The next two years promises to be extra busy for Ford as the company puts into effect its ambitious long-term strategy and tries to make up for lost opportunities and become profitable again. The business strategy also factors in what promises to be a very different automotive landscape for the Blue Oval in coming times. Addressing a packed gathering of journalists in Michigan, CEO Jim Hackett released details of “Ford Uncovered.”
Obviously, the Ford leadership is using the event to provide clear evidence that the company has a credible plan to drive near-term profits to fund investments in electrified and autonomous vehicles. It may be noted that Ford has lagged its competition on Wall Street since before Hackett became CEO, and in January it forecast lower 2018 profits just before reporting disappointing 2017 profits. The new management is optimistic of achieving desired results by heavily focusing in two areas: utility vehicles, and hybrids and fully electric cars and trucks.
On the current product side, the entire Ford line-up is set to undergo radical change between now and 2020. By fast track developments and upgrades, Ford plans to drop the average age of its models to 3.3 years, from 5.7 years now and represent itself in several fast-growing segments to attract favourable consumer interest once again.
Ford estimates that SUV sales could represent 50 percent of annual auto sales in the United States by 2020, so the company is diverting US$7bn away from car development pool and putting it into utilities. Among the new models, the next generation of the Escape and Explorer will debut in 2019. The much rumoured Bronco and a smaller version of it is also on the cards. For more on-road-oriented performance, an Explorer ST will arrive before 2020 as a larger complement to the recently unveiled Edge ST.
Meanwhile, all cars will get tech upgrades ranging from cloud connectivity in car, to advanced artificial intelligence, to neural networks among other applications.
Ford has also promised an “all-in push” on hybrid models, and the initiative means an electric boost for many of the brands best-selling models including the Escape, Explorer, F-150 and Mustang. All these models will be available with hybrid drivetrains in the near future. While the electrified portion of the drivetrain will use some common parts, the Blue Oval intends to tune the performance for each model.
Among teasers were the Shelby Mustang GT500 and yet unnamed SUV which is rumoured to be a Jeep Wrangler rival.
Ford will also follow the industry trend of making standard equipment out of previously optional driver assistance tech as a way to appeal to safety-conscious buyers. The company’s new Co-Pilot360 suite will include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, and a rear view camera.