Ford have today announced what they are describing as the “next steps to transform European business”… but most of us here read it as 3,800 job cuts (including 1,300 in the UK) over the coming three years.
In an aggressive sounding mood, Martin Sander, General Manager of Ford Model e in Europe talks of “completely reinventing the Ford brand in Europe. Unapologetically American, outstanding design and connected services that will differentiate Ford and delight our customers in Europe. We are ready to compete and win in Europe. Our first European-built electric passenger vehicle is being introduced this spring and will surely turn heads.”
The words “Unapologetically American” may well “differentiate Ford”, but it is hard to see how Ford believe that there is a strong demand for cars to be more American when glancing at the top sellers in Europe… VW, Audi, Peugeot, Renault… BMW, Mercedes… Hyundai, Kia, Toyota…
Speaking on BBC Radio Essex (the radio station covering an area likely to be hardest hit by the job cuts at the Ford Dunton Campus) UKMotorTalk’s Graham Benge described the move as “misguided”, pointing out that the need for Research and Development should remain a top priority for Ford who appear to have been caught napping when it comes to entering the EV market place, lagging many years behind most of their competitors.
“There will be a continuing arms race between all of the manufacturers, and they will be seeking to make better, faster, longer range, etc, etc. That’s where you need a Research and Development Department so for me the decision is a short-sighted one.”
“The suggestion that they can move Ford upmarket and that they don’t any longer want to sell their market leading, bread and butter cars, I find very strange. That’s the basis for Ford since Henry set up Ford Motor Company.”
“If you drop Fiesta, and you drop Focus, what else have you got to sell??”
Off-air, Graham gathers his thoughts:
Ford’s major announcement of 1300 job losses in this country and totalling nearly 4000 across Europe could be portrayed as cost cutting at a time of financial uncertainty, changes reflecting an evolving global industry or… perhaps a massive financial blunder reflecting Ford America’s misunderstanding of the UK and European car markets… not for the first time!!
Their statement suggests a desire to concentrate only on EVs, to be fully EV by 2026 with 2 million euro EVs by 2030. Market dominance by 2030? I think not.
OK, so you’re a captain of a global business. You are there because of your foresight and decision making track record.
So, how do you take your European division from market leader claiming the top spot in the UK sales charts for decades to saying you no longer want to sell affordable high-volume low-cost cars and you want the brand to go upmarket?? Ford have tried that several times. It has always ended up buying a premium brand, wrecking it after spending billions of dollars, and unloading in a fire sale losing billions and, usually, the European CEO.
The main target of the proposed cuts is Ford’s R&D centre at Dunton in Essex, their top flight centre for decades. Ford say fewer people are needed to design and develop future electric vehicles. Correct … or not??
Auto development is constant, it’s evolutionary. If you accept Tesla as the market leader they are current the EV industry benchmark. Will Tesla say “OK, we’ve done electric cars”? No, they will capitalise on their industry position to keep ahead. They will need smaller, lighter more powerful electric motors with greater range. I think every car maker will do that… it’s called R & D ! So, why lose all of the R&D expertise and shrink the facility? Not a great deal of foresight there.
So, your UK and European success in the last century or so has been based on the UK as largest and most loyal dealer network. When you take the brand up market to a low volume future what happens to them? Already Fiesta is going. Focus soon too. You’ve just taken away their bread and butter, more dealers to go bust, more jobs to be lost.
As you set up to strip billions in costs out of the business why enter into a relationship with F1, with Red Bull, which will cost millions if not tens of millions to develop sufficient marketing fruits to cover its investment. You’ve been here before! As a company you bought Jaguar F1, invested insufficiently, let the suits, the bean counters run at it, and drove it firmly into the ground.
You allowed the suits to nearly destroy the Mustang, now eviscerated into a pathetic imitation of a once great American icon.
You almost allowed the suits to destroy your Le Mans efforts! It took technical and organisational geniuses from outside the company to make it happen.
It’s a surprising announcement and far-reaching one, but US business watchers are less surprised. The Biden administration wants to rein in US companies global expansion, to improve the American economy by bringing US jobs home. The end result? Fewer Fords to be built in the UK for over 60 years. So while their statement suggests no UK manufacturing job cuts, that’s an unsustainable position. Fewer cars means fewer assembly workers and fewer plants do more. Cuts are inevitable.
Is there any good to be found in the statement? Only that implementation will take up to two years. Is it a smart move…? I don’t believe so but then I don’t head up a global business! Lack of foresight perhaps.
What did Enzo Ferrari say to Henry Ford II…? “But you’re not Henry Ford”..!