There’s a very interesting article in BusinessWeek entitled “The 65 MPG Ford the US Can’t Have” about the diesel-powered Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, which is going on sale in Europe.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the article:
Ford plans to make a gas-powered version of the Fiesta in Mexico for the U.S. So why not manufacture diesel engines there, too? Building a plant would cost at least $350 million at a time when Ford has been burning through more than $1 billion a month in cash reserves. Besides, the automaker would have to produce at least 350,000 engines a year to make such a venture profitable. “We just don’t think North and South America would buy that many diesel cars,” says Fields.
The question, of course, is whether the U.S. ever will embrace diesel fuel and allow automakers to achieve sufficient scale to make money on such vehicles. California certified VW and Mercedes diesel cars earlier this year, after a four-year ban. James N. Hall, of auto researcher 293 Analysts, says that bellwether state and the Northeast remain “hostile to diesel.” But the risk to Ford is that the fuel takes off, and the carmaker finds itself playing catch-up—despite having a serious diesel contender in its arsenal.
I live in a huge traffic-clogged commuter city, so gas prices have naturally been a concern around here. But what really ticks me off is the idea that Ford thinks the demand isn’t there for a car like this. That’s a cop-out answer. I’ve seen more and more Smart Cars on the road and little foreign cars that are selling. Sure, some people will resist this in favor of big cars, but at least give them a choice.
So what’s really stopping Ford from even offering a car like this? The not-so-Big Three automakers are contemplating going to the government to get guaranteed loans. But if their best technology and best cars won’t be made available here in the U.S. because Ford thinks it can’t sell them, then screw ’em–they don’t deserve a loan.
Ford needs help. Marketing help. Someone needs to go to Dearborn and tell these numbnuts that the public is looking for a solution–and if the technology is there to make a car that gets 65 MPG, people will buy it. Period. I’m not sure Ford’s long-time ad agency is capable of saying that.
But I do think JWT or a better agency, given the shot, could successfully market a car like this. Do you?