Criticizing all of the time is not fun. Sometimes I feel I know how Jeremiah felt marching around Jerusalem, shouting, “They're coming. Repent.”
Nobody likes messages like this. I remember Jack Smith, the former chairman of, once saying to me, “You don't think we can do anything right.”
It hurt, but he had a point. I thought it over for a moment, then replied: “You've done a good job cutting costs.”
What was I to say? The Jack Smith-Rick Wagoner regime was on the way to losing a full fifth of its market share and foreign operations were — and still are — a shambles: Saab, Opel,, . Billions of dollars lost.
In the end, I fall back on that old cliché, “Criticizing is a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.” Our Detroit companies are steadily losing market share, and critics from Consumer Reports to Car and Driver consistently say foreign brands are better.
This means the home team is playing badly. Somebody has to tell them and since nobody else will do it, I volunteer.
What gets me started now is's decision to kill the Thunderbird.
's killing Taurus. It tried to kill Mercury. But the T'Bird is the only head-turner Ford has. Why is it that I have to tell Ford the goal should be to make the T'Bird an example of the best it can do? If an auto maker can't make money selling 20,000 cars every year for $40,000 each, maybe it should just throw in the towel.
Strange things happen at Ford. It decided to put most of its eggs in one platform basket, the Mazda6 platform. Is it good sense to depend on one platform that remains unproven in the market?
Consider the plan to kill the Taurus, Ford's best-selling car and the only Detroit car to be the nation's sales leader in the past decade. Consider how all those Taurus owners will feel losing more trade-in value. Consider the disarray at Lincoln and Mercury. Consider the silliness of naming all the Ford cars with ‘F’ words.
There are good things happening, too.had epic success with the GMT-800 truck platform, building a variety of darn good vehicles. It builds more than 1.5 million units off that platform, from the Silverado pickup to the Suburban, Avalanche, Escalade and Hummer H2. That's the way to do it.
And Ford's dealer group may be the best in the world. Those who predict Ford's doom forget its great dealer group, as well as some excellent products, such as the Explorer, Escape and Expedition.
And? Its new LX cars are a big risk, but Chrysler thrives on risk. Yet I'm very critical of the plan to build the other cars, from the Neon to the PT Cruiser to the Stratus, from Mitsubishi platforms. Mitsubishi isn't or ; it's a second- or possibly third-tier manufacturer. Does it make sense to risk Chrysler's reputation on Mitsubishi's engineering?
Jerry Flint is a columnist for, and former senior editor of, Forbes magazine.