Simple sheetmetal could have put Ford way behind the competition.
Don’t let the facade put up by the Ford GT and plans to bring an electric SUV and a self-driving car to fruition in the next few years fool you. Ford is not doing well. The only American automaker to survive the crash of 2008 without going into bankruptcy has seen its stock price tumble by 40% under its previous CEO, Mark Fields. Now, Reuters seems to have an interesting theory on why that drastic fall took place and it can all be traced back to the aluminum F-150.
Fields was just replaced by James Hackett, Ford’s previous head of Smart Mobility, because of the drowning stock price so there’s nothing he can do to steer the company back in the right direction (don’t worry, Fields got a $54.4 million severance package so he’ll be just fine). That massive drop in stock price isn’t all Field’s fault, however. The problem began during the crash of 2008. Ford was the only US automaker not to file for bankruptcy and it managed this by borrowing cash to survive. Unfortunately, that left it with less money to invest in new vehicles. To make matters worse, Ford’s past CEO Alan Mulally blew a good portion of what was left on an expensive aluminum redesign for the F-150.
The F-150 happens to be America’s best-selling vehicle and it’s a highly profitable one at that, so there was no reason Ford shouldn’t have made that move. Unfortunately, the move was ill-timed because those high gas prices Ford was bracing its trucks for never manifested. Now, the shortage of cash to reinvest in other departments has left Ford with a lack of new models in the pipeline. Meanwhile, its competitors charge forward with attractive options that undermine the Blue Oval’s current lineup or inhabit a segment that Ford isn’t even competing in, with the Ranger being the most notable absence in a segment that’s dominated by the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. So what is Hackett to do?
At the moment, there’s not much he can do. Even if he pushes hard for new models, the earliest manifestation of his decree wouldn’t come until 2021. For the time being, Ford has a few new models slated for release in 2019, but that’s more than enough time for a disorienting push from GM to knock Ford off balance with the fistful of new models it has planned. Among these are direct assaults on the F-150 via a redesigned Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Be sure to enjoy your aluminum F-150 thoroughly because it may have cost Ford it’s edge.