|May 13, 2009|
|Ford Builds Its Future On Top of SUV Past|
|By Greg Hazley|
|Ford was among the worst offenders of the gas-guzzling SUV craze, but as the headlines scream fiscal disaster for Chrysler and GM, Ford is nowhere to be found in that mess.|
Since Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally joined his two automaker colleagues in the private jet-to-D.C. PR disaster in November, Ford has been on a corporate and PR rampage to separate itself from the other two.
We received a news release this morning that shows a stark contrast in the “old Ford” and the newer machine with a respectable mix of business strategy and PR.
The company is taking three of its production sites for trucks and SUVs and converting them to car factories.
The revamp includes a Michigan plant that produced two of Saudi Arabia’s favorite Ford brands -- the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.
That $550M project is planned for a 2011 debut. Mulally touted the moves as a “larger transformation under way at Ford,” noting it’s about fuel economy, American manufacturing and “leveraging our expertise.”
It’s also about public relations.
The so-called Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Mich., was one of the most profitable auto plants during the SUV boom of the 1990s. Ford hopes to some day soon roll out battery-electric cars out of the same facility. How’s that for a contrast?
Ford also plans to revamp two other SUV factories in Louisville, Ky., and Mexico to produce Fiesta subcompacts and Focus autos.
Sure, the moves are necessary to survive in the auto business in the wake of the oil price spike of ’08 and the steeper global economic skid that has followed.
But Ford is also sure to garner a flurry of goodwill domestically for staking its future on U.S. soil, rather than, say, running into the arms of an Italian suitor or endlessly wrangling with bondholders to avoid Chapter 11.
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