Has Ford Taken a Wrong Turn?

Ford recently announced that they are getting out of the car business. I am being somewhat facetious but Ford did announce that they plan to stop building almost all cars to focus (no pun intended) on light trucks, SUVs, and Crossovers. From what I've read the only cars they plan on retaining are the Mustang and the Focus Active (due in 2019).

Just about every auto analyst I've read says this is a good thing. It's all about the bottom line and shareholders. That may be; all the analysts are much smarter than I am.

Admittedly sedan sales are down some and truck (I lump SUVs, Crossovers in with light trucks) are up. But this didn't happen in a vacuum. The domestic auto makers and some imports created the "need" for everyone to have an oversized, gas guzzling (yes I know some get relatively okay fuel economy), and in many cases AWD, vehicle. (Some would argue it's a chicken or the egg thing.) Yes some people need a large vehicle but if what I spy with my little eye out there on the highways and byways of the world I inhabit is true most of these vehicles spend a large amount of time transporting one person - the driver.

I think that if Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, and others were to spend millions convincing consumers that they need fuel efficient vehicles instead of rolling road blocks we'd all be better off.

And yes I know that many light trucks are now fairly fuel efficient. Ford has announced that the new F-150 diesel (3.0-liter V6 diesel) should see 30-mpg on the highway. Ram has a similar pickup as well. But in today's world 30-mpg is not great in a commute vehicle. Where I live it is not uncommon for people to drive 30-80 miles one way for work. Many of these commuters live so far away from their work because they cannot afford to live closer; in other words they are not wealthy.

I recently tested a Kia Rio 5-door that got 40+ mpg on the highway, 47-mpg on one trip at a steady 70 mph. In some parts of California gas is close to $4 per gallon. If you commute 100 miles per day in a car that gets 45 mpg versus one that gets 30 mpg you might save $21.00 per week (figuring gas @ $3.80 per gallon and travelling 500 miles per week).

Evidently experts say gas prices aren't going to surge too high. Okay but what if they do? The Middle East is as unstable as ever and who's to say that OPEC won't turn off the spigot out of spite? I remember the past fuel shortages when you couldn't give away large vehicles and dealerships were gouging customers who tried to buy more fuel efficient vehicles. I do not want to go back to those days.

Ford says they plan on keeping the Mustang but I wonder for how long. The V8 engine is being phased out of every Ford vehicle including the F-150. How long before it is gone completely? And a Mustang without an available V8 is not a Mustang. Mustang prices have crept up over the years. In 1989 a Mustang GT was $13,272 ($27,350 in today's dollars); a base 2018 GT Fastback is $35,190. How much higher do you think a V8 Mustang will go if it is the only Ford with a V8?

Sedans are not going to disappear. Right now the market for them may be shrinking but if Ford abandons that market some other auto maker will fill the gap. All auto makers need to build cars people want, cars people can afford, cars that are comfortable, and cars that make the auto makers money.

So to Ford Motor Company and any other company contemplating getting rid of sedans I'd urge you to rethink your strategy. Find a way to build fuel efficient cars that people want and that they can afford.


Popular Posts