Ford is in the midst of launching nine new or revamped vehicles in 90 days in the United States, reportedly its biggest-ever product offensive and an effort the company says should give a lift to what have been disappointing sales this year.
The Associated Press (AP) noted that Ford reported second-quarter earnings on Tuesday of $US1.7 billion, nearly tripling year-ago results, but the company’s financial services arm accounted for three quarters of the income.
According to the report, data from Autodata Corp. shows that, in Ford’s critical US ‘home’ market, sales of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles were off 4.3% to the end of June, while industry-wide sales were up 1.8%, while its market share was 18.8% for the first six months of 2004, down from 19.9% a year ago.
On Thursday, Ford rolled out its new vehicles for automotive journalists at its Michigan proving grounds about 45 miles north of Detroit, AP said.
It also announced that more than 50% of its 2005-model year cars and trucks will meet the federal government’s strict new emission standards, exceeding what’s currently required by law, the company reportedly said.
AP noted that Ford sorely needs a sales boost from the beefed-up lineup, which includes new nameplates such as the Ford Five Hundred, the company’s new flagship sedan, and the Freestyle crossover vehicle, as well as a redesigned Mustang.
The Mustang, Five Hundred and Freestyle, which combines features of a sedan and a sport utility vehicle, are scheduled to go on sale in September, AP added.
Burnham Securities analyst David Healy told the Associated Press that the new vehicles, particularly the cars, surely will help Ford increase its lagging market share – Ford’s US car sales were off 12.1% to the end of June, roughly the same amount they were down all of last year.
Besides the Five Hundred and Mustang, other new Ford cars include the Mercury Montego upscale sedan and Ford GT supercar, with a top speed that’s been certified at 205 mph – Ford has dubbed 2005 the “year of the car”, AP said.
“They’ve been beat about the head and shoulders in the passenger car business for the past couple of years, so they better help,” Healy told the news agency, adding: “It’s really up to the marketplace. In an ideal world, they should have had those new cars about three years ago.”
AP noted that Ford will continue its car offensive next year, with the Fusion and a new Lincoln sedan called the Zephyr scheduled for production for the 2006 model year.
Ford is scheduled to unveil the Fusion, previously named the Futura until a federal court ruled that aftermarket chain Pep Boys owns the rights to the name, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, the report added.
Ironically, Ford uses the Futura tag on some Australian models and its Netherlands arm recently launched a Fiesta-based model called Fusion Futura.