Very Cool Move Ford
Earlier this year the misses and I made the decision to downsize. Gas prices were going up and our 2005 Chrysler Town & Country LX was about to cross the dreaded hundred thousand miles mark. We decided to trade the minivan with its V6 engine in on something much smaller and more fuel efficient. We wanted a hatchback to minimize the impact of losing so much cargo capacity. Like a lot of people we first thought Honda. But the Honda Fit was a little too noisy and a little too underpowered to fit our wants. We looked at a Mazda 2. But the car was just way too small and we didn’t think it offered enough protection for our four year old son. We loved the Mazda 3, but the only version we could agree on was the turbocharged Mazdaspeed3 and its gas mileage was dismal. We wouldn’t consider a Kia or a Hyundai because of the reputations of their earlier products. We didn’t want the complexity of four wheel drive so a Subaru was out. And the Chevrolet Aveo was too cheap and rough to even be considered.
After weighing all the options we narrowed our choices to either a Ford Fiesta or a Ford Focus. The Fiesta was a little too small and a little weak with the horsepower. The Ford Focus won our car war. But Ford had a really stupid option setup. We wanted a manual transmission and the only model that came so equipped was the base SE. We wanted a sunroof and that option in a manual was only available in Tuxedo black. That was really stupid. We thought about getting the color we wanted and then taking the car to a shop to have its roof cut. That didn’t sit too well with us and we started to waiver a bit. Maybe we could give that Mazda another look.
But then through a strange sequence of events, Ford decided to change the options list to allow the sunroof manual to come in any color. The Tuxedo black paint used on the Focus was exclusively sourced from a plant in Japan. Earlier this year, the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and knocked it for a loop impacted the plant that made the Tuxedo black paint. Consequently, Ford’s brand new Focus line that was trying to ramp up production was now being hindered by production choices that were wonders of efficiency when everything worked well, but was a prime example of Ford shooting itself in the foot when a hiccup happens in the machinery. In order to keep production capacity up on this brand new model going, Ford opened up the color options. We got a silver SE hatchback with the manual transmission and we never looked back, although I have to admit that I occasionally think about that turbocharged Mazdaspeed3.
The Focus is a joy to drive. Although we were a bit rusty working the clutch pedal, practice makes perfect and we quickly smoothed out the process. The car comes with a gauge that gives instantaneous gas mileage readout and we watch that needle religiously, trying hard to keep our gas mileage up in the thirty range. But the car is so fun to drive I know I can’t help but push it a little harder than I should. And the car is so eager to respond. I may not be Mario Andretti but compared to trying to maneuver in the Chrysler the car is a perfect rush hour racer.
We’ve had the car for about four months now, one of the first buyers of the new model Focus. When we initially bought the car, I actually thought about writing a post comparing it to the latest products from the high dollar Italian producers with their paddle shift automatic manuals gearboxes that have done away with the clutch pedal. It used to be that Ferraris and Lamborghinis and their likes required more than the average engagement from a driver. You at least had to know how to drive a manual transmission. But now, any octogenarian or teenager with a new driver’s license can drive these exotics. And while a Ferrari might still be the ultimate in transportation technology, when it comes to driving I’m a bit old school and I’d rather row through the gears with my new Focus.
Ford Motor Company is doing much better than it has ever done with its products and with its management. Nearly everything wearing a Ford label is a contender in its market segment. The Boss Mustang was recently billed in one of the monthly car magazines as the best handling American car available and was featured in a comparison test with a BMW M3. It narrowly lost the competition. But considering what the competitor was I think the Mustang could wear that loss proudly. The Fusion continues to evolve as stiff competition in the mid sedan market. The F-Series pickup trucks are competing in the top of their class. Ford management appears to have learned from the company’s flirtation with being mediocre and has decided that if it wants to sell cars it has to sell the best cars available for people’s money. It’s no longer enough to tell customers that a car is just as good as the competition. These days, some people want to know for a fact that their new car is a true competitor.
But what really motivates me to write about our Ford today is the fact that Ford is taking their recent success and is doing something pretty much unheard of these days. Ford has announced plans to hire twenty thousand new workers to its work force by 2015 and to invest sixteen billion dollars into its US operations. And believe it or not, the company is doing it without cuts in corporate tax rate that makes it totally impossible for American corporations to do business competitively if you believe what many conservative politicians say.
Today, I’m happier than ever with the purchase of the Focus. I’m not even looking at Speed3s as often as I used to. Doing business with a company that understands it has a social responsibility to support the public it expects to receive support from. Ford is going to hire thousands of people. And when those people go out and buy cars, when their family members go out and buy cars, hopefully they’ll return the favor and support the company that supports their community. I know the next time I buy a car I’m more likely to buy a Ford. There’s even talk about a turbocharged Focus ST coming down the pipe next year. It’s only a matter of time before I won’t give that Mazdaspeed3 another look. The Focus might be cool, but what’s really cool is Ford doing its part to keep the economy going at a time when the standard operating procedure is for corporations to stay on the sidelines or to cut jobs to the bone. A very cool move for sure.
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