The Future Looks Bright For Ford
The first car I ever owned was a 1977 Buick LeSabre that met its untimely demise on a lonely Indiana highway one dark and dreary night as I was driving home from college when my body thought it was a better idea if I started sleeping. I’ll save that story for another day. The second car I ever owned was a 1975 Ford Pinto Pony. And despite all the jokes about Pintos exploding at the slightest provocation, I really loved that car. It was my first manual. And with all the abuse I gave that little machine, and the way it kept coming back for more, the car earned its space of endearment in my heart. And because it was a lowly Pinto, I drove the shit out of it and I never gave a real damn about its welfare.
My third car was a 1985 Ford Mustang GT. It too was a manual and I loved that car as well. But being a young adult with dreams of a wealthy future I decided to start saving any pennies I could and decided life would be cheaper if I quit paying exorbitant insurance premiums and premium fuel prices to satisfy the car’s insatiable thirst. But shortly after I sold that car I regretted getting rid of it. And after a couple months of being without a car, I eventually replaced my 1985 Ford Mustang GT with a 1987 Ford Mustang GT. That was the last Ford I ever owned. It was also the last domestic automobile I owned until the family bought the 2005 Chrysler Town and Country last year.
In the years since giving up my second Mustang the domestic car companies have rolled over and exposed its belly to the foreign competitors. Lowly Hyundai that couldn’t make a car that could compete with a Ford Pinto when it brought its products to the United States market back in 1986 is now at the top of the automotive charts while Chryslers are ranked dead last in the latest reliability survey. If our experience with the Chrysler minivan is any indication I can understand Chrysler’s last place position. That’s another story for another day.
The point is that the reputation of the domestics has been severely tainted with stale, poorly executed products long overdue for replacement while most of the foreigners are enjoying reputations for quality and products that represent forward thinking in the world of automobiles. And as a case in point, as the nation’s economy took its turn for the worse, the domestics took their hats in hand to Washington in order to get a little help through this downturn. But while General Motors and Chrysler took their bailouts, Ford managed to play things a little better.
With a little more foresight about the future of the automobile market, Ford was able to position itself a little more smartly with its product lineup. Gone are the days of excesses typified by Ford’s shortsighted dabble with products like the Excursion, one of the few products aimed at consumers that could dwarf a Hummer H1. Ford’s reputation is being built on products like the relatively new Fusion and the brand new interpretation of the Taurus. The Ford F-150 has always been the car company’s bread and butter and Ford paid careful attention in the latest execution of this particular staple. And most of the other products in the Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln lineup are displaying similar signs of revival.
Ford’s lineup isn’t completely out of the woods of mediocrity. The Ford Focus is the automotive equivalent of Methuselah and I believe it is still a couple years away from being replaced. The Ford Ranger is another product that has soldiered on virtually unchanged for decades. The Crown Victoria wins the crown for the most ancient. And Lincoln takes an Expedition, dressed it up like a harlot, and throws it out there as a Navigator. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
But Ford is clearly on the right path. According to the latest annual survey by Consumer Reports, of the fifty one models marketed by Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln, forty six were ranked average or better in reliability. Several of Ford’s models are consistently scoring above perennial leaders Honda and Toyota. In some respects, Ford is now making some vehicles with true world class quality status.
Yet, that less than stellar reputation for shoddy work is the albatross that still hangs around Ford’s neck. While Mercury was the only domestic brand to finish in the top ten, the Ford brand finished sixteenth out of thirty three competing brands and Lincoln finished twentieth. Clearly it is going to be a challenge to change people’s impression of how they think about Ford. It’s helpful that Ford has started with the basics like designing and taking care when building their products. When the time comes to replace the Town and Country, we just might have to give Ford another look. Who knows? I just might get my fourth Ford.