Last year represented a bit of a slump for Ford Motor Company. As the automaker focused on a smooth roll-out of both its new 2015 Mustang, and the radically different aluminum-bodied F-150, sales dragged while consumers waited out the transition period.
But Ford CEO Mark Fields seemed nevertheless optimistic when he spoke to Fox Business about the marque’s future strategy, highlighting what significance the new Ford Performance division holds moving forward, as well as asserting his faith in the new F-150 pickup.
It can hardly be argued that Ford didn’t steal the show at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, unveiling three different performance halo vehicles: the Mustang Shelby GT350R, the Ford GT, and the F-150 SVT Raptor. This reinvigoration of the marque’s performance lineup makes sense, as the performance market has reportedly grown by approximately 70 percent over the past 5 years alone.
But these halo vehicles serve a larger purpose than simply catering to the thrill-seekers among us; they pioneer and refine the technology that will trickle-down into future, more pedestrian cars. As Mark Fields told Fox: “It’s also a technology showcase for a lot of our engineers. When they go back into mainstream programs, they can apply some of that technology and innovation that they’ve used on these performance vehicles.”
The cars also serve as highly-visible, ultra-desirable testaments to the tech that’s already shared between the halo cars and the regular lineup. The Ford GT’s EcoBoost V6 is a perfect example.
Win Big Or Go Home
The all-aluminum construction of the new Ford F-150 represents easily the biggest, boldest risk that the automaker has taken recently. The F-150 has been the best-selling pickup in America for 38 years straight, and the best-selling vehicle for the last 33 years. One could say that it’s a relied-upon source of steady revenue.
Thus far, Mark Fields says, the new aluminum-bodied truck hasn’t disappointed. Demand remains strong, with the average 2015 Ford F-150 staying in dealer lots no longer than 5 days. But the switch away from trusty steel is a big one, as the metal is far more difficult for body shops to repair should it become damaged. It was – and might still be – a gamble for the transitioning automaker.
In fact, total sales for Ford and its Lincoln luxury brand declined 0.5 percent last year, compared to industry-wide growth of about 6 percent.
But, as we said, it was in many ways a transition year for the company. Assuming that the executives at Ford Motor Company have done their homework right, this year will hopefully see healthy growth.