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American Automakers

The Ford Action Movie: Stunning, But Inconclusive

**A MilesPerHr Exclusive**

No one can say Ford Motor Company hasn’t made a recovery.

Since the release of the first quarter profits this last week, it’s been obvious Ford is back in a big way.

Here’s a couple POI’s for you about this turnaround:
-Ford was the only US car maker that didn’t need the government bailout
-Ford isn’t just more profitable now that the past 3 troubled years, how about the past 13?
-The only V8 Ford models still made are the F-series trucks, the Mustang, and the Expedition
-Ford uses more new media marketing than ANY other automaker
-Ford CEO Alan Mulally was named TIME’s Person of the Year in 2009, Fortune’s Businessperson of the year in 2010, and just received the Edison Achievement Award

These are all victories for the company, but what will make it stand strong in the future automotive industry?
Innovation

ACTION & ADVENTURE ENSUES:

As the giant ship that was the US Auto Industry was sinking during the  recent recession, Ford man (Ford Motor Company) had a decision to make:  cling to the tiny life jacket he were wearing, or risk it all to grab the raft  stowed on board.

As we know, Ford man ditched the life jacket made of chintzy car interiors and gas-guzzling V8′s.

Without delving too far into recent history, let’s jump to Ford’s biggest moves to get on the raft:
-Hiring Scott Monty, social media maverick, to run the new media proposals since 2008
-Developing the Ecoboost engine for V8-like power with better fuel efficiency
-Killing off the “Mercury” brand
-Promoting the “One Ford” plan to make models for global distribution, not just one market
-Putting $40k car features in $20k models
-Developing the MyTouch system with Microsoft
-Engaging a new target audience with creative campaigns like the Fiesta Movement and the Focus Rally

Now stick with me as we follow the intensity of the film:
Ford man escaped the room filling with water, he avoided the exploding engine chamber , grabbed the   priceless artifact before it was lost at sea, and discovered the storage closet with the giant yellow raft      inside. However, In all this heart-stopping action, Ford man forgot one thing: the girl.

In this scenario, “the girl” was Lincoln. The more elegant of the duo, she would be the damsel in distress. As Ford raced to save his own hide, he forgot to save the fair maiden. In a last-ditch effort, Ford tosses her a life-line and tries to pull her in…

Lincoln’s transition has been slightly ambiguous. The “image” Ford Motor Co. is trying to make for the brand is of class-leading innovation in a luxury brand. The unfortunate truth is that Lincoln’s competition is very tough. The old Lincoln had an interesting niche; spend a few thousand more to get some really comfortable cars. Still the plan wasn’t rock solid and sales were lack-luster. As Ford changed it’s strategy to provide remarkable standard features in economy cars, Lincoln moved to the back-burner. Now the brand is caught in a rut. The models aren’t very attractive, they are still fairly overpriced for what they offer, the brand is undesirable beyond a small and aging audience, and there are no distinctive qualities to merit choosing a Lincoln over even a Cadillac.

It remains to be seen if Ford man will ever pull in his female companion, but in my script, the only shot Ford man has to save her is to scare away the sharks (competition) and find another tool to get her to safety.

That “tool” in my opinion would be some really innovative marketing and development. If Lincoln could become a truly distinctive product with edgy design elements and amazing luxury materials, then there would be two distinct brands under the Ford umbrella and two target markets. Go ahead, step on BMW, Lexus, Audi, and Mercedes’s toes, but do it in a way that makes the Lincoln brand desirable.

So why is the movie inconclusive? Because Ford man is still only on a raft, floating around the mid-Atlantic in winter. If the Ford Action Movie is really going to have a happy ending, there needs to be a rescue.

For Ford, that rescue needs to be longevity; capitalizing on this new branding as an innovation-house for reasonably priced models with fuel-efficient engines.

Ford man has the right tools with him on the raft:

-established new media presence
-competitive models in each segment
-excellent leadership
-fuel efficient technology
-premium interiors in each category
-loyal consumers

The only way there’s going to be a sequel to this picture is if Ford continues to push the boundaries on
its products, new media tactics, and branding. The company CAN’T go back to the old model: rebadging crap cars that no one wants to buy. The landscape has changed and the world is slanted against supporting the auto industry.

We’ve all been impressed by Ford man’s quick thinking so far, but to survive, he has to use his resources carefully, stay vigilant for opportunity…oh and get his woman out of the water.

WHAT DO YOU THINK FORD HAS DONE WELL SO FAR, AND WHAT DOES IT NEED TO DO TO STAY AFLOAT?

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Sunday, May 1st, 2011 Auto Industry News, MilesPerHr 2 Comments
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