The first thing Stuart and I had to look forward to at the Los Angeles auto show was Ford's wonder boy, Mark Fields, giving the keynote. Charged with coming up with "The Way Forward," Fields didn't give us details on his grand master plan (it's due January 23, and they're going to make us wait until that very day, evidently) other than to relate that Ford would emerge smaller and more flexible.
He did say, however, that Ford can't act like it has a quarter of the U.S. market share anymore. Creativity will be encouraged, he said, not be considered a necessary evil, and the company will return to its American roots in the hopes that the initiative will strike a chord with American consumers. He also acknowledged that Ford does it better than anybody when it comes to trucks and SUVs (the Ford F150 and Ford Explorer are among the best selling trucks around), but that cars are something Ford needs to focus on.
Follow the jump to read Stuart's notes on the speech, which offer some real insight as to what kind of company Ford will become in 2006.Fields put some new-car dimension to Ford III's "innovation" mantra - Ford needs to reconnect design to people's passion for cars (like they used to do - original Mustang is the iconic example). Says Ford "lost touch" with car customers.
Fields has a mix of "optimism and realism" - Realism means that there needs to be fundamental change in the business for his optimism to be realized.
Says the "big 3" is yesterday's news - wants to focus the co. on getting its place in the global "up for grabs big 6" - all of whom are battling for growth and profit in the NAm market. Feels the big 6 is up for grabs right now.
Innovation key to customers hearts and minds. Must invest in innovation and "bold American design" to with the hearts and minds.
Says 06 will be a slow year in the NAm market ( gas prices, interest rates, economy sluggish), but it "will NOT be the 'year of the truck'" - I took to be a dig at GM.
No "way forward" details but said product investments would be targeted at connecting with more customers (ie new to ford customers)
Much talk of brand and brand image. Used Apple computer and Motorola as examples of co's that were on the ropes and turned around via innovative new products. Apple good example of focus on customer leading to innovation.
Ford battle cry: "red, white and bold"
CUV market growing faster than SUV market did in the 90s. 06 cuv sales will be > suv. Edge is innovative design - "unlike most cuvs"
***Talked about a new push into small car market - for young customers. Says there is no American stamp on small cars - that's what Ford will do. Ford will show bold, american, innovative small car concept in Detroit***
Ford will build a bold American small car instead of "trying to out-Korean the Koreans" (dig at Aveo?) Later said the B segment will be important in US within 3 years.
Announced that Fusion (and Milan Zephyr) are so successful that they are going to third production shift as of today.
Examples of connecting with customers: new Mustang, f-series trux, Ford GT - all bold, American and innovative
Dig at Toyota - "trying to be American" - investment in the US doesn't make it an American brand
Ford has the best chance to be "America's car company"
New focus is NOT a retreat into smaller markets.