Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We're a truck country and Ford's a truck company, how are we to survive in the future?

Time to face facts kids, we're a nation of trucks, and yes I mean you "soccer moms" in your SUVs and you cowboys in your super duty trucks. And for over 90 years one of the main sources of our addiction to trucks has been Ford Motor Company. From the first Model T's converted to truck duty by farmers to the current crop of F Series trucks, Ford has more than likely sold more trucks world wide than any other manufacturer.
The Ford F series truck has been the best selling vehicle in the world for 26 years! That's not just the US, but with sales of over 900,000 anually that's just amazing. To put this in perspective there are probably not 900,000 Feraris built altogether since they started turning wrenches 50 years ago. It takes many models several years to sell a million units and Ford sells nearly that many F Series a year.
And to think old Henry Ford didn't want to build trucks? He reluctantly allowed the Model TT into production when executives around him pointed to the number of converted Model T's around the world. So Ford built trucks, man did they ever!
Trucks in all sizes from big to small and everything in between. Trucks for every concievable use. In every market around the globe Ford has a truck for any job you need. From the little Fiesta based Bantam/Courier mini ute or "backie" to the over the road big rigs. Ford trucks are part of the global landscape.
And now, the meat and potatoes of Ford's sales seem to have hit a wall. Sales of large trucks and SUVs have slowed and incentives like cash back, low interest loans and gas debit cards are offered to clear the dealers' lots. So does this mean Ford has had it? Will Ford abandon the truck market? ( Hell I can't believe I even typed that one.) Is there any hope for Ford and our American love afair with the truck? Well, no, no and yes!
While there is a rough road ahead for Ford and our nation there is hope and possability for a recovery. Ford Motor Company has been working on several technologies that can help relieve the pain of $3+ gallon fuel.

Let's be clear from the start E-85 is not the answer! It's a stop gap effort and a loophole for the manufacturers, not a boon to consumers. The facts are that E-85 powered Flex Fuel Vehicles get poorer milage than conventional fueled vehicles when they burn E-85, if you can find E-85. Diesels on the other hand get better fuel milage and deliver more power than Gasoline or E-85 powered vehicles. Now with new emissions standards Diesels are being pulled from the market, but with new technologies and "Low Sulphur" Diesel coming to market, Diesels will be back with a vengance, and FoMoCo is positioned to really meet our national need. Ford has Diesels in 4, 6 & 8 Cylinders that could be pressed into service in light, medium and heavy duty pickups and SUVs across their lineup. They're gearing up production of Diesels in France and England for the global markets, and partner brands destined for the US market.

In addition to Diesels, Ford has been working on Hydraulic Launch Assist for medium and heavy duty trucks and Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines for busses and trucks. The SuperChief Concept truck was powered by a Supercharged Hydrogen burning V-10.

And for light duty trucks and crossover SUVs there is the posability of Hybrid drivetrains. The new Edge is based on mechanicals used in the Fusion and there is a planned Hybrid version on the way.

For those that need large trucks and SUVs or just feel they do, it's going to be a tough road until some of this technology comes to market, but Ford has been working hard to bring them to market. There have been stories online for months about Diesels for Expedition and Possibly Explorer and overseas the Ranger has had a Diesel for years.

The reality is that trucks, even smaller trucks use a lot of fuel, and some people will move away from trucks towards cars and car based vehicles. So there may be shrinkage in the truck market, and that means the ones that get the greatest share of what's left will be the ones that innovate and adapt. I believe Ford can come out on top again. What do you think?

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