Well...columnist Daniel Howes of the Detroit News seems to have an opinion on Ford's naming strategy in regards to keeping the name Fiesta instead of using the concept name Verve. He seems to feel that this "dogged" fixation with the letter "F" has soured its future...read the article and tell us what you think...will the name Fiesta hurt the cars sales here in the US or will the styling and build quality set it apart as the class leader?
As Always...Stay Fabulous!Monday, February 18, 2008
Ford's 'F' fixation fouls its future
Ford Motor Co. evidently hasn't rid itself of its effing problem.
By that I mean the ingrained reflex to bestow new models with names beginning with the letter "F" -- Fusion, Flex and now Fiesta, the global subcompact that would have been just fine, thank you, beginning life as Verve and signaling to the world that the One Ford of CEO Alan Mulally is becoming a new Ford.
But, no. It's back to the future -- again -- with a name that has three decades of brand recognition in Europe but hasn't been seen in the U.S. market since the early days of the first Reagan administration, roughly the last time subcompacts had much market cred.
This surprises me. Not because Ford's verbal tic lies somewhere between marketing dogma and corporate sycophancy, but because the plain-spoken Mulally has made no secret of his derision for Ford's alphabetic obsessions. There are the Escape, Explorer, Expedition and Excursion SUVs, alongside the Focus, Freestyle, F-Series and the defunct Freestar minivan.
What did Ford do every time it needed to name a new vehicle, Mulally frequently asks rhetorically. Turn to the E's or F's in the dictionary and point? Well, yes. That, or dig deeply into the company's nearly 105-year history and resurrect model names that resonate with few real people under the age of 60.
Yes, it really will be 'Flex'
Ford's new multipurpose vehicle due later this year debuted as a concept car dubbed Fairlane, a tribute to Henry Ford's Fair Lane mansion in Dearborn, or the '60s-era models of the same name, or both.
But Ford's marketers -- who cherish brand equity until they don't, who kill the automaker's third-most recognizable model name, Taurus, and replace it with Five Hundred -- insisted on naming the production version "Flex." This prompted Ford's new chief marketing guru, Jim Farley, to ask upon his arrival from Toyota:
Are they really gonna call it the Flex, a person familiar with the situation tells me the new guy asked. Yes, Chairman Bill Ford replied, echoing Farley's skepticism. Then the über-boss added that Mulally wasn't too keen on the name, either.
Which ought to tell you something, and it's this: 17 months of the Mulally era -- a $23 billion recap plan, a landmark contract with the United Auto Workers, a global effort to coalesce Ford's fiefdoms into a single unit -- have failed to relegate the past to the past and instead focus intensely on the future.
A fiesta is just a party
Let it go, people. The Californians and New Yorkers and Virginians who don't harbor the Blue Oval in their automotive consciousness will take well-executed, fuel-efficient cars and crossovers over sentimental trips down memory lane. The retirees in my Dearborn neighborhood may warm to a "Fairlane" logo, but they're a poor long-term marketing play.
And, yet: The Taurus and Sable are back. Fiesta is returning, powered by an alleged brand equity that Ford and Farley believe won't be associated with the econo-boxes of a generation ago. Mulally mused about resurrecting the tagline "Have you driven a Ford lately?" but wisely decided otherwise. The UAW, if it had its way, would recall "Quality is Job One."
Question: Shouldn't a new Ford, the "One Ford" Mulally envisions, show less parochial nostalgia and more future? It's in the kinetic lines of the Verve-cum-Fiesta, the Sync system pioneered with Microsoft, the EcoBoost engines that deliver V-8 power and V-6 fuel economy -- not the dustbin of discarded model names that evoke a time when Ford almost ceased to exist.
Daniel Howes' column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can reach him at (313) 222-2106, [email protected] or detnews.com/howes.