Yesterday, Ford held its annual shareholder meeting and executives were once again defending the decision to cut most of their car lineup and focusing on trucks and utility vehicles. Automotive News reports that shareholders questioned CEO Jim Hackett and Executive Chairman Bill Ford about the move and the two said the changes are necessary due to the changing tastes of customers. Ford expects 90 percent of its North American mix to be made up of trucks and utility models by 2020.
"This doesn't mean we intend to lose those customers. We want to give them what they're telling us they really want. We're simply reinventing the American car," said Hackett.
"We don't want anyone to think we're leaving anything. We're just moving to a modern version. This is an exciting new generation of vehicles coming from Ford."
Bill Ford blamed the media coverage for the negative reaction to this move. The company officially made the announcement during their first-quarter earnings reports, but rumors of this move had been floating around for over a year.
"I wish the coverage had been a little different. If you got beyond the headline, you'll see we're adding to our product lineup and by 2020 we'll have the freshest showroom in the industry. The headlines look like Ford's retreating. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth."
We have to think a fair amount of this 'negative' media coverage comes from Ford comes from the lack of information concerning the future of Ford's entry-level lineup and Lincoln. Ford's entry-level crossover is the EcoSport which begins at $19,995 and only returns EPA figures of 27 City/29 Highway/28 Combined (23/25/29 for the AWD model), which will push some buyers away. We don't know if Ford is planning an update to the EcoSport to boost fuel economy figures or has another model in the cards to sit underneath the EcoSport.
Lincoln's future is murkier. The only comment made about the brand was by Hackett, saying the Continental (only introduced two years ago) would continue "through its life cycle". This is leading a fair number of people to think the Continental's days are numbered.
For now, Ford is focusing on their $25.5 billion cost-cutting goal by 2022 and getting those trucks and SUVs out the door. The hope is this will help Ford's stock price, which has been a major point of contention with shareholders for many years.
"I share your frustration. The whole management team does. Look, we want to get the stock price moving. The business can get fitter, and it will get fitter," said Bill Ford.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)