The Death Of Ford’s Car Lineup Is Greatly Exaggerated

Opinion

Traditional Ford sedans will soon be gone, but would an EV sedan be considered traditional?

Last April, Ford made the startling announcement that it will soon end all sales and production of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus in North America. Aside from the Mustang, those vehicles make up Ford’s entire non-SUV, crossover, and pickup truck lineup. In short, traditional Ford sedans and hatchbacks are dead in America. Slow sales combined with high demand for crossovers is what ultimately doomed these vehicles. National advertising for the Fusion, for example, has already ended.

But is this really the end? Is Ford tossing in the towel completely and forever on anything that’s not an SUV crossover, truck, or Mustang? That sounds kind of hard to believe, logically and historically. Let’s begin with the latter, and the best example which immediately comes to mind is the Ford Ranger.

Back in 2011 Ford killed off what was for 29 years one of its best-selling vehicles. The old Ranger was even built at three different production facilities (all in the US) in order to satisfy demand. America has always loved trucks, and the Ranger was ideal for millions of buyers who didn’t need or want a full-size F-150. But then things started to change. The small truck segment steadily shrunk from almost 8 percent of total industry sales in 1994 to 1.9 percent of industry sales in 2012, according to former F-150 chief engineer Jackie DiMarco in a 2013 Reddit AMA.

Shrunk, but demand wasn’t completely gone. GM and Toyota continued to sell their mid-size truck offerings, the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins and the Tacoma, respectively and were financially rewarded for their segment loyalty.

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In fact, GM invested heavily in redesigns for 2014 that won wide-scale praise. Ford took notice, hence the decision to revive the Ranger. This situation proves that just because sales may be down, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dead entirely. Trends change. Economic situations change. Customer tastes change.

The Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator are two more examples. The recently retired third generation was sold for a decade, beginning in 2007. Soaring gas prices coupled with new buyer trends indicated to Ford that both big SUVs could stick around, but no major investments were necessary.

Today, gas is cheap once again and those completely redesigned SUVs can’t be built fast enough. A decade can make a world of difference. Look at the Fiesta hatchback and sedan. Both will very soon be gone, but back in 2010 Ford bet big on small cars instead of the Ranger and SUVs. The opposite is happening now. These past examples lead to a very logical conclusion: never say never.

Put it this way: Ford may have permanently killed off gasoline-powered, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid sedans, but nothing was ever said about all-electric sedans. After all, demand for the Tesla Model 3 and Model S remain as high as ever.

Ford also recently increased its electric vehicle technology investment to $11 billion. Does it make any sense to develop a platform for a single body style, let alone one model – the upcoming Mustang-inspired EV crossover, codenamed Mach 1? Of course not. That platform will be engineered to underpin several future EVs. It’s basic economies of scale. If today’s crossovers are already built on raised sedan platforms, why can’t the reverse also happen? Remember, a crossover is nothing more than a jacked-up sedan with an SUV-like body. We asked a Ford spokesman about this possibility, but the reply was very general:

“While there are no plans to offer all-new traditional sedans in North America, as a global company, we continue to sell cars in Europe and Asia, such as the all-new Fiesta and all-new Focus.”

Do all-electric sedans count as “traditional sedans?”

Who knows what auto market demand will look like in a decade’s time. The Fusion could make an impressive comeback just like the Ranger if the right combination of factors takes place. Right now, many buyers don’t care if a crossover costs a bit more than a sedan, but that could change due to, for example, higher interest rates. Trying to predict the future is one thing, but the eventual reality is something else entirely. Just ask the Ford Ranger.

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