Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Ford's Showroom of the Future -- Doesn't Show Much


I just saw a glimpse of Ford's product pipeline, and while there were a few exceptions, what I saw didn't do much to ease concerns that Ford's immediate future is weak. That doesn't mean you should write off Ford, it simply means, in my opinion, it may take a while for Ford to end it's 6 year sales slide. 

Today, Ford gave auto reporters a two hour briefing, and showed the current inception of numerous models in hopes of ending the chatter in Detroit and on Wall Street that the country's number 2 automaker has no hope for the future.  The one stipulation: we could not discuss specific models, detailed product enhancements, etc.  But when it comes to giving our overall impression, there are no restrictions.

And overall, I was not blown away.  Primarily because I saw few "game changers". Few models, or concepts that made me say, "wait a minute,..that's so new, so fresh, people will rush to buy it". Also, much of what I saw is built on Ford's current design philosophy which is epitomized by the Edge crossover utility vehicle and Fusion sedan. Both, with bolder grills and stances look pretty good for 2006,..but if this is a peak at Ford's showroom a few years from now, I don't think that look is enough.  Jean Jennings with Automobile magazine summed it up best saying, "this is supposed to be a showroom of the future, not a showroom of today."

Ford investors shouldn't lose faith based just on my opinion. For starters, much of what I saw has been in the works for several months, if not years.  So we've yet to see how new CEO Alan Mulally put his "stamp" on Ford. Mulally may talk the proper game in public about Ford having what it takes to turn things around, but I suspect at some point he will pressure Ford's designers to become more aggressive. Mulally knows Ford's best shot at ending it's multi-billion dollar slide is by cutting costs AND boosting revenue with truly bold new products.

It's only one opinion, but from where I sit, Ford's showroom of the future needs a lot more, and it needs it quick.

Questions?  Comments?