The Detroit show never really gets going for me until I’ve sat through the Ford press conference in the giant Cobo arena - usually home to basketball games and rock concerts.
This year the Ford top brass revealed the new Ford Focus, a hugely important car for them as it’s going to be a ‘world car’ sold in every market and made in Europe, the US and China. But also because the market in which the Focus will do battle is also expected to grow hugely. Not just in the US, but across the planet. In fact, by 2012 the so-called C-sector (and smaller B-sector) will account for 38 million sales globally and Ford wants the Focus to take two million of them.
Just as interesting to me though was the body language of the Ford execs. They are in a very different place to where they were 12 months ago. Then company boss Alan Mulally spoke with confidence, but you could tell that he didn’t really mean it: sales around the world were in freefall and the company was losing huge somes of money.
Now Ford is back in profit, Mulally’s One Ford plan is starting to work and he also announced that he was creating more jobs in Michigan. Compare this to the ailing fortunes of domestic rivals GM and Chrysler and it looks even better.
Ford isn’t out of trouble yet though. Europe is still a tough market, especially in the UK where currency fluctuations have meant massive price rises. A very senior exec also admitted to me that Ford has still got lots of work to do in India and China where it’s being left for dead by VW, GM and the Korean makers.That said the Blue Oval has gone from disaster to a brighter future in just 12 months. Not bad going.