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Old 08-16-2010, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,588 posts, read 2,928,418 times
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I was recently reading a few posts in the forum, and they got me thinking.

Why doesn't Ford bother to update their profitable models every few years? What do their designers do all the time? I will elaborate with a few examples.

1. Ford Ranger: It was a nice compact truck in the '90s. But the platform and general performance is not outdated. Why not upgrade it like the Toyota Tacoma every few years?

2. Panther platform cars: No need to say more. ~235 HP V8 engines in 2010? But they could have easily just used a more powerful version (as in the Mustang), a 5 or 6 speed automatic, revised the interior a bit, and sold it for a decade more

3. Ford Taurus: The best selling car in America in the early '90s. Looked good, handled reasonably well, and was generally much ahead of the competing GM cars of the time. Yet they did an ugly re-design in '96, and after 2000, just let it die. Why?

4. Lincoln LS: A nice car to drive, plus Jaguar V8 power, good-looking. Just the formula for success in the luxury car market that was increasingly turning back to RWD cars. Yet they puled the plug, and introduced FWD Ford based Lincoln models (such as the MKS, MKZ) which no one buys.

5. Ford Explorer: The vehicle that started the SUV craze back in the '90s. Left to rot even as competitors introduced better-quality vehicles (Toyota Highlander/4 Runner, and others).

Other vehicles neglected include the '90s Thunderbird, Contour, and the Cougar. Even their successful cars of today are either based on other company's platform (like the Fusion based on the Mazda 6, new Taurus based on Volvo S80), or brought over from Europe (Focus, Fiesta). So why don't Ford engineers/designers here do something well other than the Mustang and F-series trucks?

Sorry about the longish post, but I am really puzzled as to why a company has such a strange policy .
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Old 08-16-2010, 08:10 PM
 
29,262 posts, read 22,373,326 times
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things are not always what they seem. for instance ford is letting the panther chassis go for good reason, a more powerful engine would not improve sales, either to the public or to the fleets. second the new taurus is replacing the panther chassis as the new full size car, and it is a big improvement in many ways.

the ranger was originally supposed to go away in favor of another slightly larger truck, but that didnt happen.

the explorer is being updated for 2011 with an all new chassis and body.

there is another reason though, and that is cost. it really does cost a ton of money to reengineer car lines. for instance, probably the best investment ford ever made was taking the falcon and putting the mustang body on the chassis, but that still cost ford tons of money, and that was back when profit margins were much higher. same thing in 1994 when ford updated the fox chassis to the fox-4 chassis, they spent something like $250 million to make the updates of the chassis alone. given the hard times ford just went through, and given all the new models that have come out, and the ones still scheduled to come out, some lines are going to have to wait, and others are going to have to go away in favor of new ones.
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Old 08-16-2010, 08:19 PM
 
Location: USA
498 posts, read 1,164,070 times
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I don't understand your complaint. Ford does update their best selling models, quite often too. They've even gained a reputation of adding new features/making improvements as soon as they're ready, in between re-designs.

I'm not sure what your source is on which models are considered "profitable" and which aren't, but your list doesn't seem very accurate at all. First, let's start with the Taurus because that's the easiest to tackle. It was a very popular car in the early '90s. Sold well, everything was good. They redesigned it a few years later, as one would expect, and people didn't like it as much. It wasn't exactly Ford's good period in terms of marketing, quality, and appeal. Naturally, sales went down. They've changed a lot as a company, and have redesigned the Taurus, which is now very popular. There's no need for its own platform or any other exclusive attention you think it should have, because it's a good product and it's selling well.

The Ranger, Crown Vic/Panther, and E-series have only received minor updates because they're sold mainly to specific markets that don't demand much in the way of style or innovation. It would be a waste to spend more money on them if the markets still want them. Nevertheless, Ford has introduced the Transit Connect, which is can be an alternative to the E-series for some customers, and is a sensible replacement for the Crown Vic. They're also developing an F100, to cater to those who want a small truck, but not one as small and utilitarian as the Ranger.

I agree that it is unfortunate Lincoln has no RWD cars. However, I don't think the LS was a great model to build on as it wasn't particularly reliable or a benchmark in terms of performance (or anything, really). V8s and RWD would be nice, but Lincoln's current models are also very nice. If they could combine the two, that'd be great.

I don't understand what your complaint is about the Explorer. I don't think the 2002 or 2006 models are any worse than the original model, the market simply changed, as the competition pulled ahead and people realized that Ford was building a lot of crap the whole time. Obviously you haven't seen the new Explorer, but it's quite the beauty.

The Thunderbird was reintroduced, and didn't sell well. The Contour was replaced by the Focus and Fusion, the latter of which is extremely popular, and the former of which was very popular at least when first introduced, and is set to be replaced by a very nice car. The Cougar was an attractive car but didn't sell well. It makes no sense to pour more money into a good car that doesn't sell. And also, there's really no need to have exclusive platforms when perfectly competent cars can be made with the current ones. Is there a problem with the Mazda6 platform, or the Volvo S80 platform? Because the cars using them are selling very well, which is the prime objective here.

Ford's designers are hard at work, you must be living under a rock if you can't see that. The new Explorer, Edge, Focus, MKX, MKT, Taurus, Super Duty, etc. are all testaments of that. It seems they have something new to unveil at least every year.
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Old 08-16-2010, 08:27 PM
 
Location: 'Murica
1,279 posts, read 2,276,311 times
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The Ranger and Crown Vic are/were cash cows that sold fairly well (to fleets, at least) in spite of their ancient designs. Ford didn't have much motivation to keep them current. Phasing out the Explorer could have proved to be a smart move as buyers moved away from truck-based SUV's to car-based crossovers; Ford's misstep here is introducing too many vehicles in that segment. The Edge, Flex, and Escape are enough.

The ones I take issue with are the Taurus and Lincoln LS. The Taurus went downhill in each iteration after the 2nd gen, from a top-notch midsize sedan in the early 90's, to a cheap Walmart rollback special of the automotive world in 2007. The new one has the style, but I don't know if buyers will bite. The market for upscale-mainstream sedans is getting softer, and cars age quickly in that segment, which isn't good news for Ford.

The story of the Lincoln LS is a tragedy. It was a great comeback car in 2000, and a 2004 redesign with chassis tweaks in response to the Cadillac CTS would've kept Lincoln's momentum going. But for whatever reason, they dropped the ball and failed. They left that poor car out to get its ass kicked by a new generation of competitors, and by the time they finally retired it, they replaced it with a nice-looking, but ill-conceived Ford rebadge. For shame, Lincoln. For shame.
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Old 08-16-2010, 09:35 PM
 
Location: Lafayette, Louisiana
14,095 posts, read 22,343,524 times
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Though the Ranger may indeed be outdated, it is the only real small pick-up on the US market and has the highest MPG numbers of any US market pick-up truck. The current Taurus is probably the best vehicle to ever wear the Taurus name in both style, passenger comfort, ride quality, and engine performance. The Contour was based on the Ford Mondeo but with poor fit/finish. The Cougar was a slower two door Contour. The Cougar had the right look and handling but not enough performance. A two door version of the V6 Fusion would have made a better Cougar. The Ford Probe was a Mazda MX6 which was a two door version of the Mazda 626. The upcoming Focus and Festiva are engineered by Ford. There's a reason why Ford is selling like crazy in Europe. The build quality and handling performance balance is much better there than here so why not bring some of those vehicles here if they're already engineered right.
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Old 08-16-2010, 09:42 PM
 
1,283 posts, read 2,167,868 times
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I was recently reading a few posts in the forum, and they got me thinking.

Why doesn't Ford bother to update their profitable models every few years? What do their designers do all the time? I will elaborate with a few examples.

1. Ford Ranger: It was a nice compact truck in the '90s. But the platform and general performance is not outdated. Why not upgrade it like the Toyota Tacoma every few years?


It is being updated. They are waiting until the global Ranger is ready.

2. Panther platform cars: No need to say more. ~235 HP V8 engines in 2010? But they could have easily just used a more powerful version (as in the Mustang), a 5 or 6 speed automatic, revised the interior a bit, and sold it for a decade more

One word: CAFE. Full-size V8 RWD mainstream cars will not live into the next decade thanks to strict emissions regulations for 2016 and 2020.

3. Ford Taurus: The best selling car in America in the early '90s. Looked good, handled reasonably well, and was generally much ahead of the competing GM cars of the time. Yet they did an ugly re-design in '96, and after 2000, just let it die. Why?

You do realize the Taurus came back in 2008, and has been totally redesigned for 2010?

4. Lincoln LS: A nice car to drive, plus Jaguar V8 power, good-looking. Just the formula for success in the luxury car market that was increasingly turning back to RWD cars. Yet they puled the plug, and introduced FWD Ford based Lincoln models (such as the MKS, MKZ) which no one buys.

I have an LS and love it, but this was never a profitable car for Ford. They probably lost money on every one they sold. The DEW98 platform was too expensive and only made money when it had a Jaguar badge slapped on the hood and commanded a Jaguar price. I do think Lincoln will look at RWD again, but Ford has been focusing on fixing the high volume lines first.

5. Ford Explorer: The vehicle that started the SUV craze back in the '90s. Left to rot even as competitors introduced better-quality vehicles (Toyota Highlander/4 Runner, and others).

Again, have you completely missed out on the 2011 Explorer that was revealed last month?

Other vehicles neglected include the '90s Thunderbird, Contour, and the Cougar. Even their successful cars of today are either based on other company's platform (like the Fusion based on the Mazda 6, new Taurus based on Volvo S80), or brought over from Europe (Focus, Fiesta). So why don't Ford engineers/designers here do something well other than the Mustang and F-series trucks?

T-bird will be coming back soon as a four door coupe. The Contour was a poorly conceived vehicle and did not fare well in the North American market; it doesn't need to come back now that we have the Fusion. With Mercury gone, the Cougar will not be coming back.

Sorry about the longish post, but I am really puzzled as to why a company has such a strange policy .
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Old 08-16-2010, 10:08 PM
 
Location: NYC & NJ
747 posts, read 2,155,505 times
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The Taurus was neglected until it died a pretty ignominious death as a cheap rent-a-car. It wasn't until Alan Mulally arrived from outside FoMoCo that it was decreed that the Taurus nameplate had to live, and it was quickly slapped onto the 500/FreeStyle. It was only very recently that a proper Taurus (and not just a badge job) was reintroduced to the market.

Not sure how much of a cash cow the Ranger can be with its dwindling sales (Toyota sells ~2.5 times as many Tacomas) and presumably heavy discounting. The hypothesis has been put forth here before that the Panther platform is another cash cow due to no investment or R&D required in its manufacture. I, for one, am skeptical of this. Either way, retail sales are now dead and fleet sales are rarely very profitable. It can be argued that was a good decision considering that segment is pretty much a dead end. OTOH the Ranger is a player in a large, viable market segment (~500K units annually) and could easily have been a sales leader given its huge brand loyalty and iconic name. Not sure why potentially 150-200k sales volume (Tacoma levels or better) isn't enough a motivation to keep them current.

The Explorer is yet another neglected example of a name that was once a market leader, if not dominator. Its sales and market share are a fraction of what they used to be (50-60k recently vs 400k in its heyday)...yes, there was less competition then: but that's the whole point, right? Unless you stay ahead or at least abreast of the competition, your sales and market share will be decimated. The Explorer's tale is as much a tragedy as the Taurus and LS, and is a direct contract to the investment in keeping the F series consistently #1 or 2 in its segment. Fortunately, it hasn't been left to wither away and a crossover-based 5th gen will arrive soon.
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Old 08-17-2010, 06:01 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,588 posts, read 2,928,418 times
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Thanks to the above posters for their replies.

I know the Taurus has been resurrected and the Explorer has been re-designed. However, I doubt the sales will return to earlier levels. When most people think of the Taurus, they imagine a cheap rental-type of car, not the new one. Ford already has 3 vehicles in the crossover segment, so why one more?

One thing I admire the Japanese companies is for nurturing their nameplates. Think of Accord, Civic, Camry, Corolla. You know what segment these vehicles compete in, and that the are pretty good vehicles in their segments. It may be impossible to sell the Taurus in large numbers now because of the stigma attached to the name from the previous 2 generations.

Anyway, I wish them all the best .
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Old 08-17-2010, 06:22 AM
 
Location: Chicago
38,691 posts, read 84,836,806 times
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^^ Taurus sales won't return to their prior levels because it has moved into a different segment. The Fusion picks up where the original Taurus left off. The Fusion may not sell quite as many as the first-gen Tuarus, but as you intone the competition has gotten stiffer since then. Back then there was still some lingering stigma against Japanese and lingering loyalty toward domestic brands. Now it's the Japanese marques that have the benefit of reputation while domestics fight to overcome their stigma.

As for the Explorer.... you can thank government regulations for the fact that it will never return to its prior sales levels. Then again, you can thank government regulations for popularizing vehicles like the Explorer in the first place since they didn't have to meet the same emissions and mileage benchmarks as did the full-sized station wagons they mostly replaced. I agree with the upthread post that it should have just been left to wither because the new car-based platform is redundant with the Edge and particularly the Flex. Best I can tell, the new Explorer is just a less extroverted Flex.
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Old 08-17-2010, 06:50 AM
 
14,756 posts, read 33,297,446 times
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I think people forget the dire straights that Ford was in financially for much of the 2000's. They simply lacked the money to continue to develop and re-develop platforms. There were rumors even circulating that Ford would be heading for bankruptcy as late as 2005 as their cash reserves were spent and their stock price was bottomed out. There was even speculation about a merger with BMW akin to what Mercedes did with Chrysler. There was even talk about GM possibly buying Ford. The main issue was that they took the profits from vehicles like the Panther cars and Taurus and instead of investing it back into new product, they bought companies like Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. These companies did nothing more than suck the remaining cash dry and were largely failures never adding any money to the Ford coffers.

The turn around started in 2006 when Alan Mulally came on. One of his first acts was to essentially mortgage all of Ford's assets to raise cash and then begin selling off the poor perfroming brands that Ford hadn't bought even a decade ago. The other big move was "borrowing" extensively from the Mazda platform portfolio to bring new product to market quicker than they otherwise could if they redeveloped from scratch.

So, Ford squandered their profits on poorly thought out and executed acquisitions and only turned the ship around when they mortgaged their assets to get cash, dumped poor performing brands and tapped into the platforms that Mazda had.
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