Shock, horror, outrage, grudging acceptance, agreement. This pretty much covers the reaction to the announcement buried within Ford Motor Company’s first-quarter earnings report.
The automaker that brought us the Thunderbird, Fairlane, Crown Victoria, LTD, Galaxy, Torino, Pinto, Fairmont, Tempo, Taurus, Fusion, Fiesta, Festiva (sorry), LTD II, Contour, EXP, Custom, Five Hundred, and other car models will relegate its passenger car lineup to just the Mustang and a lightly lifted Focus hatch, now classified as a crossover.
Almost anything can be a crossover these days.
Be it bold or short-sighted, Ford has at least made its vision of the near-term automotive future crystal clear. And buyers helped form that vision. Consumer preference led Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to make a similar decision two years ago, just without the same resulting ripples of outrage. No one wanted a Dodge Dart or Chrysler 200, so it left the compact and midsize sandbox in the hands of other automakers. Traditionalists still have their Dodge Charger and Challenger and Chrysler 300, and police fleets can turn to the Charger if the Ford Police Interceptor Utility isn’t to their liking. Urban types have the Fiat brand while it’s still around.
That covers two-thirds of the Detroit Three. But what about General Motors?
Just in the last month, we’ve heard GM Korea say it’s thinking of scrapping the Chevrolet Spark in favor of a better-selling crossover, targeting the entry level space below the Chevrolet Trax. The subcompact Sonic appears doomed, as does the long-running Impala — a full-sizer nervously plodding along in a market that isn’t too kind to tradition.
That leaves the midsize Malibu (refreshed for 2019) and the compact Cruze (also refreshed, but now built on a single shift at Lordstown). Like the Mustang, the Camaro (again, refreshed for 2019) remains ready to compete in the pony car space and sprinkle athleticism over the brand.
Put yourself in Mary Barra’s shoes. Minus the Camaro and Corvette, there’s five passenger cars in the Chevrolet lineup. Two more populate the Buick stable, while Cadillac currently fields four (the short-term strategy shows the brand moving to three). You’re being asked to position the automaker as a forward-thinking company with a finger on the market’s pulse.
So, what do you do with GM’s passenger car space? It’s in your hands now. Which models live, which ones die, and which vehicles would you turn into … something else?
[Image: General Motors]