Canadian Ford dealers have a message for incoming Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley: The company’s upcoming string of vehicle launches must be executed flawlessly.
“They really have to get their launches better,” said Steve Chipman, CEO of Birchwood Automotive Group in Winnipeg. “Their last launch with the Explorer [crossover], I think, didn’t go very well. When they launch a vehicle, they need to launch it well.”
Farley will take over for Jim Hackett on Oct. 1 at a critical moment in the recent history of the automaker. Ford will soon launch its Mustang Mach-E electric crossover, a redesigned F-150 pickup and the new Bronco subbrand, all important to the company’s bottom line in the coming years.
Farley, 58, will oversee those launches as Ford tries to regain favour with Wall Street, where its stock price has been weighed down in recent years as Hackett launched a turnaround plan.
In addition, the COVID19 pandemic remains a threat to the industry, with a potential resurgence of the virus in the fall posing a risk to the company’s manufacturing and retail operations.
WANTED: NEW PRODUCT
When asked about what they would like to see from Ford under Farley’s leadership, dealers who spoke with Automotive News Canada were unanimous about their desire for new product. A flawless launch for the Bronco, in particular, was seen as important for Ford, which has banked its product strategy around its ability to sell light trucks.
The launch of the Bronco midsize SUV was generating excitement in some markets, dealers said. Kevin Zimic, dealer principal at Ridgehill Ford in Cambridge, Ont., said in late August that his dealership had already secured 28 reservations for the Bronco, higher than he had anticipated.
“I was not expecting the overwhelming support, questions and even the demand for merchandise that we’ve had for the Bronco brand,” he said.
The launch of the Mach-E and other electric and hybrid offerings from Ford in the coming years will be important for Farley and the Ford leadership to nail, Zimic said. Under Hackett, Ford had the right vision in investing in EVs and connected vehicles, he said. It will be on Farley to execute that vision.
Still, other dealers would like Ford to reexamine its product strategy, specifically when it comes to cars. Terry Rafih, CEO of Rafih Auto Group in Windsor, Ont., said Ford should consider offering cars again that can compete with Japanese brands such as Toyota and Honda. The automaker, Rafih said, is needlessly ceding customers to them.
“We have people coming in looking for cars all the time,” he said. “So, they go to the Korean and Japanese, and that’s where they’re buying their cars. And they’re selling.”
Ford under Hackett shifted the company’s focus in North America to selling mostly crossovers, pickups and SUVs while cutting car models such as the Focus and Taurus.
According to the Automotive News Data Centre in Detroit, Ford sold 101,410 vehicles in Canada during the first half of 2020, down 32 per cent from a year earlier because of the pandemic. Still, the company remained the No. 1 automaker by new-vehicle sales in Canada.