Ford To Ditch Cars In North America, Focus On Trucks And SUVs

Apr 26, 2018
Originally published on April 26, 2018 9:26 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Ford Motor Company is dropping most of its cars. Yeah, you heard that right - Ford, the company that brought us the Model T, the Edsel, the Thunderbird and the Mustang, vehicles that helped shape the American landscape. Well, Ford says it will now stop making all but two sedans in the U.S. It's part of the company's move to cut costs. NPR's Sonari Glinton covers the auto industry and joins us to make sense of this story. Hey, Sonari.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Hey, hey.

CHANG: So Ford is only going to be making two sedans in the U.S. What's on the chopping block?

GLINTON: Oh, the really fun cars like the Fiesta, the Fusion, the Taurus, the C-Max. You probably haven't even heard of the C-Max.

CHANG: No (laughing).

GLINTON: To be honest, the Fiesta was one of the poorest-rated reviewed cars. I mean, you think of Ford and their other small cars that they've made in the past, cars like the Pinto, the Escort, the Tempo - my first car, the Aspire. And here's my favorite - the Ford Probe - doesn't make you want to drive that car, does it?

CHANG: (Laughter).

GLINTON: Compact cars have never been Ford's real strong suit.

CHANG: All right, well, how big of a deal is this for Ford? I mean, it seems kind of crazy to me that Ford wouldn't be selling cars.

GLINTON: Yeah, it does feel that way. But, I mean, this is a good time to say that I'm what you'd call a Ford baby, which means my mother worked at Ford for 32 years.

CHANG: Yeah, that's right.

GLINTON: Yeah, I worked on the assembly line during college building Ford Tauruses. And here's what's funny about that. That was 25 years ago, and that was the last time that Ford really had a truly successful car. Here in the U.S., Ford has really been a truck company. And according to the best estimates, Ford makes over 90 percent of its profits on its F-Series trucks. That's mostly the F-150.

CHANG: OK.

GLINTON: So honestly, I haven't - it hasn't been that good at making profits on those cars for many years. And the other car companies have been moving in this direction, but it still feels crazy that Henry Ford's Ford won't be making cars.

CHANG: Yeah, crazy but understandable I guess.

GLINTON: Yeah.

CHANG: So Ford is dropping models and cutting costs. Will there be any layoffs?

GLINTON: Well, no layoffs. Actually they're saying that they're going to invest money. The company's one real car plant, the one in Chicago, the one that I worked in - they're investing money in that one so that it can make more SUVs. And while they're cutting costs by dropping these unprofitable cars for the most part, they say they're spending $11 billion on electrification. So all the SUVs will come with a hybrid, a plug-in or a plug-in battery option within five years. And globally they're announcing 16 electric vehicles. And as a Ford executive told me right before I came in the studio, SUV - Ford SUVs right now get about the same fuel economy as a car or sedan did about five years ago.

CHANG: So does this move by Ford say anything about the overall direction of the entire industry?

GLINTON: Well, you know, everything is connected.

CHANG: Yeah.

GLINTON: And it does - says a lot - one, that SUVs rule in the U.S. and electrification. That's for real. Toyota and Honda, which sell far more sedans than Ford - but when you look at Toyota, their best-selling vehicle right now is the RAV4, which is an SUV. Consumers, especially women, are demanding, demanding SUVs. And secondly, fuel economy - they are investing that money in electrification. So that shows that that's important globally. And this is a bet in the future on SUVs, trucks, and that they will be electric and hybrid. And it's going to be hard to change directions after you spend $11 billion.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Sonari Glinton, who joined us from NPR West in Culver City. Thanks, Sonari.

GLINTON: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.