Ford’s CEO says they’re not actually killing the car, but instead are “reinventing” it.
Whatever that means.
Earlier this month when Ford released their first quarter results, the document that floated around stated unequivocally that Ford would discontinue their small cars and sedans, leaving only the Mustang muscle car and Ford Active crossover outside of Ford’s lineup of trucks and SUVs.
Now, Ford CEO Jim Hackett and Chairman Bill Ford, who owns 40 percent of Ford’s outstanding shareholder voting rights, are trying to dial things back a bit.
“This doesn’t mean we intend to lose those customers,” Hackett said according to Automotive News. “We want to give them what they’re telling us they really want. We’re simply reinventing the American car.”
Bill Ford backed up Hackett with his own statement. “If you got beyond the headline, you’ll see we’re adding to our product lineup and by 2020 we’ll have the freshest showroom in the industry. The headlines look like Ford’s retreating. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Regardless of how Ford tries to spin it, it certainly does seem like Ford is retreating. Ford plans to phase out the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus cars starting this month, although likely to start with the Fusion and Taurus since they haven’t been updated in some time.
Ford did not explain exactly how they plan to retain customers that are already driving some of their more high-volume vehicles such as the Fusion and Focus. Although not particularly profitable, both cars still sell in the hundreds of thousands annually. There has also been no word on what will happen to Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand of Ford Performance, the sub-brand that makes the Focus RS and Fiesta ST hot hatchbacks.
It seems clear that today’s statements are meant to quell shareholder concern that getting out of the car business is a massive risk. For indeed it is risky. If gas prices rise, consumers could flock to Japanese carmakers in droves in a move very reminiscent of the ‘70s and ‘80s, where North American carmakers saw sales plummet in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars from Toyota, Nissan, and Honda.