Ford will increase the pace of new product introductions and respond to fast-changing consumer-buying trends as it accelerates its Way Forward turnaround plan and considers investing up to $1 billion in several of the company’s Michigan facilities. Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas, made that announcement today to industry leaders at the Center for Automotive Research’s 41st annual Management Briefing Seminars.
“We are rebuilding our business for the future with an emphasis on more new products faster — and that includes more customer features and advanced technologies throughout our entire lineup,” said Fields. “Even as we reduce our overall capacity in line with demand and make the tough but necessary cutbacks throughout our business to secure our future, we are not retreating one bit from the necessary investments to bring out more products for our customers. The competitive landscape and our future demand it.”
Investments Would Target Flexible Manufacturing, New Products
Ford’s potential $1 billion investment would be dedicated to expanding flexible manufacturing at several Ford facilities in Michigan and be used for the research and development of future products, advanced powertrain technologies and hybrid vehicles. The investment is being considered in partnership with a Michigan Economic Development Corporation incentive package designed to encourage investment in the state and retain jobs.
“Today, the auto industry represents the single greatest engine of economic activity in the world. And nowhere is the impact more profound than here in our back yard,” Fields said. “Ford is proud to be part of Michigan, and our work to keep Ford’s future part of this great state’s future underscores our serious commitment to the people and the communities that have helped make us great for more than a century.”
The new investments are not yet finalized, Fields said, but Ford will continue to work with the state and the company’s various facilities, and make decisions as part of its Way Forward turnaround plan.
“There is no vision for Michigan’s new economy that does not include Ford cars and trucks designed, engineered and made in Michigan,” said Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. “For more than a century, Ford and the state
of Michigan have been partners, and today we are affirming that our partnership will continue far into the future.”
More New Products Faster
As part of plans to accelerate its turnaround, Ford will emphasize the introduction of new products as core to going “further and faster” throughout its business.
“We’ll have more to say on the specifics of what we’re accelerating in September. But I can confirm that our plans include more new products, features and technologies throughout our lineup,” said Fields. “We have nine new Ford and Lincoln Mercury products going on sale in the next six months alone, and we are rebuilding our business for the future with an emphasis on new products.”
Among the new products are the Ford Shelby GT — on sale in January — and Lincoln MKS flagship sedan, which will arrive in showrooms in 2008.
Ford Shelby GT
The 4.6-liter, 325-horsepower Ford Shelby GT will occupy a niche between the Mustang GT and the Ford Shelby GT500 both in performance and appearance. It is a retail version of the Ford Shelby GT-H Mustang developed for Hertz that was the surprise hit of the 2006 New York International Auto Show.
“We know the combination of Mustang and Shelby is magic, and we proved it again when we revealed the Ford Shelby GT-H. The car received such rave reviews that our dealers and customers asked for a version of their own,” Fields explained. “We listened, and we’re delivering.”
The Ford Shelby GT will be on sale in January. Ford will reveal full product details this Sunday on its “Bold Moves: The Future of Ford” web-based documentary (http://www.fordboldmoves.com/ ).
The Lincoln MKS full-size flagship sedan will be based on the concept vehicle first shown at the North American International Auto Show in January.
“The Lincoln MKS will take Lincoln craftsmanship and comfort beyond anything we’ve built before,” Fields said. “Its design communicates power, motion and speed, and it will be packed with more technology and features than any Lincoln before it.”
One new technology on the Lincoln flagship comes straight from Ford racing and the Ford GT: a capless fuel filler. It eliminates the inconvenience of forgetting to put the gas cap back on after refueling and is better for the environment because no gas fumes escape.
“Capless fuel filling will make its way throughout our lineup going forward, and it’s the result of listening to customers,” Fields said. “We know even small innovations deliver big customer benefits.”
The Lincoln MKS will be the next major step in establishing Lincoln as America’s luxury brand. Lincoln is building momentum — with retail sales up 8 percent for the first half of 2006. The new Lincoln MKS flagship is designed to continue to introduce a new face of Lincoln to the American public, building on the hallmarks of design, a business class experience and a smooth, confident ride.
Fuel Economy, Aging Population Shape Tomorrow’s Products
Ford has identified two customer trends that will take future products across the auto industry into new directions. The first is a growing, worldwide demand for sustainability and a smart energy policy. The second is a set of profound demographic changes already affecting the auto industry that will accelerate during the next decade.
“Consumers are speaking loud and clear. They’re telling us that the social and environmental trade-offs associated with automobiles are increasingly unacceptable,” said Fields. “They want cleaner, safer, more efficient vehicles that don’t compromise on function or value. The auto companies best able to deliver vehicles that meet these needs will reap the rewards of increased market share and the financial rewards of technology innovation and leadership.”
Ford research shows that the percentage of Americans who say they are very concerned about the environment is approximately 70 percent, up nearly 10 points in the last five years. Fuel efficiency is now among the top three purchase drivers, along with quality and safety.
“That is why we at Ford remain absolutely committed to driving American innovation throughout our company. It’s why we continue to invest in E85 ethanol vehicles, hybrids, hydrogen and diesel. Even as we forge ahead with the tough tasks related to our turnaround, we are unwavering in our commitment to be a leader in delivering innovative products with technologies that use new fuels, reduce dependency on foreign oil and save our customers money through improved fuel economy.”
The rapid rise of fuel prices also has accelerated another trend that began with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, Fields said.
“Baby Boomers are downsizing every aspect of their lives — including their homes — and they are moving to smaller cars, crossovers, small SUVs and small premium utilities,” Fields added. “They’re also buying fewer medium and large SUVs — a trend that actually started in 2003 and accelerated last year, when gas prices increased.”
This population shift will result in dramatic growth for crossovers and small cars, as well as for premium utility vehicles, Fields explained. People-movers — including medium and large SUVs and minivans — will decline because there will be a smaller pool of family-oriented buyers purchasing vehicles that their aging parents had been driving.
“The lesson we take from this tectonic shift is that listening to our customers has never been more important. We as an industry can’t sit back and complain about these changes. We have to act on them — and quickly,” Fields said. “The old saying ‘If you build it, they will buy it’ needs to be put to rest. ‘If they will buy it, we will build it’ is the way we need to approach the future.”
New Products for New Customers and a Changing Marketplace
With the fast-changing marketplace and the rise in demand for more fuel- efficient vehicles, Ford has kicked off its new-model year with a lineup of new cars, crossovers, hybrids, SUVs and trucks that puts the company in its best position ever to attract new customers.
“Ford never has been in a better position than this model year to compete for customers in an environment of rising gas prices and higher demand for more power, more performance and more features,” said Fields. “We’re also leading the way with bold American designs and innovations in our new vehicles hitting the market this summer and fall.”
Key new products include:
* Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, which are expected to shake up
this fast-growing market when they go on sale in November.
* Ford Shelby GT500, which is now on sale as the most powerful production
* Lincoln MKZ, with its new 3.5-liter V-6 engine — which eventually will
power one of every five Ford and Lincoln Mercury vehicles.
* Ford Expedition, Expedition EL and Lincoln Navigator, which go on sale
in September, and the new Lincoln Navigator L in December. The new
SUVs offer more standard safety equipment, best-in-class towing for
Expedition, a usable third row and additional cargo space.
* Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which is now on sale with one of the
segment’s only V-8 engines.
* Ford F-150 with increased towing to a best-in-class 10,500 pounds, new
FX2 Sport edition and new 6.5-foot box for the Super Crew.
* New all-wheel-drive versions of the popular Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan
and Lincoln MKZ — a technology that more than half of new buyers say
they want in their next vehicle.
Ford also this year is: delivering more standard safety equipment on more vehicles, with a focus on rapidly increasing standardization of side air bags and side air curtains; doubling the number of vehicles available with DVD- based navigation systems; and quadrupling the number of vehicles available with SIRIUS satellite radio.
Ford also is responding to the skyrocketing customer demand to bring electronic devices into cars and trucks by building in iPod connectivity in half of the Ford and Lincoln Mercury lineup. The company predicts that iPod and other MP3 player sales will reach 132 million units in 2009 – more than double the 57.7 million sold in 2005.
For the 2007-model year, built-in auxiliary audio-input jacks will be offered on the Ford Edge, Explorer, Expedition, Mustang, Fusion, Sport Trac, Ranger, F-150, Mercury Milan, Mountaineer, Lincoln MKX, Lincoln MKZ, Navigator and Lincoln Mark LT. The jacks allow customers to bring any iPod or other MP3 player with a standard 3.5 millimeter audio output into their vehicle and play it through the audio system.
In addition, early next year, Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers throughout the U.S. will begin offering Ford’s TripTunes Advanced audio system — an iPod integration feature that provides drivers with top sound quality and recharging at the same time. TripTunes Advanced allows the driver to store the iPod in the vehicle’s glove box and select music using the steering wheel or radio controls — including shuffling songs and skipping between tracks and play lists.