that Jaguar was NOT for sale. Clearly, Ford needs to get the corporate message packaged cohesively.

And that leads use to wonder if Ford is really taking its own advice. In evaluating the reasons for the sale, it is of no doubt that Ford is looking to sell the now profitable Aston Martin because it needs cash flow. A sale would generate short-term cash flow. This much is true. Still, Ford needs to consider the long-term ramifications of this decision. Aston gives Ford some degree of legitimacy in international racing, and no doubt Aston Martin in far more profitable than it has been in the past.

Ford has done an excellent job of turning around Aston Martin, which made only 43 cars in 1993. 2006 resulted in over 5000 Aston Martin sales. This is much contrasted with Ford’s 1989 purchase of Jaguar. Jaguar has struggled since its inception, and has yet to make any money for the PAG. It does however represent a Ford’s prestige motorcar presence in the auto industry. It is the only luxury auto unit that Ford runs outside of the USA, and the only one which is known and respected worldwide.

Regardless of what happens to Aston Martin and Jaguar, you can bet that Ford’s PAG will attempt to keep Volvo and Land Rover, both of which are profitable, in its portfolio. As we have said before, a sale of Aston Martin is mistake, and as likely is a sale of Jaguar.

Ford Resurrects the Taurus? Say it ain’t so!

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

At Beyond the KM, we find that automotive news is a love-hate sort of relationship. We loved the new Porsche Turbo, but we hate the new Kia Rondo (and every Kia for that matter). We love new safety devices like Mercedes S-Class radar-guided cruise control, but hate when it fails.

Thus the relationship continues this week when Ford announced that it was resurrecting the Taurus name. As we stated months prior, we LOVED when they ditched the Taurus, and we HATE that they are bringing back the nameplate.

It is not to say that Taurus is the worst name for a car, certainly, the Sable (also being resurrected) is worse, and Lamborghini does name many of their cars after bull fighting legends (think Murciélago and Miura). The problem we have always had is that the Taurus name, while having seen heavy investment over the years, still stands for mediocrity. Would a food maker name a new flavor of cheese “the moldy, stinky jack” ??? We don’t think so.

In essence Ford is trying to resurrect a car that is not selling well hoping that the mediocrity of its predecessor will not drive buyers further away. The move by Ford proves mediocrity in the marketing organization and will likely show that no matter how fanciful the name, if you are producing junk, people won’t buy it. American carmakers still don’t seem to take cue from the Europeans and Japanese that quality is more important than nameplate. Chevy NOVA anyone?

Aston Martin No Good for Ford?

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Within the past week the Guardian Unlimited (a UK news source) has reported that up to 30 bidders could be vying to take over Aston Martin from Ford Motor Company. The source reported that this could raise the price of Aston to over $1.9 billion (£1 billion).

The revelation is not unexpected as Aston has been on the chopping block at Ford’s Premier Auto Group, which incidentally was the second largest segment for Ford Motor Company in the 2nd Quarter of 2006. A number of companies have passed including BMW and the Japanese companies. Some speculation had also been that management in a MBO would buy the company, but that seems unlikely now. The resounding sentiment seems to be that no existing, large car manufacturer needs to buy such a niche sports car maker to add to its stable. BMW did seem a likely buyer, as it also owns ultra-luxury maker Rolls-Royce and could have an ultra-luxury sports car maker. VW is obviously out as is Fiat since they have Lamborghini and Ferrari, respectively.

Again BeyondtheKM ask the big question, why not keep Aston Martin? As we’ve said in previous posts, Ford stands to benefit from having a sporty marque within PAG. They currently have a luxury SUV maker (Land Rover), a luxury car maker (Jaguar), and Volvo, which is mid-high end (and brand identified as “safe”) vehicle. Additionally, they have Aston Martin, a company that was really evolved and made it profitable and highly desirable. In short, Aston Martin is everything that the other Ford and PAG brands are not. They are an important piece of Ford’s diversification in the auto industry.

Like it or not, money or not, axing Aston Martin is the WRONG move. If anything Ford should look at home to its Lincoln and Mercury brands to find ways to sell them or cut them altogether and save money. Ford must also do a better job of integrating technologies and platforms with Volvo and even Jaguar. For sportier cars, Ford must borrow technologies from Aston. This serves to bring more buyers to Ford through a “halo” effect and it serves to keep Ford diversified and send money back to Ford through PAG, the most profitable companies of which are Aston and Land Rover – the “jewels of Ford,” if you will.

Ford Taurus Comes to an End

Friday, October 27th, 2006

As avid readers will note, I had posted a week ago, the announcement that today the production of the Ford Taurus will end. It is a bittersweet ending for one of the most recognizable cars on the America road.

The Taurus actually had a long life brought on mostly by its early popularity among the car buying public and later as a favorite fleet car for Corporate America and car rental agencies. It would be nearly impossible to leave one’s house on a trip in America and not see one. It had a distinctive front nose and shapely headlights, which seemed to suggest that it was gawking at you as you passed it on the road (some would suggest it wasn’t gawking so much as it was yawning).

Whatever the case may be, the Taurus marked an interesting era for Ford Motor Company. For Ford, the car meant large profit. It also signifies the end of an era. For Ford, that era is one of bad design, and the company clearly feels that the latest cars to roll off their assembly lines are much different in terms of quality and design. Given Ford’s announcement that they lose more than $8 billion in 2006, there are a lot of jobs riding on their judgment being correct.

The End of an Era, the End of the Ford Taurus

Friday, October 20th, 2006

It was brought to our attention today that Ford Motor Company is bringing the end of the Ford Taurus sedan next week after 21 years, and 7 million units sold.

Our feelings on this: AMEN! The demise of the Ford Taurus was due long ago. Popular or not, the design got old and the car lost its appeal.

Then again it was only inevitable after FoMoCo’s Jaguar unite opted to style the front of the latest XK after that of the Taurus. Like we said, LONG overdue!

Thanks Ford!

Commentary on the Possible Sale of Aston Martin

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

In 1986, Ford Motor Company bought 75 per cent of Aston Martin. In 1993, they bought the rest of the company from Victor Gauntlett. Since then, Aston Martin has been turned upside down. Barely is the company recognizable to fans of the Aston of yesteryear. Today the company is lean, innovative, and more or less profitable. The brand is stronger than ever, as are the sales figures.

In a lot of ways, the acquisition of Aston into Ford’s Premier Automotive Group was strategically sound long-term investment. Ford had needed a well-known company to purchase, one which could be bought on the cheap and turned around to reap long-term profits. The secondary benefit is that Aston brought a super car to the company that lacked one. Additionally technology that has started in Aston as motorsports technology has filtered down. Some technology has also been filtered to other companies in the Premier Auto Group portfolio. The Aston shares many design concepts and parts with Jaguar. Both companies are located in the West Midlands in what was long considered the heart of the British auto industry.

Aston Martin also had long-term potential in motorsports. In fact, Aston announced in 2003 that they would bring the marque to Le Mans starting in 2005. The efforts in motorsports and in rejuvenating the production car lineup have proven fruitful in adding value to the brand.

Despite all of the benefits of having Aston in the Premier Auto Group, Ford announced at the end of October plans to sell the luxury sports carmaker in an effort to raise capital. The question is: “is now the best time?” Hindsight is always 20/20, but the question is certainly valid. Ford has serious financial problems, to be sure, but dumping companies in which they have invested serious time and money to resolve short-term problems seems absurd. The fact is, Ford isn’t suffering because of Aston Martin, they are benefiting from having the company in the portfolio. Selling this company at this juncture with growth almost certain would be a bad move.

In a future posting, BeyondTheKM will examine the strategic moves that Ford may take in securing the future of the Premier Auto Group.

Are European automakers the new Ford and GM? Part 1

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Change is afoot in corporate offices in Europe’s automakers. GM and Ford have struggled for many years now with the harsh realities of the global auto market. Now those realities are knocking on the doors of the European automakers. About two-thirds of Western Europe’s carmakers have seen changes in the executive suite in the last two years.

The reasons vary, e.g. BMW’s Helmut Panke left due to age restrictions, yet the BMW board failed to grant him a waive to allow him to drive the ultimate machine longer. The fact remains though that boardrooms and shareholders, alike, are concerned about increasing competition from the Far East.

Once a joke to respectable manufacturers, the Chinese automakers – led by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Nanjing Automobile – are increasingly competitive. The Chinese are increasingly developing more and more sophisticated facilities and borrowing more and more from the Europeans. Take American Axle and Manufacturing. AAM has been setting up new factories at breakneck pace. Indeed some of the intellectual property has been sold to the Chinese as well.

What all of this means is that the Chinese now have a way to produce good quality cars, yet sell them for next to nothing. Therein lies the problem not just for Renault and Peugeot and VW. Mercedes-Benz and BMW must be careful in their strategies since companies like Chery, is planning to bring their “luxury” automotives to the U.S. market soon. At $20,000 Mercedes and BMW are tracking the company, you can be sure. In the end, automakers will find difficulty in beating the Chinese on price. They must find other ways or they will falter as Ford and GM have done.

The next part in this topic will deal with possible strategies that the European automakers might develop to combat the competition from the east.

The Ford Focus

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

For those reading this from you US of A, you might ask why I would write about a car which is so “American.” This, however, is simply not true. Many cars made in the USA also find root in other countries. Ford, long a player in the United Kingdom, also has a Focus sold to buyers in the UK – and only the UK.

Ford in the UK faces many different market forces not found in the US. For example, Americans tend to love car that chug gas. And at $2.50/gallon, it’s not wonder. Petrol prices in the UK are more than twice that figure, and so the buyers are much more mindful of fuel efficient vehicles. This of course means that UK buyers like cars that look like ants compared to big bad American cars like the Ford F-250 Super Duty truck. A truck so big and powerful that it could haul away my house without me even knowing it. Indeed, throughout Europe you see dozens of different hatchback models. Still, just because they value petrol more than the Americans, and thus little, versatile hatchbacks, the British enjoy the same thrill of driving that the Americans enjoy.

Enter the Ford Focus ST. Unbeknowst to most Americans, the Europeans have a class of car called the “hot hatchback.” Fine, but what does this mean? It means that car makers like Ford, Volkswagen, and all the others take a regular 3 or 5 door hatchback and tune it. They firm up the suspension to improve the handling, give it more horsepower to make it go like the wind, screw on bigger wheels, and typically do something exciting and radical with the face of the thing. In short, they give the car more “masculine” features – balls if you will.

Does everyone buy such a car? Certainly not everybody needs one, otherwise, why make model variations? The truth is, car companies need exciting models. They attract buyers. It’s the same thing for cell phone companies that make a “prototype” $1million cell phone studded with diamonds. It gets people’s attention, even if it’s not meant to be sold. The same thing is happening here. Ford may not sell a ton of “hot hatches” but it gets people in the door of the dealership. And for that reason Ford UK needs hot hatches.

And to explain my original point, Ford back home in the US needs the hot hatch too. Sure, there is currently little market for this in the US (e.g. the VW GTI), but that market is what builds other markets.

I read the newspaper these days and I note how everyone is predicting the demise of Ford Motor Company. It doesn’t have to be that way though. It’s true though that part of the problem is high healthcare costs, but that doesn’t explain why marketshare is shrinking. It’s shrinking because Ford isn’t putting out the goods. They need to get people excited again. Ford of America NEEDS the Focus ST, and it needs it now.

Additional: Autoblog