Archive for the 'Focus' Category

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.

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.


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