Much of the world first caught a glimpse of the Ford Mondeo in “Casino Royale” when Bond drives the car to go to the hotel to find answers on Le Chiffe. Many Americans were surprised at seeing the car and wondered if that was really a Ford or just a fantasy concept car. Unfortunately, the big shots at FoMoCo decided that Americans are only fit for cars such as the F-series pickup trucks, an outdated Ford Focus, Crown Victoria, a renamed Ford 500 (Taurus) and an Americanised Mazda6 (Fusion) while the rest of the world gets a brand new Ford Focus, Mondeo, Galaxy, Fiesta, Ka, S-Max, and Falcon.
Here are some pictures of a car Americans will not get to drive:
The so-called brain trust at Ford Motor Company argue that it would be unfeasible to import the Mondeo to the States because of the horrible Dollar-Euro exchange rate, which is now around 1USD=0.76EUR. They also rationalise that the new “Kinetic Design” styling is not American enough to satisfy American buyers who see ford as being “Bold and tough”. Interestingly enough, this is what the eggheads at GM said when people wondered why they couldn’t be bothered with importing Opels to the United States until Bob Lutz converted Saturn into Opel’s American brand.
To be honest there are many reasons why the Big 2.5 keep loosing market share to the import market: quality is slowly becoming a non-issue, but it is largely incompetent management that ultimately ruins them. We can see that in the background of some of the Big 2.5’s former CEOs: Rick Wagoner has a background in finance, Bill Ford also did finance and Dieter Zetsche worked as an engineer. This is partly the explanation why GM and Ford were loosing to the competition and this was also the same period Chrysler was being praised for having a successful turnaround.
Now looking at the current CEOs we can see that Tom LaSorda has a lean manufacturing background, Alan Mulally was a Boeing engineer while Rick Wagoner is still around but letting Bob Lutz play with GM’s product portfolio. With these changes in leadership and functions, one can see Chrysler’s product quality improve but with the overproduction of cars dealers don’t need. On the other hand, by bringing in a complete outsider who admitted to applying Toyota’s lean manufacturing techniques to save Boeing, Alan Mulally finds himself locked in office politics against those that wish to keep the status quo; even it if meant financial ruin. On the other hand, GM is finally seeing some signs of a turnaround after Bob Lutz was able to convince Wagoner to aggressively create synergies from their global resources.
Like most of us watching “Casino Royale” and noticing that Mondeo, Alan Mulally also wondered why Americans are not getting such cars over the States. It’s interesting to note that Ford Europe produces cars that are of higher quality than their American counterparts and were the ones who engineered the Ford Focus that became a hit when it first arrived in North America. It’s funny how Ford seems to have a schizophrenic personality when it comes to a coherent and original business strategy: first they decide to flush their brand equity for their Lincoln away by switching over from heritage names to an alphanumeric scheme used by Acura and Cadillac (that nearly got them sued by the former), they keep burning money away on Jaguar without really giving them a distinct identity within FoMoCo, decide to source technology from Mazda because they can’t develop their own decent platforms and then decide to pull off several massive buyouts just like GM when things went wrong. Out of all these problems, they still had no idea what to make of Mercury.
Can someone please tell me what Mercury stands for in the Ford Motor Company? What is Mercury’s target market and where the hell is it positioned in the market? What is considered the brand’s direct competitors? What is the brand culture behind Mercury? These are some tough questions for a brand that mainly exists to help Lincoln dealers sell relatively cheaper cars and was positioned as a “glorified Ford” to a “cheap Lincoln” during it’s lifespan. Much of Mercury’s current models are slightly pricier Fords with that trademark Mercury grille and badge.
Here’s an idea: Ford should actually consider importing European Fords and rebadge them as Mercuries. That way, they can actually justify the higher price points and have some unique products that would give the Mercury brand a real distinct identity. Ford had done this in the past when they imported Ford Capris and sold them in Mercury dealerships and with their two-door Cougar that was based off a first generation Mondeo platform. Bring over the S-Max, the Focus CC, Mondeo, and the Galaxy with more Aggressive European names like the Milan and rebrand Mercury as a brand that appeals to driver who strive for reasonable refinement and European elegance to differentiate it from Lincoln and Ford.
We have seen how GM was able to successfully revive the Saturn brand by transforming it into an American Opel and a long-wheelbase Vectra called the Aura actually won the North American Car of the Year Award for 2007. Then again, most of the innovators originally working in FoMoCo have already moved on to companies such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, GM and even Chrysler… Well, here is to wishful thinking.