To paraphrase Ford boss Alan Mulally, here at the Amsterdam announcement of the company’s new model blitz, “We either invest to survive, or we try to save money and die a slow and ugly death.”
As readers of Steve Cropley’s interview with Mulally in this week’s magazine will have learnt, he is a charming yet straight-talking American who has a history of saving major companies. He arrived at Ford six years ago after pulling Boeing back from the brink, and has already performed a similar miracle with Ford of America.
His next problem is Ford of Europe, which is currently predicted to lose the company a billion dollars in 2012. By anyone’s standards turning that around is a tough call, but when you bear in mind that it’s also set against a shrunken market that shows few signs of recovering, it’s even tougher.
Mulally, though, has seen it before, and his response is to keep doing what he’s done before. “Six years ago, during Ford’s US crisis, we committed to the One Ford policy,” he says. “That meant a focused product line-up and a commitment to being leaders in quality, technology and fuel economy.
“Today, in the US, we have transitioned from surviving to growing, with the finest line-up of cars and trucks we’ve ever had. One Ford is the driver of profitable growth – and we now will accelerate that in Europe.”
He went on to outline that by 2017 Ford will have 15 vehicles on sale in Europe that are born out of the global One Ford policy. Today, 43 per cent of Ford’s vehicles sold in Europe are on global platforms; in five years 71 per cent will be. Savings through shared platforms are not the sole domain of the VW Group, lest we forget.
The concern for European – and especially UK - buyers is that ‘One Ford’ actually means ‘cars built and engineered for the biggest markets like the US, China, Russia and so on, and let everyone else take what they get’.
So far, those concerns have been unfounded: the Fiesta, Focus and Focus ST stand out as cars that cope as well with UK demands as well as those of anywhere else in the world. The new Mondeo – when we finally get to drive it sometime towards the end of 2013, all being well – will be another acid test, given its engineering origins in the US.
It’ll be an enduring legacy if Mulally pulls it off. On this evidence I’d say that Ford looks like it can make one size fit all, after all. What do you reckon?