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Friday, August 25, 2006

Great Leap Ford-ward

Since everyone in the blogosphere and his dentist have given their opinion on how to fix Ford, and the rumors are flying, I think I'll chime in.

So, here's my Dear-Bill note:
Sell Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Jag is a black hole, a cash vacuum. Ford doesn't know how to fix it, after years of trying. The trick is, can Ford find a buyer? Rumors are that Jacques "The Knife" Nasser and J.P. Morgan may be interested. That would be rich, as Nasser's buying binge is partly how Ford got into its mess in the first place.

Keep Volvo. Lots of "synergy" there (terrible, over-used business jargon). Volvo has been profitable, can probably make money, and has lots of high-tech safety goodies to borrow. Volvo can be Ford's European luxury brand in place of Jaguar.

Keep Mercury, as long as it makes money (and keeps Lincoln dealers from starving--a key point). But the metro-sexual thing? Not going to work. You're not going to make Mercury into Scion/VW/Honda. I'd see Mercury as more of a Saturn/Buick like entity. Mercury is "Ford plus bling". Keep Lincoln, but make it interesting--look back to the big black boats with suicide doors. Please, no more angry cheese grater robots.

Go private! This will save some cash--no more Sarbanes-Oxley accountants, no more stock dividends. No more Evelyn Davis or liberal Catholic nuns badgering you at the shareholders meeting. No more analysts. Even better, become "employee pwned"--issue private shares to all employees, and invite employees to buy more, financing the company.

To raise cash, sell a stake to an industrial partner. How about BP or Shell Oil? They have tons of cash, and the fuel marketing opportunities would be significant. Sell part of Ford Credit to a bank, like Citigroup.

Consider an alliance, but leave Mr. Bean, er Carlos Ghosn alone. Ghosn is a talented executive, no doubt, but Ford's problem's aren't due to a lack of cost-cutting. Ford's problem is lack of attractive product. What does Nissan have that Ford needs, other than money? Ford already has Mazda for Japanese influence, and Ford Europe/Volvo for European.

If you make an alliance, make one with a company that has something you need. GM for example has excellent low-cost truck engines with cylinder de-activation. Honda has world class small and mid-size cars. Harley has motorcycles. Chrysler has Dr. Z and his mustache.

Fix the product:
  • Re-task a few product teams from working on the next Explorer or whatever to get a sub-compact car from Mazda, Ford Europe or Ford South America ready for U.S. regulatory compliance. Do it with minimal changes, so it is ready sooner than later.
  • Bring a small SUV over as well, call it Bronco.
  • Bring the European Focus over, to compete with Civic, Corolla, and Sentra.
  • SVT Fusion!
  • Lincoln Mustang/Lincoln Continental (with suicide doors!)
  • Do sheet-metal and interior on the Ranger to bring it closer to F-150. I bet there is still a market for small pickups, if they are done well.
  • Stop futzing around with hybrids and put your money into improving your IC engines.
  • Stop naming Ford's with F and Mercuries with M. It is confusing and annoying. Stop naming Lincolns with MK*.
Buy Mark Fields a haircut. "Best Executive Mullet", heh.


sh said...

"Sell Jaguar"

Good idea. So where does Ford go? Have you seen "Driving Force" on the A&E channel?

They have John Force and his family driving Jaguars as their vehicle of choice. Does that make the slightest sense? The undisputed king of dirt-shirt drag racing driving a prissmobile?

They could put anything else in the Ford stable under him. Even a Focus SVT would be preferrable.

S.D. Wrigley said...

I couldnt' have said it better. All Hail THE AUTO PROPHET!!!!