Why Ford Killed Its Cars

My colleagues, as well as much of the car enthusiast community, are dealing with a collective freakout upon learning Ford will be killing off all its sedans and hatchbacks and keeping one real car, the Mustang, in North America. Ford is doomed, they say. But I don’t share that perspective—no one wanted to buy those cars anyway, and this came down to just being a cold, hard business decision.

So let’s get this out of the way: the sky is not falling and Ford is not destined for bankruptcy due to the discontinuation of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus in the American market. Does it sound weird to axe so many cars at once? Sure.

But when was the last time you, a serious car buyer, got excited to plop your hard-earned money down on a Fiesta, Fusion, Focus or Taurus—that did not have an ST or an RS badge?

Aside from those fun-filled models for hoonage, the fact remains that the sedan segment is dying. Honda is struggling to sell the Accord. Think about that for a second—the Honda Accord is is pretty much the car to beat for the mid-size sedan segment, and always has been, even when it constantly battled with the Toyota Camry to be number one.

Now it’s sitting on the lot while the CR-Vs gobble up the sales.

I’ll give you some hard numbers on the Ford side. Take the Fusion: at its arguable peak in 2014, Ford was moving as many as 30,000 or more of these a month in the U.S., according to GoodCarBadCar. Last month it sold about half that—16,103. The numbers are about the same for the Focus, which in 2017 could barely crack 15,000 sales a month most of the time. Ford hasn’t sold more than 5,000 Fiestas a month since March of last year. The Taurus, a once-great American nameplate, hasn’t even crossed the 4,000 mark in over a year. SUV and crossover sales aren’t just better, they’re more profitable.

These days, most buyers just do not want sedans when crossovers will do the same job with a minimal penalty in fuel economy. High-riding cars aren’t the “gas guzzlers” that dominated the market a decade ago. Crossovers are basically just cars, but higher up. People like the height, they like the extra room, and crossovers don’t even command a significant premium over their sedan counterparts. Enthusiasts long complained Americans wouldn’t buy things with a hatchback. Now they are. They just needed a few extra inches of ride height and the pretense of being “rugged” and “outdoorsy.”

But what about physics, you scream! And handling!

I got news for you, my fellow Jalop—no one cares. We care, and we wait to buy wagons and sports cars on the used market, but the vast majority of the car-buying public doesn’t even consider stuff like lateral Gs on the skidpad.

Furthermore, this is an American problem. In Europe the Fiesta is a number 1 seller.  The Focus is consistently in the top 5.  People actually shopping for small cars and sedans have been so conditioned to favor the imports over the domestics, it has become a race to the bottom for Ford and Chevy with discounts and incentives to compete with the Japanese and Koreans. Chrysler couldn’t cut it so they bailed entirely. And putting all that cash on the hood just to undercut the competition doesn’t translate to good profits.

In killing off its sedans and small cars, Ford has effectively ceded that market to the Asian automakers for America, perhaps permanently.

As a professional car shopper I have brokered thousands of deals, a good majority of which were crossovers and trucks. I’ve been lucky enough to handle some deals on sports cars and other specialty vehicles, but I can count on one hand how many Fusions and Fiestas I’ve sought for clients.

Ford has seen the writing on the wall. It’s not worth selling a product if you can’t make any money on it.

I don’t believe this spells doom for car enthusiasm, or fun cars in general. It’s another sign the hobby needs to evolve, and become more focused on buying up used stuff and tuning, which many of us were doing anyway. In the interim, go find yourself a Focus RS or a Fiesta ST while you can.

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