Letter from Europe: Ford’s Problems; VolvoXC90; Jeep Wrangler; AMG C32; Porsche Cayenne
by Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief
It is rather ironic that Ford Motor Company should be getting more bad publicity in year 100 than in all the previous 99 put together. Yes, the blue oval will be 100 years old in June, and if some of the pundits can be believed it will be lucky to make it to 110.
The silliest problem, getting the most publicity is of a personal nature. To my absolute amazement joint CEO Nick Scheele- an astute businessman and a great and honest guy- allowed his son to join the advertising agency which looks after the Ford account. For someone who knows the very strict codes governing nepotism of any kind within the company he really should have known better. Surely he can remember what happened to a former UK managing director, a certain Roger Humm?! In a four letter word- exit.
This, I suppose could have been a storm in a teacup but the quality problems with the Focus proved to be expensive as well as the Explorer/Firestone fiasco not to mention the various mistakes made by former CEO Jacques Nasser,
I was at a press conference in San Francisco when Nasser announced great and ambitious plans to sell cars via the internet with a beaming Microsoft executive beaming alongside him. You can imagine how much the dealers loved him for that even if it came to nothing in the end. As for appearing in Ford commercials looking like a leftover from The Godfather, well, enough said.
It is of course no laughing matter. Ford Motor Company, allow me to state the obvious, is huge and vital to several countries, not just to the United States. The UK, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and Sweden all have major Ford Company factories with hundreds of thousands of people depending on Big Oval for their livelihood.
Of course some parts, such as Volvo could be sold for a profit tomorrow, other bits I am not so certain about. I just hope that top management will pull itself together and save this great company because right now there seems to a lack of cohesion. Even if you are not a fan of the company how would you like the world of motoring without Jaguar, Aston Martin or the Cosworth engine?
As someone who worked for the company in the 60s and has some wonderful memories of its products and especially some its people I really am keeping my fingers crossed.
One thing is certain. If all their cars and trucks were as good as the Volvo XC90 I’ve been
I would however make one point. The fuel consumption is nothing to write home about at 15 miles per gallon in town and 20 mpg on a highway. I do think that just like DaimlerChrysler they should encourage the oil companies to improve the quality of their diesel in the United States. With enough pressure the car makers might just succeed. Then, with a turbo diesel the XC90 would be a truly unbeatable proposition.
Talking of DaimlerChrysler like everyone else I was pretty upset when the proposed merger turned out to be a takeover by Jurgen Schrempp and the boys in Stuttgart. Boy, oh boy, am I grateful now! Not to put too fine a point on it, Mercedes saved Chrysler from extinction.
Taking of expensive cars I went to the launch of Porsche’s Cayenne at Sonnen, the local dealer in Marin. Vow! I don’t know how good the car is although reports to date have been very favourable, until I get a chance to take it for a spin I reserve judgment. As far as Sonnen are concerned all I can say is well done. OK, they’ve spent 60 thousand dollars in two days-tents, food, music, wine, beer, but seeing the sort of wealthy families pouring through the doors it must have paid off.
The Cayenne does not look anything special, certainly not more distinguished then the BMW X5 or the new Volvo XC90 but I am told that once the power is unleashed it will be a totally different story.