Ford Better Figure Out How to Sell Vehicles, And I Mean Globally & Pronto, Before it’s Too Late

Ever since it got sidetracked by its “Smart Mobility” dream and blew billions on it, sales in its biggest markets have spiraled down. Not just in the US and China. Here are the ugly charts by market.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

In a moment, we’ll venture into the bitter reality and ugly charts of how the number of vehicles Ford sells in the US, China, Europe, Canada, Australia, South America, Russia, Turkey, and other markets has been dropping – or plunging – year after year to where its global sales are now down 19% from the peak in 2016, as Ford disclosed when it filed its Annual Report (Form 10-K) with the SEC on Wednesday.

But before we get there, here are some dead giveaways, some unintentionally funny, of how Ford got sidetracked by strategic misadventures into this whole realm of what it calls “Smart Mobility,” and how it got tangled up in its dreams, and thereby lost its way as a nuts-and-bolts automaker that should be focused on designing, manufacturing, marketing, and selling motor vehicles that consumers want. Instead, Ford tried to be something else.

Here is a quick rundown of select “Smart Mobility” misadventures during the period over which Ford’s vehicle sales have plunged by 19%:

Sep 2016: Ford’s newest and much ballyhooed initiative, “Ford Smart Mobility,” made its first acquisition, van-shuttle startup Chariot, that was trying to get folks in San Francisco interested in its van service. Ford expanded this service with a lot of hoopla to numerous other cities, and to other countries, and after having thrown enough dough at it, shut it down unceremoniously in January 2019.

Nov 2016: Ford (Ford Motor Credit) picked up a shut-down San Francisco startup, rebranded it Canvas, and made a go of a car-subscription service. Car subscription apps were becoming the latest Silicon Valley thing. Startups and other automakers were piling into it. It’s easy to put an app together. It’s tough to make money in the car-subscription business. In Sep 2019, Ford sold Canvas to Fair, a Softbank-backed car-subscription unicorn that has no intention of ever making any money. Financial details were not disclosed, but Ford ended up with an equity stake in the startup. Good luck.

Feb 2017: Ford announced that it would invest $1 billion over the next five years in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI to develop the “virtual driving system” for Ford’s autonomous vehicles that were supposed to be mass-produced by 2021. A lot of additional patience will be required.

Jun 2017: Ford, in collaboration with Motivate, launched a bicycle-sharing service, Ford GoBike. A year later, Lyft acquired Motivate. There are now Lyft-branded bikes cluttering sidewalks, and the Ford GoBikes have vanished.

Sep 2017: Ford announced that it was partnering with Lyft “to take self-driving cars mainstream.” More patience required.

Late 2017: Ford launched GoRide Health, a shuttle service to service skilled-nursing facilities and hospitals, transporting patients in wheelchairs, etc. So that’s a good cause, but a money-losing one. The company lost $288 million in Q1 2019, according to Ford, cited by Reuters at the time. Nevertheless, In May 2019, Ford announced grand plans to expand the service nationally. But in December 2019, Ford shut down the service.

Jan 2018: Ford acquired startups Autonomic (“transportation architecture and technology provider”) and TransLoc (“builds technology to support “microtransit” services, including, real-time tracking, demand modelling and response analysis, as well as consumer-facing mobile apps and services.”) Ford said at the time: “All of those components are important pieces of the puzzle for something like the Transportation Mobility Cloud, which Ford hopes will be adopted by partners including other automakers, public transit providers, and service operators including ride-hailing and ride sharing companies.”

Jan 2018: Ford announced that it would “realign” its misbegotten “Mobility Group.” One of the key initiatives was in ride sharing. It would make Chariot – yes, the now defunct Chariot – “the cornerstone of Ford’s microtransit solutions.”

Nov 2018: Still undeterred by reality, Ford Smart Mobility acquired San Francisco dockless electric-scooter-sharing startup “Spin.” It’s “a leading micro-mobility service provider, with operations in 13 cities and campuses across the US,” Ford said at the time. In July 2019, it announced that it would use bigger, sturdier, and less dangerous scooters that don’t instantly fall apart, but might last a few months, or something…

You get the drift. But actually selling automobiles is tough.

Let’s start with the good news: In the US, Ford’s largest market, sales peaked in 2015 at 2.68 million vehicles. By 2019, sales had fallen 10%, to 2.41 million vehicles. This was Ford’s second least-worst-performing major market, behind Canada, its least-worst-performing market where sales fell only 8% from the peak:

The European Union, Ford’s second largest market. Ford operates there with its subsidiary Ford of Europe, which has its own manufacturing plants and models. Ford of Europe sales peaked back in the day before the Financial Crisis. In 2008, Ford still sold 1.72 million vehicles in the EU. Sales collapsed by 37% through the Euro Debt Crisis to a low in 2013 of 1.08 million units, then rose again to 1.44 million units in 2018. And in 2019, sales fell 6.5% to 1.34 million vehicles, down 22% from 2008, a very hard-to-swallow long-term decline:

The China Fiasco: Ford’s sales in China, after booming, have collapsed 58% since the peak in 2016. Of note, the Chinese auto market was still booming in 2017, and didn’t start declining until the second half of 2018. In 2019, overall passenger vehicle sales in China were down 13% from the peak in 2017. So yes, it’s now a tough environment, but Ford got totally crushed in it:

The South America Fiasco: Ford’s sales in South America plunged 45% from the peak in 2013 of 538,000 vehicles to just 295,000 vehicles in 2019:

In Canada, where the overall market is down 6% from the peak in 2017, Ford’s sales fell 8% from their peak in 2015, to 289,000 vehicles. In terms of percentage-decline from peak, this is Ford’s least-worst-performing market:

The Turkey and Russia Sales Collapse: While Ford is busy diddling with scooter-sharing services and other dreams, it shut down three assembly plants in Russia in 2019 that made passenger vehicles. It continues to operate a joint-venture plant that makes its Transit van. Auto sales have swooned in both markets, each for their own issues. Honda shut its manufacturing plant in Turkey in 2019. Ford also has factories in Turkey under the Ford Otosan brand but continues to operate them. Ford’s sales in both countries combined have collapsed by 72% since the peak in 2011:

The Australia Fiasco: Ford’s sales in Australia collapsed by 38% since the peak in 2010. This came despite the boom in Australia’s auto market through 2017. Now it’s getting tough all around with total auto sales down 11% over the past two years, but Ford got crushed even during good times:

The Global Fiasco: In 2019, Ford’s global sales dropped 10% from 2018 and are now down 19% from the peak in 2016, as the company is busy trying to reinvent itself as a “Smart Mobility” tech company or something with scooter-sharing services and other money-losing dreams that have not been shut down just yet:

And as a reminder of the crazy thing that happened to Tesla’s stock, including the WTF stock chart of the year, and another WTF chart of just how tiny Tesla is compared to the top 10 automakers, including Ford. Read… I’m in Awe of How Tesla is Now a Supernatural Phenomenon

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  153 comments for “Ford Better Figure Out How to Sell Vehicles, And I Mean Globally & Pronto, Before it’s Too Late

  1. Gandalf says:

    HEADLINE NEWS FLASH:

    Tesla Stock Crashes 20% In Two Days After Being Derided As Supernatural Stock By Wolfstreet!

    Ford Next in Wolfstreet’s Sights!

    • Tony says:

      Yeah, Tesla was an obvious pump and dump though.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      But… if Ford’s stock crashes 20%, it would only be down $1.65, not $190 :-]

      • DR DOOK says:

        I got in a heated argument with a family member on the paradox of approaching $0 from $18 vs being at $50 in the SQQQ inverse equity as it relates to investing . I never got through the great bone barrier.

        • DR DOOM says:

          DR DOOK was a senior moment mistake , should have been DR DOOM. I got the “awaiting moderation “warning from the filter. Is DOOK filter fodder?
          I kinda like it after I said it a few times.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          DR DOOM,

          No, DR DOOK is not filter-fodder. In fact, I kind of like it. Someone will probably claim it pretty soon. But by changing your login, you became a first-time commenter, and off you went into the queue. Typos in the email have the same effect.

      • GERALD WILLIAMS says:

        It’s still 20%. That’s what matters.

    • Morty Mc Mort says:

      Fodder for Thinking – Net Energy – The energy left over, after Oil, Gas, Coal, have been locate, extracted, transported, refined/processed, and finally – Used, for productive work – Fueling Extraction of other Resources, critical to the Modern Economy – Metals, Basic Resources etc.. Then it all has to be processed into the modern goods we buy, sell, use and trade… As many groups and individuals have pointed out in detail… All of this requires huge amounts of high grade net energy… Net Energy has been declining. Most of the Economic ills and Political “By Blow” can be traced to huge increases in consumption (don’t just add population, add High Consumption, Energy “Middle Class or higher” Consumption. ( I noted somewhere, that approximately 5 middle class level consumer populations the size of the USA have been added to global energy and resource consumption. (Look it up, it is staggering). As Net Energy declines, there is less and less to go around, and competition heats up. Maybe you better learn to LOVE them Ford – Scooters!!!! (Can we get a Pick-Up Model Scooter Wolf?) SUV Scooter – Meep Meep!!!

    • sierra7 says:

      Feb 7….I believe Ford CEO today resigned…………….

    • NBay says:

      “Now choose the form of the destructor” -Goshen

      • NBay says:

        Oops. spell check got me…..like I warned Wolf, when comments are made by Alexa and Siri his sanity may be at risk.

  2. ravi says:

    good review of the misallocation of resources. new ceo was supposed to be a tech guru but last earnings call was very negative from a point of view of execution. Brand needs serious revitalization, EV investment is going to be consuming lots of capital.

    • DV says:

      The problem for Ford is that with the diminishing scale it will have less capacity to invest in products and services. Next, it will become unable to compete anywhere, except for the North America. And that will be the end. They still have time to integrate into one of the global alliances. At one point it even seemed that GM will the one company, around which a global alliance is going to emerge. But they are moving in the same direction as Ford – downsizing to the point of becoming globally uncompetitive, and thus having no other option, but to either disappear or merge. There may be a temptation to arrange for Ford/GM tie-up. This is going to be disastrous.

      • Fred G. Sanford says:

        Ford seems to want to reverse this direction by building a new Bronco. If the new Bronco is only as good as the new Ranger, it will not be enough. However, I am encouraged by what I have seen of the new Little Bronco, a potential Jeep Wrangler competitor. I am hoping that Ford pulls its head out before it is too late.

  3. Dave Mac says:

    I’ve been driving a Ford since 1989 and have no intention of driving anything from Elon Musk anytime soon.

    Henry Ford was a great man, but as for little Elon…

    • Wolf Richter says:

      While skiing over the holidays, we drove a Ford Fusion Hybrid rental car for a few days up in the mountains (snow and ice too). I liked it a lot. But my understanding is that 2020 is the last year for the Fusion, as Ford is culling its sedan lineup because its sedan sales in the US have collapsed. SUVs and trucks are selling though.

      • Endeavor says:

        Fusion sales for 2019 were over 160k. They weren’t giving them away and with Mexican production they were profitable for Ford. The CEO, a woke futurist who spent way too long in college, is killing them. We, in Michigan, are aghast.

        • NBay says:

          Note: “woke” is a newer adjective from the folks who brought you snowflake, coastal elite, smug libs, or worse, etc, etc.
          Just another way to describe people who “don’t get it” (whatever “it” is) are dangerous, and therefore deserve all the derision and hate you can muster.
          I personally liked snowflake…..maybe too many did and it failed to upset, rendering it useless at starting arguments or fights.
          First time I spotted it here.

        • NBay says:

          I’m pretty sure the “clever” derivation of “woke” comes from “enlightened”, but that’s way too obvious. And what good is a gang sign that is obvious? (and “born again” is already in use…haha)

        • a citizen says:

          The damage these aptly described “woke futurist(s)” can wreak is mind boggling. Any BOD that selects same richly deserve the consequences of their malfeasance.

      • Ken says:

        Own a 2010 Fusion Hybrid, never had a problem with it and gets great milage. Can’t figure out what Ford is thinking by trashing it.

        • Soundman says:

          I own a 2017 Ford Fusion. I have owned everything from Volvo, Honda, Toyota, VW, Mercedes, I even currently own a Dodge Hellcat but the Ford Fusion is the “all around” BEST car I have ever owned! I am a car person, I don’t want to buy a SUV Ford!

      • Cas127 says:

        “SUVs and trucks are selling though.”

        I wish someone could provide a rational explanation for this anti MPG trend, not very many yrs removed from $100+ oil.

        (Oil/gasoline having gone from under 30 in 2003 to 100+ by 2010-2013).

        At 60 plus, it is still double the 30 ceiling that held from 1985 to 2004).

        Americans frequently seem to love to run into the arms of their financial destruction.

        • NBay says:

          55 mph speed limit.

          Saves many lives and a lot of fuel.
          Proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
          Many expensive safety “gadgets” can be removed or made cheaper, as can the vehicles themselves.

          Aren’t there scientists who can stand up to corporate or government verbal spin/BS? Or are they quickly shuffled out of the way by the “visionaries” and bean counters currently in command?

        • a citizen says:

          A man that needs a truck, NEEDS a truck. It has something to do with WORK.

          As for SUVs, aside from an Acura NSX, I have driven SUVs (Hondas and Benzes) exclusively for almost 30 years. Quiet, smooth, safe, haul almost anything in any weather, excellent visibility If that doesn’t seem rational enough for you then go get a Hugo.

          “Americans frequently seem to love to run into the arms of their financial destruction.”

          Taste bile much?

      • MCH says:

        The solution is obvious, have Tesla buy Ford; instant credibility.

        If you think about it, this is an absolute no brainer, all of a sudden, they have smart mobility problem solved.

        Do we know what’s better than a Tesla that doesn’t make money? A Tesla that makes a little money consistently.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Hilarious! Made my day.

        • Eric says:

          Lol, bravo

        • DR says:

          Here I have been thinking, for the last year, who will buy Tesla?
          But the real question is, who will Tesla buy.

          Great idea MCH

        • noname says:

          i haven’t had the time to comment on wolf’s many articles about tesla’s stock price except once, but i was going to suggest this as well….. maybe there’s something he doesn’t know, like they buy GM when it goes bankrupt.

        • DV says:

          Last time I checked, Ford had over 100 billion in liabilities. That debt would have to be addressed first. Than there is always UAW problem.

      • noname says:

        wolf, i read they might make the fusion into a wagon type vehicle to compete with subaru whatever model.

      • cd says:

        I did PDX to Bend, to Boise back to Bend, Eugene back to PDX in rental Fusion Hybrid and I too found it a fun car to drive. I returned vehicle from 7 miles on speedometer to 1428 for $278 for week

      • GW says:

        SUVs and trucks are selling but their role in the US is much larger than in other places where cars still play a role. They really needed two different strategies but these days on top they need an e-drive strategy. Being unable to push forward in so many directions one could make a case for breaking Ford up.

        • California Bob says:

          I predict the ‘(ugh) Mustang Mach E’ will be a hit (interest is strong in this one). Will it be enough to save F?

      • Alister says:

        I drove Ford sedans for over 30 years, mostly LTDs, Taurus and Grand Marquis. But Ford did very little development and my last Marquis was a 19 year old design. No wonder sales were falling.

        My newest car was bought in 2018 and is a Cadillac. Ford had nothing to sell me. I now find myself not even giving a Ford dealer a sideways glance when I drive by because they are just a company selling overpriced trucks. My next car will be in 2022.

        All destroyed companies were ruined by management thinking THEY know whats good for the customer. Like any retailer, if you ain’t got, you can’t sell it.

      • Sam says:

        Gday wolf
        How are you why the hell doesn’t ford release the F150 In a factory right hand drive here in Australia as I understand they have released a desiel engine for this model If they want to survive they have to give the consumers what they want not what they think we want
        RAM is selling there cars here in Australia factory right hand drive and they are getting the staunchest of ford devotees to buy this truck because we want the bigger trucks our ford ranger has undergrown itself as I have had 3 of them so please convince the idiots at ford to start selling the F150 here in Australia
        Thanks

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Sam,

          Ford’s decision making has always been a mystery to me. I ran a big Ford dealership and related enterprises for a decade back in the day, and I could never figure out why the company made some of the decisions it made. It’s like they’re trying to figure out what the opposite of logic is and then go that route because some cost-accountant says it will save some money.

    • I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Henry’s been dead a long time now. And Ford Motors will soon join him if unpatriotic people like you keep repairing your old cars instead of buying new ones every 3 years! And you don’t even invest the savings in Tesla, it seems! Shame!

      • Anthony Aluknavich says:

        You mean I shouldn’t continue to fix and drive my 2005 Mustang convertible?

      • Calvin Tompkins says:

        Do I stop driving the 1985 Mercedes 300SD diesel I bought 6 years ago for $1,100.00 with 234Kmiles (now 345k) I do so much want to be in line with all you auto geniuses.

    • Here it comes says:

      I’ve owned a Lincoln MXK for 3 years, and like it but don’t love it. Its a fine car, but doesn’t get great mileage, doesn’t have a ton of power, and the technology doesn’t ever work quite right (and virtually all car makers absolutely NEVER update any firmware/software after it’s sold).

      Not a knock on Ford or on you, but we recently sold that and purchased a Tesla X because the wife and I decided electric was the right thing to do, and Telsa’s charging network is the best.

      I understand the haters against Elon and the stock stuff, but having now driven the Tesla for a while, I will not own a different vehicle for quite some time, and undoubtedly my next vehicle will also be a Tesla. I’m not a Tesla super-fan (at least I wasn’t), but the cars themselves are actually fantastic to own. Not perfect, they have their flaws, but they are a whole new type of experience that outdoes gas cars – they don’t deserve the hatred. Aim at Elon, at a crazy insane stock market, but don’t hate on the vehicles themselves – they’re actually awesome to own and drive.

      • Cas127 says:

        At least Tesla managed to put out a pdt.

        It is the endless hype and perpetually repeated misdirection into the next BS fantasy pjt that Elon engages in, that really earns the co enmity.

        At best, there is a lot of “fake it until you make it” to Elon – but he did get some pdts out.

        Plenty of other Tech bullsh*tters never produced anything more than press releases.

        • NBay says:

          Just a guess, but I think pdt=product and pjt= project. So, if correct, why is your time so valuable? And if wrong, and those are high level financial terms that I should go look up, then please “woke” me. Thanks.

      • Happy1 says:

        People mostly don’t hate the cars, they hate the stock, and for good reason.

    • Craig says:

      Henry Ford built EVs too. With Edison.

      Since Musk just bought a Car company (which buys the motor)

      Ford can just put the AC motor in. Like Nissan does. No need to involve Musk at all.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        According to Jeff Guin in “The Vagabonds,” Ford and Edison ‘tried’ to build electric cars very early on, but the battery challenge was not workable in the first decade of the 20th century; seems to be the biggest challenge today as well.
        While cars are one thing, pick up trucks are MUCH better: My 19 1/2ton gets better gas mileage rides much much better empty or full, hauls more and tows more, etc. (And, to be clear, I have been using dozens of pick ups since 1960 and have owned a dozen or so in the last 20 years.)
        My only real problem is the amount of ”stuff” that my sales guy tells me is mandated by Fed law today; I do not have to work on them, either for maintenance or repairs, as I did, and I thank the Great Spirits that is so, since there is SO much stuff under the hood.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Dave Mac

      “…Henry Ford was a great man, but as for little Elon…”

      Little Elon’s $60,000 Tesla S comes pretty close to beating Ford’s $500,000 Ford GT (bigger Teslas flat out beat it).

      You probably think, when Henry wasn’t turning guards lose to club his workers, Ford also built a better rocket ship than Elon…

      • Lance Manly says:

        The Mach-E should be out by the end of the year. Existential thing for Ford

      • panatomic says:

        nurburgring lap times (via wikipedia)

        6:45 Lamborghini Aventador LP770-4 SVJ 2018
        8:06 Ford Focus RS (Mk 2) 2017
        8:07 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2015
        8:35 Ford Focus ST 2005 8:50 Tesla Model S P85D 2015
        9:00 Tesla Model 3 Performance 2019

      • Happy1 says:

        Like I said above, Tesla vehicles are excellent, but the stock is a joke.

    • David S Moser says:

      My new Lincoln Continental is praised by people from all walks of life!!
      Time after Time who makes this car this is the most luxurious beautiful car I have ever seen or been in!!
      I own Ford stock, it’s time for Matthew McConaughey to leave and get new ads into the market for new people.

      Hell, the kids of the 90s -2000’s don’t even know what a Lincoln Continental is. Show me the money!! autonomous vehicles aren’t going to be out there till 2030 listen to me and Bank on it

      • andy says:

        In 1900 NYC was all horses.
        13 years later in 1913, NYC was all cars.
        Say we are are 3 years in with EVs.
        By 2030, NYC (and every other city) will likely be all EVs.

        • Gadi says:

          In NYC, people don’t have garages, people park on the street. There is no place to charge EVs.

        • char says:

          But ICE are forbidden to drive inside the city so EV wins by default

        • Happy1 says:

          I would bet any amount of money that you are wrong. ICE is cheaper and gasoline will still be relatively plentiful for a few decades. Tesla makes great vehicles but they will not displace ICE until they are cheaper, and they probably never will be. The analogy with horses and ICE is a red herring.

      • NBay says:

        Dope dealer or pimp kids do, they would praise you.
        And put me down for never on the self-driving vehicles.

    • casca says:

      Ford in 2013 I believe decided to charge more for content, cut quality, an increase the margin between Ford corporate or factory to the Customer.
      Actually in 2202 the started this idea. We had dual visors lights in the doors soft and much larger seats and other items that are now gone, and better quality in the F350 dualie from 2001 to 2005 totally different cheaper vehicle and much higher price. Now they are trying to force everyone into smaller but heavier and less powerful vehicles,cheaper radios gps etc.
      The margin has been increased form the 40% or so to 50%+ and with fewer vehicle choices and higher prices for glitz and options, short warranty people are finally trying to find alternatives.We simply can’t and don’t want a lesser vehicle experience and can’t afford 65,000 and up for a pick up or car that has little value in three years, and finance it for five six, or seven years and repairs like 2,300.00 to replace a water pump, and design life of now ubiquitous very expensive replacement of turbos with a design life of only 150,000 miles. 60,000 miles per year is not high n flyover country but normal and expected.

    • Erle says:

      Yes, he had extensive experience with bankers.

  4. INVESTOR TIP: Become a CEO of Ford real quick because it’s BAILOUT TIME!

    And just wait until fuel isn’t dirt cheap anymore and, surprise, they’re only tooled up to make trucks.

  5. Dr Pangloss says:

    This company deserves to fail bigly! For 30+ years they have failed. Remember the Taurus that became all “ovals”? What was that about? They blew $6 BILLION developing the Ford Mondeo and the Mercury Mystique? Who approved this amount? Then blew out more on the Merkur, a car nobody wanted and couldn’t even pronounce. The redesigned Thunderbird that was severely underpowered and didn’t have trunk space for 2sets of golf clubs. How did that turn out! Then they went to build a Ford Excursion that the “greens” went apes**t over.
    Then the Ford Five Hundred, huh? What was this. I could go on but you get what I mean

    • wkevinw says:

      Dawsearlylight- Falcon convertible= NICE car.

      Dr Pangloss-Taurus was all about the ovals- not a great car- meant to be a modern Model T(aurus). Mondeo and Mystique- yep, pretty sad.

      Merkur- depending on how equipped a FUN car (stripped down euro race car trainer)

      Tbird – Kind of like it (the last generation)

      Excursion (like all the big US trucks- too big…)

      Five Hundred = not that bad (rebadged as Taurus)

      The whole “forward thinking” stuff about vehicles as services, etc., is too far afield from building hardware.

      Too bad. I am not a Ford fan, but helped my brother rebuild a ’67 Ranchero recently. I don’t want it to die.

      • Mean Chicken says:

        My friend had a Thunderchicken, that thing would fly!

        Anymore, I’m not interested in something that out-accelerates a Lamborghini. What’s the point, that just seems dumb.

        Something that runs reasonably smooth (non-paint shaker), does 0~60 in 10sec is adequate. Bonus points if it can pull a house across country in 3~4 days.

    • Dos Tacos Mas says:

      I owned a ’91 Taurus SHO. A blast to drive, but seemed to spend 364 days/year in the repair shop. Worst car I ever owned and guaranteed the last Ford ever for me. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

    • Swmnguy says:

      I drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris and my wife drives a 2011 Corolla, both with manual transmissions. The cars have and do what we want, and not what we neither want nor need. They’re tools. They’re also reasonably priced, and extremely reliable given modest regular maintenance.

      If Ford, or any other US manufacturer, made similar cars at a similar price point, of similar quality, I’d buy them. But I don’t have that option. Nor, and I suspect this is the key, do I have a car payment.

      • andy says:

        Great observation Swmnguy.
        Suspect most Americans miss your point.
        Pay cash for cars.
        My rule is, car price should never exceed 2% of net wealth.

        • char says:

          Most people dont have 500k net and that buys a $10k car. Dumb rule though it would make traffic flow very nicely

      • Raymond Rogers says:

        Cant agree more. Have an 05 Corolla. It is an OTG (oil, tires, gas). Havnt had an issue in 16 years. Ill probably have it at least another 10. You know you have something good when the manufacturer says the fuel pump will last the life of the car.

    • NBay says:

      Yeah. I called it bathtub styling. Fill a tub with modeling clay, then flip it and carve out minimal windshield and rear window area, and that phase of design is over.

  6. John says:

    Read Corporate Cancer by Vox Day. Explains it all.

  7. Obviously Ford has too much revenue to market cutting edge transportation. It may come down to shareholder oppression. In San Diego they throw those green scooters in the harbor, but F150’s? It will fill up pretty fast.

  8. Dr Pangloss says:

    Not all bad for Ford. They won the race in Ford vs. Ferrari this year in the movies. Oh, I forgot. This race was how many years ago??

    • char says:

      Ferrari makes more money selling clothes and sunglass than cars(*). It is not in the same business as Ford

      (*)could be true.

  9. Willy Winky says:

    Let me guess, Adam Neumann, Travis Kalachwhateverhisnameis, Elizabeth Holmes, and the Fyre Festival guy are on the board of Ford.

  10. I think they need to spend more on advertising. They’re down to only $4B per year (and that’s just advertising, not marketing in general).

    And for the Tesla haters (not that I care much), Tesla’s advertising budget is… pretty much zero. FFT.

    • Thomas Roberts says:

      It’s not lack of advertising, most of Ford’s sedans suck. They focus on large SUV’s and Trucks, but those don’t sell very well outside of America. Add in a trade war and threats of sanctions and then the foreign customers get nervous about buying a Ford.

      Customers in America are getting into longer term loans so less frequent car sales. Plus most people who live in America who want a newer Ford probably already got one.

      Also gotta keep in mind, customers in America getting tapped out money wise. I also think the actual differences between car models year over year has slowed “for all car makers”. If you showed a random non f150 owner a 2010 and a 2020 f150, could they guess which was newer?

  11. Dan Romig says:

    “Ford Credit borrowed $10 billion in the U.S. investment-grade bond market in the past year, apart from other currencies and securitized debt. By contrast, it has been more that three years since Ford Motor has issued bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, as investors fretted about the company’s high debt load and slowing sales.” from Molly Smith & Keith Naughton of Bloomberg News in yesterday’s Mpls. Star Tribune.

    Ford has $35 billion in debt which is close to being downgraded to below investment-grade. Ford Credit is keeping the company alive as there are people out there buying $60,000 plus F-250 trucks on 84 month loans.

  12. Brant Lee says:

    The lack of quality has caught up for GM and Ford. These companies sales have for years been to old-timer loyal customers who have now mostly died out. F.o.r.d. has been known for a long time to stand for -Found On Road Dead- or -Fixed Or Rebuilt Dodge-. These vehicles are made to sell, not own, mostly known as throw-aways by fleets and police departments.

    • Here it comes says:

      I agree. Ford seems to be riding on the F150 and F350 loyalty – at least in the US.

      I owned an MKX and a Honda – the Honda’s tech was far better than Ford’s, along with all the well known reliability advantages of a Honda, plus better gas mileage.

      It’ll be interesting to see what Ford’s EV vehicles are like – I feel like that is the future, like it or not. I have a feeling they’ll be ok – but not something people will get excited about.

      • Petunia says:

        Honda’s tech people are probably all Japanese or Korean and Ford’s are probably all Indian. This would account for the difference in the quality of the software. Commitment to quality over shareholder value.

      • char says:

        Ford’s EV will be as great as VW

    • John says:

      Indeed. My father bought a new Lincoln Mercury in 1976. The worst car he had ever had. A maintenance nightmare that he disposed of a few years later. That taught a big lesson to the children. That being that American car companies no longer cared about quality. Been a Japanese car buyer ever since.

      How many other families out there went through the same lesson?

      • nick kelly says:

        Popular Mechanics in the fall of 87 (Oct?) did a review of Lincoln Town Car and Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance.

        I thought there would be lawsuits from the write-up in what I regarded as a Detroit fan mag. But I guess the 2 outfits decided the extra publicity would be worse.

        The Caddy came in for the worst creaming; ‘fit and finish of a third rate econo- box. One panel had three shims to make the fit’

        ‘The Town Car had much better build quality. But even our professional drivers could not keep the car driving in a straight line’

        I had an experience with a related car: the Ford Grenada. I was test driving it for a friend and there seemed to be something very wrong with the steering. Took it to mechanic who diagnosed slightly low pressure in rear tires. The car would then develop a mind of its own and go there.
        Corrected, the car’s handling improved to just mediocre, even by US standards.

        Some good motors in the era though. 289 and then 302.

        I sold a perfectly good Ford Custom to some guys building a rod who bought it just for the 302.

        • noname says:

          we owned both an ’87 town car and ’88 brougham. beautiful cars, beautiful riding. drove themselves. sounds like fakenews.
          the cadillac was better.
          later owned a continental circa 2000, was better than the cadillacs at the time. smooth. soft leather.

        • Harrold says:

          Popular Mechanics September ’87.

          According to the article ( avail on google books ) there were 7 (!) shims between the front fender and its mounting surface, totally 3/4 inches.

        • NBay says:

          Yeah, all from the 260 in the early 60’s. The six was a good mill, too, alcohol midget racers used up all the Chevy 4s, then went with Volvo and the Ford six. I went to an indoor concrete race ONCE. Never again! Non-stop yellow and red flags, and eyes burning the whole time.

      • andy says:

        Agreed. I had a GM car for 12 months 30 years ago. Spent more time in the repair shop than on the road – went Japanese then and never looked back.

      • Mike G says:

        I received a 78 Pinto as a free hand-me-down from a relative. It wasn’t worth what I paid for it.
        I knew it was over for Detroit when my grandparents bought their first Toyota in 1986 after five decades of driving American cars.

      • Happy1 says:

        Detroit blew it in the 70s and 80s, intelligent people who grew up in that era buy Japanese and will never buy domestic until the quality is better.

    • andy says:

      Dont forget Found On Rubbish Dump!

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      The version I heard was “Fix Or Repair Daily”.

      I drove Fords from 1987-2004. Have done better with Honda since.

      Absolutely love the latest Accord Hybrid. Fantastic family size car, no compromises on comfort and yet it’s 45 mpg with superior performance thanks to the hybrid system. Great acceleration, handles really well, full-sized trunk. The hybrid system was priced to pay for itself well before the smallish hybrid battery under the rear seat needs replacing.

      Would love to go back to a US-made vehicle … if one of the companies could get their act together.

      My next car purchase will be another hybrid, a crossover or small SUV (easier to get into than a car and more capability for adventuring) with >35 mpg. You can be pretty green without sacrificing capability or hassling with EV issues!

  13. Robert O'Regan says:

    Car companies are really Finance Companies with an automobile sales sideline, eh?

  14. David Calder says:

    I know this hasn’t all that much to do with Ford’s problems but I wonder how many of these countries are being sanctioned or in a tariff fight? Kind of tough to sell cars to people who can get medicines. It seems Ford is in exceptionally bad shape but aren’t all car sales falling? I think China has had 20 months in a row of falling sales..

  15. New Economy Propagandist says:

    Why sell cars. When you can make a loss and pump up stock prices?

  16. curiouscat says:

    Some companies deserve to go bankrupt.

    Someone (I forget who and who is a lot smarter than me) said: “Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell.”

  17. Old Pauper says:

    Wait…Ford pays a 6.8% DIVIDEND. How nice is THAT when your
    bank pays .01%?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      That’s a great deal — until Ford cuts the dividend or eliminates it to save cash. See PG&E, GE, and many others.

      When/if Ford eliminates the dividend, your yield goes to zero AND your shares plunge in price. So now you lost on both ends, and you’re going to dream reverently about that 0.1% yield at the bank (well, you should be getting at least 1.5% if you shop around, and Treasury bills pay in that range too and are easy to deal with). Chasing yield can get very expensive in a hurry.

    • Dan Romig says:

      Cenex Harvest States Coop pays a two dollar annual dividend (paid quarterly). They base it at 8% on a $25 share price. It closed today at $29.20 with a 52 week range from $27.57 to $29.76. It is the most boring ticker symbol to watch if you want action. It is the largest equity position in my portfolio for that very reason.

    • FluffyGato says:

      Never forget – dividends are *discretionary*. There is no contractual obligation to pay a dividend. It can be decreased or eliminated at any time.

      When dividend yields get big, fat & juicy because the denominator has shrunk (and not b/c the numerator has increased), it’s never good.

  18. Bobby 1971 says:

    Loving my one year old 2019 Ford F150. The future will be all trucks to survive the neglected roads and potholes. Not sure if the China experiement of selling cars is a good idea. I will stick it out with the few Ford shares own at $9.

  19. CoCosAB says:

    The trend for new cars is SUV’s…

  20. gorbachev says:

    A few years ago I suggested to a much younger relatives

    to buy a few ford shares together with me.They

    politely declined.I asked why and they felt ford

    out of touch. Ouch.Looks they were right.

  21. Cas127 says:

    Wolf,

    May be hard to find (but that is why you get the big bucks…) but in one or two of the big mkts where Ford lost a lot of volume…which manufacturers gained it?

    Here in bizarro America, Chrysler (Jesus, Chrysler!!) has been doing well, entirely on the back of Jeep (WBTS, newbie preppers who do not realize your average street Jeep will snap an axle two feet off the shoulder? Teen girls with memories of Barbie’s Playhouse? Frat Bros with 80’s era Mr. Microphones – Hey good looking, be back to pick you up later…)

    In foreign mkts, I wonder if low cost Chinese/Indian imports are capturing Ford’s lost volume.

    • roddy6667 says:

      My son-in-law here in China bought a new 2015 Ford Focus. Back then, they were very popular. I haven’t seen ANY new styling or anything new from Ford. Same old Focus and Mondeo. I can see that the cars are not as popular. All the other manufacturers have new styling and features. This is a huge mistake in China, where a foreign manufacturer agrees to share technology. Within 2 or 3 years, the Chinese partner company will have put any new tech into their own cars. That’s the price of admission to the largest auto market in the world. If you are always innovating, it’s not a problem. The partner company will be a few years behind you. Ford has a reputation of fighting tooth and nail with their partner company, instead of working smoothly. Ford has no new ideas. In fact, they have a huge problem with the automatic transmissions on their cars. GM sells more cars in China than in America. They also make more profit in China than America. Ford is doing neither.

  22. Cynical Engineer says:

    When I was in the market for a used pickup truck, I was looking for a serious tow vehicle, so I looked at the Ford F350 with a 6.0L diesel engine. Several things jumped out at me: The first was that the engine was clearly designed to fit into the tiny front engine bay of a van, and there was massive space on all sides of the engine in the pickup truck. The downside of this was that the the intake plumbing and a bunch of other crap was stacked on top of the engine and was going to have to come off in order to service things like glow plugs and injectors. Instead of designing an easier-to-service engine that used the space in the pickup truck’s engine bay, Ford saved money by reusing the compact design.

    The second problem was that the mechanics warned me that it was a must to find a truck with a maintenance history because this engine would turn into an unreliable nightmare if the previous owner hadn’t done the oil changes regularly.

    The consensus from the mechanics was that GM’s Duramax diesel was a much more reliable engine. They all admired the Cummings diesel engine in the Dodge RAM 3500, but admitted that the rest of the truck was garbage.

    I ended up with a Chevy Silverado 2500HD…overall, I’d say it’s a much better truck than the Ford. I can’t really think of anything that would inspire me to buy a Ford at the moment.

    I also remember having a neighbor who drove a five-year-old Ford Explorer. Shortly after he paid it off, it flunked the state emissions inspection because it needed two new catalytic converters….for a total of $4,000. He bought a used pickup truck for $2,000 and started driving that instead and swore he’d never buy another Ford.

    • andy says:

      “Shortly after he paid it off, it flunked the state emissions inspection because it needed two new catalytic converters….for a total of $4,000. ”

      Cynical, you wont be cynical about EVs then!

    • Tom says:

      Grew up with 1 ton diesel ford work trucks.

      Then I bought the 6.0 for the business. Tires lasted longer…because it was usually being towed back to the shop.

      6.7 is a great work truck. I still have a 2000 7.3 ford. It would never pass a emissions test!!

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      “They all admired the Cummings diesel engine in the Dodge RAM 3500, but admitted that the rest of the truck was garbage.”

      What model year was that RAM truck?

      I have a 1995 RAM 2500 with the Cummins diesel motor and it is definitely not “garbage”.

  23. Paulo says:

    Everyone said the Pinto was shitty, too. I had a Pinto wagon and it was great. One year I hauled a moose back in it from the Yukon. I think I drove it ten years and in that time it needed a new timing belt and 1 clutch.

    My Yaris? I do brakes every 18 months because they are crap. We hardly even use the brakes but they corrode and seize up like clockwork. We hose them out and clean everything regularly.

    • DawnsEarlyLight says:

      Similar to the old Yugo. You didn’t just change the breaks, you changed everything that was attached to the axle!

    • Erle says:

      Quite a few years ago the Pinto was the hot setup for SCCA racing in its class. Parts were cheap because most four cylinder stock car racing was based on it. They were Porsche killers at a tenth of the outlay.
      I thought it was a decent car for the price.

      • Erle says:

        The best winter car I have ever owned was a Ford Escort wagon. The only way that pig would get stuck is if you bellied it out and the wheels didn’t touch. The heater was super fast and easily enough output so as to drive with the window down and the elbow hanging out in sub freezing.
        My wife and I went out for her car and compared the Toyota, Honda and the NUMMI thing. The Ford was by far better and gave low cost service. Perhaps the bean counters forgot, or never learned the lesson of having a really good car for the price.

        • Erle says:

          As for the reliability on the Escort, it did flatlobe the cam. The dealer that I bought it from was staffed by a box of dicks but the local dealer did the warranty thing, even if it was somewhat past, for no charge. Needless to say that they got my truck purchases until the ownership changed to a different box of dicks.

  24. noname says:

    you forgot to mention their purchase of that huge train station costing $xxx million, allegedly, supposedly, that will house some of these new tech groups/testing grounds… plus $xxx million in reno costs… again, allegedly, supposedly!

  25. cd says:

    Great Timeline write up Wolf, I forgot about the FAIR thing….
    Ford seemed to overthink the market and what comes next.

    They always believed they could build or reproduce what would cost them dollars per month via some SAAS type products in existence and proven in vertical. Instead they would blow 19M to keep some programmers and engineers working with service marketing division to come up with nothing similar….

    job protectionism there interfered with better process and product

  26. andy says:

    Telsa is to Ford/GM/BMW/Daimler as the internet is to printed news and new entrants were to monopoly telcos.

    The incumbents don’t want to see it coming even when they do.

    The longer they delay, the worse it gets.

    • GW says:

      The internet grew quickly but that did not mean the leading internet company Worldcom was going to stay at the top – financials matter in the the long run. The mobile industry was able to air drop base stations on a country leapfrogging the infrastructure advantage of the incumbents.

      The EV industry growth is constraint by battery supply e.g. Daimler scaled back the US EV rollout for that reason. While Tesla may have a strategic advantage at the moment with its own batteries and a leading market share – there is more growth of battery capacity in China outside of Tesla than Tesla’s own growth – and that will stay so. Assuming these batteries mostly go into other EVs it stands to reason that Tesla’s market share in EV will decline.

  27. Michael Engel says:

    1) We, the people, are the Mad Rat in Ford lab.
    2) We are paying them do experiments on us., because we are blind. 3) If u want a discount, click Ford / GM / Toyota Wuhan showroom and give
    them a nice order.

  28. Michael Engel says:

    1) China and ASEAN are in lockup because there are no parts.
    2) Car mfg will ship finished inventory to the N. America territory.
    3) With a strong dollar and a lockup, that’s the way to go.
    4) Car mfg existing capex in China and the far east in a civil war with US new capex. A huge cost center must see action.
    5) Downturns relative strength : if China downturn will be steeper than
    US downturn, car mfg will do arbitrage, with Xi approval.

  29. fajensen says:

    Anecdotal, but, I don’t know anybody who are really interested in cars any longer who isn’t a mechanic. The “teenagers” just drive cars to get around locally, they have no great vision of Freedom or Getting Laid granted to them by driving on some Autobahn for 10 hours. They will fly or take the train on those distances, well, after having tried it once or twice.

    People of my own age that I know, who can easily afford luxury cars and used to buy them regularly, today they buy normal Japanese cars for the cheap service. And that a new set of tires costs lot less than the about 2500 EUR charged for a higher-end Jaguar, Range Rover, Porsche or Mercedes. They blow the 2500 EUR on travelling instead.

    I think that “cars as a conduit for personal expression” are going the same way as did “HiFi” – a few nutters will be continue to be very committed, the rest simply don’t care enough and they will buy Sonos and Spotify for the convenience of it.

  30. Michael Engel says:

    1) Inspection is a judgement day.
    2) Owners on that day might transfer ownership to their loyal
    mechanic and start walking.
    3) For one oxygen sensor u pay 2K for catalytic converter.
    4) If u got a fancy car, x2, cataclysm.
    5) Those guys don’t even know how to install them, they know how to squeeze customers.
    6) They give a call to the junk yard and tell u that they installed platinum.
    7) Those mechanics are market makers. They get your car for few dollars,
    at distress price, at 30% – 50% wholesale prices. they sell at retail.
    8) To get a similar car at a wholesale price, they don’t need u.
    9) In order to pay u cash, on the spot, put it on the lot, u have to give them a little incentive.
    10) Your choices : fix your car, or sign on your registration now.

  31. DearLC says:

    I have a 2019 Fusion 2.0 Titanium with Eco-Boost. Four weeks after delivery, problems popped up like weeds in the spring. it took 8 trips to the dealer to have everything fixed that should have been fixed during manufacturing and assembly line final inspection. The car drives well and is very comfortable.
    Ford has fallen for the EV nonsense and ventured into businesses that were not in their field of expertise. They couldn’t have created more problems for themselves than had they decided to retool and manufacture1953 Ford car with the flat head V8. On second thought, that might be a winner compared to what they are attempting to do now.

  32. Michael Engel says:

    1) In a wet snow, new cars don’t know where to go, because they
    are blind and cannot see the dividing line.
    2) New cars are divine, they are political correct, they cannot see black, unless a black car is sparkled electronically with shining stars.

    • Erle says:

      Mr. Engel, thanks for your laughs. What you say is plainly factual but I chuckle at how exasperating the situation is with automobiles. My ’65 Cobra is terrible in the snow but I will keep it as I can maintain and fix it.

  33. Zander says:

    Looks like ford has a bad case of car owner disease

  34. Michael Engel says:

    1) A stock market downturn will lift US dollar and squeeze oil.
    2) Why pay 60K to Ford CMU lab for testing on u.
    3) At zero book value u get respect.
    4) Your mechanic will love u, because u keep coming back.
    5) For him u are a good App.
    6) He can see u almost every month.
    7) If he pay u 50 bucks, when u buy a new car, he is losing a
    good customer.
    8) In the next few years, those mechies will do repo’s on
    those who fail, if they find the shadow banks and accumulate monthly volume on old Apps.
    9) I own Ford a reciprocal favor for F < 2 from 2008/09.
    10 ) I would like to be a customer, but it might be too late.

  35. Mean Chicken says:

    The choices for personal transportation have become progressively worse over the years. I think there’s a reason.

  36. Whisperin Pints says:

    Still drive my ’83 F150 on occasion. 87K original miles.

  37. Old Pauper says:

    Ford CEO QUITS

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Old Pauper,

      No, not the CEO. Wishful thinking :-]

      It was the president of Ford’s automotive division, Joe Hinrichs, who quit and will retire effective March 1.

  38. Prairies says:

    Ford losing money, what a shock. I didn’t realize how far into the mobile ap madness they went. They should have focused on redesigning their pickup truck(market leading sales target). Having to remove the motor or lift the cabs off of trucks for simple exhaust, spark plug or fuel issues is a major turn off.

    Also a heads up on a rumour north of the border. Daimler Truck sales companies for Freightliner and Western Star might be merging, just a rumour from a reliable source at this point but with your articles on the freight decline and the trucking orders decline it makes sit very real.

    • Prairies says:

      *makes it very realistic. Keyboard went unresponsive for a minute there

    • DawnsEarlyLight says:

      It’s the new norm. The true value of assets no longer matter, it’s the jacked up debt train, fueled by the next to no cost credit that’s keeping the train in motion!

  39. RoyRudy says:

    Pete Lynch said “buy a company so simple that any idiot could run it because one day one will”.

  40. Prof. Emeritus says:

    While the EU drop is somewhat in-line with the industry average (only slightly worse), do not forget, that in Europe 50+% of the volume goes to fleet sales. For Ford, that is maybe even more, 55-60%. So if their cars don’t sell, you can’t blame it on lack of advertisement, style or sportiness here. It’s usually down to plain spec sheet and price – and Ford models haven’t been doing too well lately in that relations. So the judgement is coming from bean-counters and fleet managers that have a more or less accurate and up to date view of the market. Those price/value focused business buyers seem to be leaving to Toyota, Hyundai, some cheaper VW brand (Skoda and increasingly Seat), PSA and Renault.

  41. California Bob says:

    PMD says it all:

    http://www.autoextremist.com/

  42. Bill says:

    I often wonder what Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford and former CEO of Boeing, would say about about where both of those companies are now. From what I recall, he served Ford very well and I assume the same regarding his tenure at Boeing. I suspect Mulally has too much class to say anything now about either company.

  43. Cal says:

    Dear Car Makers,

    Please make a simple, reliable vehicle, that is safe, comfortable to drive, easy to maintain and has no screens, except a back up camera.
    Make it to last a decade. You will sell every one you make.

  44. Wes says:

    Mr. Richter, could you do a similar article on GM? It looks like Ford deworsified its business model and increased its risk exposure.

Comments are closed.