There’s no question but that Ford absolutely dominates the American pickup truck market — a huge, profitable slice of the pie. If they didn’t, the company would be in big trouble, though.
Moody’s just dropped Ford’s bond rating from Baa2 to Baa3, saying it could fall to junk status, following a rating outlook drop from “stable” to “negative.” Moody’s doesn’t seem to have much faith in Ford’s planned $11 billion global restructuring.
Ford recently slashed its engineering budget, dropping nearly all its sedans; it intends to do a product offensive in utilities and smaller pickups (such as the Colorado and Tacoma). Maybe that will work and maybe it won’t; Ford’s new products have had mixed results over the last decade, with some highly hyped models failing to gain traction.
Just this week, the company formed a new product line management group, to study customers and help develop better products. A retired product planner asked me, “I thought that’s what Product Planning did?” It’s rarely good when a company creates a parallel group to work around an under-performing box in the organizational chart.
Ford has had some large successes; its Transit line has been even more successful, in market share, than its pickups, and it boasts the highest penetration of fully-loaded, high-end pickups. But it’s also lost a few battles, losing with the 500/Taurus, C-Max, Focus, and such.
Some would say Ford would do well to stick to what works — focusing on vans, pickups, and the Mustang. It might make for a limited lineup, but it would cut investment and boost profits.
The author of Dodge Viper, Jeep’s Go-Anywhere Vehicles, and The Rise and Reinvention of Chrysler Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.