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Ford is Prepared to Cut Models, and They Sure Won’t Be SUVs


An evolving lineup that matches consumer demand is the hallmark of any healthy automaker, and Ford has no problem dropping unpopular models.

That’s the message delivered by Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, who hinted that changes could be in store for the company’s car lineup in the face of a crossover and SUV-hungry marketplace.

Speaking with Automotive News yesterday, Hinrichs said the automaker’s focus is on growing its SUV portfolio.

“Over time, there should be some pruning of the portfolio to support growth in other areas,” he said. “We certainly intend to have a strong car base as well; we don’t know where the market’s going to go. But there will be some pruning over time as there should be in a nameplate and portfolio.â€�

Hinrichs’ comments come at a scary time for the traditional passenger car. Once the reigning queen of the automotive landscape, the segment has nosedived as more and more consumers choose boxy, do-everything utility vehicles. Sales of midsize cars are down 12 percent year-to-date, representing just 12 percent of the market. Compact cars saw their sales slip 5.5 percent YTD, while subcompacts fell 2.9 percent.

Overall, the passenger car market has retracted by 9.1 percent in 2016.

At Ford, the small-car numbers aren’t any better. Actually, they’re worse than the industry average. Through the end of November, Focus sales are 17.2 percent lower than at this time last year, while the Fiesta is down 26.1 percent. Fusion and Taurus sales have fallen 10 and 11 percent, respectively.

Unfortunately, Hinrichs wasn’t dishing details on Ford’s plan to firm up its passenger car line. The company already builds the Fiesta in Mexico, with the Focus tapped to join it very soon. Already, there’s a plan afoot to simplify Focus production, lowering costs on top of the savings realized by Mexican production.

The slow-selling C-Max hybrid will soldier until both it and the Focus vacate the Michigan Assembly Plant in 2018, with its role replaced by the upcoming Model E electric. Overseas, Ford broadened the Fiesta’s appeal by introducing lifestyle-oriented variants of the next-generation model, including a faux crossover Active model. We’re not sure yet whether the next-gen Fiesta is America-bound, but “soft-roader” variants of small cars are a growing niche.

As for the Fusion, it’s still a strong contender in the shrinking midsize segment. That leaves the Taurus, known mostly for its law enforcement fleet sales, as a potential candidate for the chopping block. Well, the retail version, anyways.

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