15 September 2006

He Would Have NEVER Seen This Coming....

The "He" I'm referrring to is none other than Henry Ford...one of the icons of the industrial revolution, pioneer in fair wages, implementer of the assembly line, and seller of cars to the "common man". As Henry used to say "They can have my cars in ANY color...so long as it's BLACK".

Recently, Ford Motor Company has not only fallen on hard times (haven't we all at some point?), but is grasping (not gasping...yet anyway) at straws on an attempt to maintain their spot in the global auto and truck market. Considering they havem't been #1 in quite some time (that distinction belonged to GM, who we used to refer to as the SECOND largest company after the Catholic Church...lol), they have ALWAYS been right on GM's tail with innovative styling, high performance, and inspite of the oft used "acronyms" for FORD (Found On the Road Dead...Fix Or Repair Daily), their vehicles had a dependability for many decades after they were built. Ford was #1 in truck sales for a LONG time because of that.

In Hollywood, we saw Sheriff Andy of Mayberry drive a Ford Galaxie...Starsky found the Ford Torino to be his 2nd "partner"...most every other show on TV featured Fords during the 60s and even into the 70s. Charlie's Angels drove a trio of Mustangs in the 80s. And let's NOT forget that almost every police department has the venerable "CROWN VIC" in their stable somewhere. Car enthusiasts have LONG been in love with the HOT ROD, and what better base car to use than a Model T or model A. The 1940 Ford coupe has also been a subject of MANY a customization over the decades, as was the 1936 model.

NASCAR was dominated by Fords in the same eras. Drivers like Tiny Lund, Buddy Baker, Ned Jarrett (and later Dale Jarrett) all drove Fords. David Pearson drove Mercurys (a Ford company as well). Ford later bought Jaguar, Volvo, Aston Martin, Land Rover (and probably a few more) companies, and I feel this hastened their fall "from grace". James Bond...driving a "Ford"???

Today, the company is most likely going to sell off their Aston Martin subsidiary (this HAD to be a SPECTRE plot...lol), and is trying to stave off the creditors (not to mention the STOCKHOLDERS). They are offering early retirements or buyouts to ALL of their hourly workers now. And we will see plants downsizing, layoffs, and even some plant closings. Detroit will probably be the hardest hit...like that city NEEDS this now anyway, but since most all American car makers are seeing slumping sales across the board, what other recourse is there?

I do have what I think is a major reason for Ford's problems...namely BLAND automobiles. They are simply BOR-RING to look at (with the obvious exception of the newest version of the MUSTANG...that is one VERY COOL looking car). The Crown Victoria is relatively a "bullet-proof" dinosaur (makes a good cop car)...the Focus...(PUH-LEASE)....the Taurus (other than the older SHO version....NAH! The Tempo was a vain attempt to make a "mini-Taurus". And it failed horribly (as did the Mercury counterpart). The Contour was a retry on the Tempo with the same results...no thanks! And the new FUSION...well, kinda looks like a NISSAN...or was that a TOYOTA? Maybe it was a HYUNDAI?

Time was when a Ford came towards you (any Ford)...you KNEW it was a FORD. Whether it was a THUNDERBIRD (they tried the revamp on that too....), TORINO, MUSTANG, LTD (which my Dad called a "Long Term Debt"), and even the FALCON. The OLD CROWN VICTORIAS were beautiful stylish cars, and the STARLINER was the FIRST car to have the hardtop retract INTO THE TRUNK! The Ranchero (counterpart to GMs El Camino) was a pickup/car hybrid of sorts.

With the advent of minivans and SUVs, Ford went the way of most other car makers....instead of being the innovators they used to be. And thanks to rising fuel costs, as well as a new generation of drivers with apparent ADHD, they wound up standing on the "outside" while looking at the "inside". Huge honking pigs of SUVs became a liability, and can be had today for a song and a dance (and a decent down payment).

Can Ford make a comeback? Chrysler proved they could in the 80s. Lightning "could" strike again. But Ford has to first stop following the "rest of the herd", and become a company with as much panache' as they have had in the past. With all the techniology available today, there is NO reason why ANY car maker can't produce a SAFE, FUEL-EFFICIENT AND DAMN NICE LOOKING car (or truck for that matter). Enough with these square looking smooth brick shaped vehicles (that seem as aerodynamic as a refrigerator box) with these garish headlamps that look like something out of some Batman cartoon from WB (and they do look like THAT Batmobile...and not in a good way). Garish is GOOD for fighting crime in Gotham City...NOT for taking kids to Soccer practice. Practical? Maybe. Pleasing to the eye? Not hardly.

But then again...maybe that's EXACTLY why I STILL have my 1983 Firebird....nice styling, good performance (for a V-6), low drag coefficient, as good mileage as mosts cars get TODAY (so not much has changed in 23 years, eh?), and when I look at it...I KNOW it's a FIREBIRD.

Now...if they could ONLY get the Aston Martin Vanquish DOWN in price and UP in mileage...I "might" think about a "trade-in"...(heh, heh, heh).

Or maybe that new Mustang... (especially in Gun Metal Gray)?

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