Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – When feeling the stress caused by the sharp downturn in U.S. sales and accelerated shift in demand from trucks to cars, Ford Motor Co.’s Mark Fields finds inspiration from an automotive leader who preceded him.

“Henry Ford said ‘When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it,’” Fields, president-The Americas, says at the Management Briefing Seminars here.

“We at Ford see today’s environment in the same vein as our founder. We are seizing the opportunity in a dramatic way. And we didn’t just start this spring.”

The key, Fields says, will be a previously announced new wave of small, more fuel-efficient vehicles on the way. But he says this isn’t completely new territory for Ford.

“Ford already delivers the best small cars in Europe,” he says. “Now it is North America’s turn, and we intend to deliver these small cars profitably.”

To do that, Ford’s now divergent European and North American Focus compacts will merge onto a single C-car architecture.

“Within five years, Ford will have one C-sized platform that delivers more than 10 body styles globally,” Fields says. “Commonality for the North American and European Focus skyrockets to 90%.”

In addition, the annual volume for that single platform will grow to nearly 2 million units, Fields says.

“Ford is playing to win and lead in small cars – we are doing so by centralizing our global engineering and vehicle program responsibilities to ensure quality launches and by basing flexible small-car assembly facilities in North America to allow for quick response to market dynamics.”

That commonality, Fields says, should drive a double-digit percentage improvement in C-car profitability.

Meanwhile, the auto maker is in the midst of reducing the number of orderable combinations for its Ford brand in North America, including series, packages and options, by 90% in the ’08 and ’09 model years.

That will help dealers reduce inventory and floor-plan costs, while simplifying and speeding up the ordering process, Fields says.

“Our parts and service can run more efficiently, thanks to leaner inventory,” he says. “That frees up cash, allowing us to invest still more in our product plans.”

By the ’10 model year, Fields says the Focus will provide approximately 150 combinations, equating to a more than 95% reduction from ’08.

“We’ve been making tremendous progress to build ‘One Ford,’ uniquely positioning the company to capitalize on our global product portfolio, especially small cars,” Fields says.

dstark@wardsauto.com