Ford has announced another turnaround plan. Five thousand jobs to go in Germany, others in the United Kingdom.
The news is reported here and here and, of course, here. “Some of the losses in Germany come from ending production of the C-Max minivan, one of the products Ford will stop making as it reduces its portfolio to more profitable models,” said the FT**.
Why are Ford hacking at the payrolls? Ford’s market share has declined roughly two percentage points of the EU market, from a little over 8% to just under six. That’s actually quite bad because it represents a 25 % drop in absolute terms. Only the fact the market grew a bit overall mitigates that decline.
Commercial vans represent perhaps one bright spot and Ford plans to carve out a division for that, alongside passenger cars and a category called “imported vehicles”. Does that mean some of the CUVs from the US or does that hint at a place for Lincoln, finally, in the world of modern-day Europe?
The UK engine operations look a bit shaky. Most of the parts used are imported from the EU from which the UK has for some reason decided to separate (something to do with chlorinated chicken breast). With margins so slim on these businesses, I fully expect Brexit, when it comes, to make Ford’s UK operations non-viable. That’s no shame on Ford, saying everything about the UK’s hopeless industrial policy and perhaps the simple fact it is in island, after all. And geography matters still.
Singer Robyn Hitchckcock, who I met once, sang “I remember everything as if it happened years ago/Probably it did so I remember it”. His point is that the distant past is often easier to remember than three years ago***. And sometimes we don’t even remember now. Can you remember what Ford sells right now?
Here’s the range in order of increasing cost. It’s a bigger range than I thought; that’s not perhaps such a good thing because there are models there I have forgotten about or didn’t expect at all. Mercedes also have models I don’t know about but I expect not to know their whole bewildering range. Do you know it?
So, we start with the Ka, from a shade under €10,000. Then comes the stalwart Fiesta – from € 12,950. We are on firm ground here, with two smallish hatchbacks. Next in the price hierarchy is the Tourneo Courier- costing from €15,825. Based on a commercial van, it is treated here as family car, with a spec rising all the way to the dizzy heights of Titanium (do Renault do that with the Kangoo)? Back to the familiar with the soon-to-die C-Max, costing from €17,900, a car which never really hit its stride.
If you want to spend more you rise to the CUV EcoSport, priced from €18,590 or its near neighbour the Focus, priced from €18,700. That’s a tough one for Ford because where there should be exactly one product bang in the median price sector there are two. Unlike VAG, the cost of this is not spread over 145 different-but-similar cars.
Stepping up rather a long we way we find another four thou is needed to sit us into the comfy seats of a Kuga, retailing for €24,350. And then a modest one point five thou gets into the roomy expanse of the reliable Ford perennial, the Mondeo at €26,725 (née Fusion USA).
Now in the old days there was only one car more senior than a Taunus/Sierra/Mondeo and that was the Granada. Long gone, its shoes are worn by three vehicles. The S-Max weighs in at €31,650 and I have to say it’s a handsome machine. If you really need more room you need to stump up €34,150 for the Galaxy which is a car that has gone from a medium-priced affordable family van to being some form of limousine.
Prestigious/formal cars are a complex thing now; the Galaxy and Espace are, in my view, quite posh cars but are not ludicrous in the way the 5, A6 and E-Class have become. I’d be more interested in a well-specced Galaxy than an mid-range E or its peers: nice, without overdoing it. But that said, the Galaxy strikes me as a lot less accessible than the version shared with VAG back in the 1990s.
Finally, we round off the Ford range with the Mustang for €39,000 and the mysterious Edge for €42,900, which car is presumably the modern equivalent of a top of the toppy top Granada. It comes in Vignale trim and is bigger than a VW Touareg, being, essentially the same kind of thing as a Land Rover Discovery but costing rather less. Apparently people buy them for their looks. And that’s quite okay but it does tell you they aren’t buying them for their off-road talent. God, I miss the Granada.
I expect the Ka, Mustang, Mondeo as well as C-Max to die very soon and the S-Max and Galaxy can’t both be sustained. The people mover market is in serious decline. CarSalesBase reports the declines of the Galaxy from 60,000 units in 1998 to about 12,000 units a year. Urp.
** Because I am quoting the FT it is necessary to stress I am quoting them and would like to earnestly ask readers to buy a copy of the newspaper this weekend, as it’s actually quite good. (I also like to buy the New York Times weekend edition, which is good. You don’t have to read the silly colour supplement and the same goes for the FT´s “How To Spend It” magazine which is a bit hard to take unless you are on more than 80K, I think.)
*** I have not mentioned Robyn Hitchcock so much here. His 1989 album Queen Elvis is a gem, recorded with his backing band The Egyptians. It’s what you might call quirky. There are some appealing melodies and striking images in the songs which are charmingly English. Try getting a copy though. I won’t tell you how much I paid for the CD version of the album about five years ago. I do love it though. Great bass lines. Peter Buck guests on the album (REM were very influenced by the Egyptians, apparently).