THE WEEK THAT WAS: Ford going global
The 'one Ford' approach championed by CEO Alan Mulally took a couple more steps forward this week as the wraps came off an important new model and the automaker announced the completion of an enlarged emerging market factory with a new export mission.
The new model was the C-segment C-Max, proudly sitting atop the revamped platform that will underpin the next generation Focus. As it did in 2003 with the second generation Focus, Ford brought out the (then rather overdue) C-Max minivan/MPV/MAV/people mover first and then followed up with the car line. This Focus line is supposed to 'go global', being built here in Europe, in Michigan, China and probably South Africa though we understand a plan to make it also in Australia (currently supplied mostly from SA) has now been canned.
We have been here before. The first Focus crossed the Atlantic little changed, and was even offered in hatchback and wagon forms for a time. It also had the dubious distinction of being the most-recalled model in the US for a while as various quality snafus reared their heads. But, when we in Europe switched to the second generation car, the older model lived on in North America, with major revisions, and a morph into sedan and coupe body styles. Nonetheless, it was the most popular 'cash for clunkers' buy; the new one - essentially the same as the rest of the world's - due from Michigan in 2010 has a lot to live up to.
Ford's latest foray into the US with Europe-designed products seems to be successful. The Turkish-built Transit Connect, with a two-litre petrol engine and optional automatic, compared with the diesel manuals most popular here, is proving popular, particularly with small businesses and, on the west coast, with private buyers, the automaker said this week.
Ford's other news was the transformation of what was largely a local supply assembly plant with mostly manually operated equipment into a 200,000-unit, 92-robot facility with the latest three wet coat paint technology that will now be part of the global plant network as a 'strategic production hub'. It gets a new small car to build next year, probably a localised sedan version of the new Fiesta - it already makes two previous generations. This week, too, we learned that The Chairman is very happy with the CEO.
Here in the UK, the BMW Mini plant got a boost with the news that two more models, a coupe and one still under wraps till Frankfurt, would go into production. The 1,000 new jobs talked about this week may not all materialise but this is going to be one very flexible plant when they've finished. Especially when you consider that hardly any two cars off the line are 'standard', such is the range of options offered and ordered.
Geely emerged as the sole front runner to buy Volvo and the Opel saga rumbled on with the union joining the government adamant that the Magna proposal is The One. Would someone puh-leeze just make a decision...
Enjoy your weekend.