Dear Mr.: Your company needs help, so I am offering advice.
Before you toss this in the trash, remember that when I started coveringin the late 1950s, Bob McNamara was running Ford division. I've seen a lot.
First, you want to build a new small B-car. That’s fine. But you want to build a new plant to do it. That’s wrong. Even if you build it in Mexico, a new plant will run up the cost terribly.
Remember Saturn? It was innovative but investment costs, an estimated $6 billion, buried it alive. GM never recovered the investment. It drained money from other GM programs and the other divisions resented it.
Why not save one of your old plants slated to be shut? Any state will give you the money to modernize. My favorite is the Atlanta assembly plant that builds the Taurus.
It is old, but those people know how to build cars. The latest Harbour Report on manufacturing productivity rated it as the most efficient plant in North America, better thanor plants.
Now for the car. The new European version of the VW Golf GT features a tiny 1.4L gas engine that uses a supercharger and a turbocharger to deliver up to 20% more power and fuel economy than a 2L turbodiesel. A U.S. supplier developed the concept. Have you looked at it?
Ford used to be the greatest builder of small cars, from the Model T to the Falcon to the Escort. You started to fall apart when you turned to Europe and Japan for small-car engineering. What are you doing to regain leadership? Ford invented product planning. I can't see any today. Reinvent it.
GM andhave new pickups coming this fall. All you have coming this year are new medium duty trucks.
Please tell me you are adding some pizzazz to the standard F-150 to take the edge off the other guys. The Mustang is a winner, so what are you doing to capitalize on it? A handful of 500-hp Cobras is not enough. You need another 20,000 sales. Where's the growth plan?
Explorer: the marketing – and sales – have collapsed. Chevy Trail Blazer outsold it last year. The whole midsize SUV segment is suffering, but such a key vehicle deserves more imaginative promotion.
Fuel economy: You need more than hybrid-electric vehicles in this game. Why doesn’t Ford offer cylinder deactivation? GM is going to kick your behind in truck mileage, and that is going to hurt.
Brainpower: Many of Ford's great leaders still are alive: McNamara, Lee Iacocca, Harold Poling, Don Petersen and Phil Caldwell. Yes, they are older and some might laugh at an invitation to sit on your board, but a couple of these veterans might be able to ask better questions than most of the stiffs you have there now.
Jerry Flint is a columnist for, and a former senior editor of, Forbes magazine.