Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Ford: Will Anyone Buy One Let Alone "Drive One"?

The clock is ticking at Ford. By the end of 2009, the company has targeted that it will be back in the black. That's less than 2 years away and with the economy slowing down, you might be looking at that deadline and wondering if Ford is going to make it. Only time will tell. But the next 12 months will be crucial in determining whether or not Ford is in position to finish its turnaround by the end of '09.

Ford's market share declines from lower fleet and rental car sales are have finally stabilized. In other words, Ford's share should not drop much further. If it does, then there are bigger problems. But, for the most part, Ford's big declines are likely behind it.

That should set the stage for Ford to start boosting revenue with some key models and a new marketing campaign. That campaign called, "Drive One," is an updated play on the classic Ford line, "Have you driven a Ford lately?" Over the next year, we will hear and see Ford's new tag line in a long overdue ad campaign.

This is a relief to dealers who have complained for years that Ford's marketing support has been weak at best. As one dealer once told me, "I can't remember the last time I saw a Ford ad that stood out." Look for Ford's new marketing chief, Jim Farley, to change that shortcoming.

But must importantly, Ford will have new models to push in the next year. The Flex CUV comes out this fall and could be a new ride with the type of cutting edge design to give Ford some buzz. The Edge has done a nice job helping Ford break out of the stodgy and stale image of the Explorer. Soon, it will be up to the Flex to help Ford take that next step.

Also coming later this year is the re-designed F-150. It's the best selling vehicle in the world, and in an ultra competitive pick-up market, Ford believes the updated version will keep the line-up at #1. It better. Otherwise, Ford's turnaround on the revenue side might sputter.

If those elements come together, Ford could head into '09 in good shape to meet it's goal of profitability by the end of '09. Time is ticking, and Ford executives know they are on the clock.

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