Questions for Ford's CEO?

alanfiesta2.jpg

I'm a Ford Fiesta Agent for the social media experiment called the Fiesta Movement. Basically Ford brought over a hundred 2009 Fiesta prototypes from Germany and gave them out to be driven like mad for the next 6 months, along the way creating buzz and a boat load of user generated content in the manner of photos, videos, blog entries and Tweets (the Fiesta goes on sale here next summer).

As a marketing strategy it is pretty smart, and with any luck might be just the shot in the arm that Ford needs to get its balance sheet back in the black. Joel and I are gonna take my Fiesta out for some track testing, but in the meantime I've managed to score an interview with Ford's CEO Alan Mulally over on TreeHugger. However, while the questions over in our community tend to trend "green," I wanted to give boing boing readers a shot at asking some questions outside that box. So, if you have a question you'd like to ask Mr. Mulally, pop on over to the TH forums and post it, no account required. If your question is selected the answer will be posted here on boing boing gadgets.

I'd like to see some clever questions or comments regarding technical issues, gearhead issues, or just pure geek stuff you want to see in upcoming cars that will get you buying American again. I gotta tell you...this thing is LOADED with tech...so whatever you may want, could already be in here. If you want to ask me something about the car just leave a comment here.

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38 Comments

  1. This isn’t really question, but an answer to the question of what will get me buying American again: Make a car that is just as good as an import for the same price. I know it’s hard when you have to pay $70/hr to assembly line workers that are doing jobs long relegated to robots in Korea and Japan, but that’s not my problem. Good on Ford for not taking taxpayer’s dollars though.

  2. Yes, I’d like to know why this, and other Ford vehicles, are not ALL flex fuel off the assembly line, and, failing that, why Jeremy Clarkson can get 70mpg, 0-60 in 7 seconds, out of a 20 year old VW rabbit for $7000, using aftermarket tinkering, while big manufacturers with significantly lower overhead costs only seem to get HALF that (30mpg, 0-60 in 7sec, or 60mpg, 0-60 in 14sec) into a brand new car for 3 times the cost?

  3. #3 well so far so good with mine…1 week in and 1600 miles and all the door handles are still on the doors.

  4. What I want out of a car is highly efficient, comfortable (not luxurious, but not something that makes me hurt), safe and reliable transportation for myself and a reasonable payload (old Civic Hatchback equivalent is probably plenty to meet my 90/10 tradeoff point), at a reasonable price.

    Not a style statement, not an expression of hormone levels, not a toy, not even a mobile bedroom. A vehicle. A way to get from point A to point 2 when I want to.

    If forced to choose, I’d sacrifice some of the remaining cargo capacity. The Aptera looks pretty darned good as a daily-use vehicle, though I still want to know how it handles in slippery conditions.

    Sure, you can throw lots of bells and whistles onto it. But unless it delivers that basic functionality, I have no interest in it. If I want acceleration for its own sake, I’ll go to an amusement park.

    Detroit is failing because they focused on selling sizzle when others were selling steak. There is a place for sizzle; I like a good platter of Embarassing Beef as much as the next diner… but it’s something you order for special occasions, not what you want every day.

    (Currently I’m trying to get by without a car, via public transit and taxi and occasional rentals. The biggest disadvantages are that I need to be more organized about car usage — which is a pain for someone whose idea of grocery shopping is a late-night stock-up-for-two-months run — and that some things which were in the “I’m paying for the car anyway” category now have a more visible incremental cost. It’s still cheaper, but the activation energy is raised, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.)

  5. #2: That’s because Clarkson’s VW Rabbit was using a diesel engine that didn’t meet current emissions or safety standards.

    Also, 70 UK MPG is equivalent to 58 US MPG. British gallons are smaller. The current Diesel Jetta does pretty well, despite being a much larger and heavier car than the Rabbit.

    Also, on a bizarre sidenote, Ford’s been fairly successful with its line of small vehicles in the European markets. Imagine if they had the sense to market those same models in the US!

    Still, I want a Fiat 500, although it might take a while for Fiat to win back American consumers after their last (disastrous) foray into the US market.

  6. #6

    Regarding the US/UK gallons, you’ve got that backwards.

    1 Imperial Gallon (UK, Canada, Aust, NZ) equals about 1.2 US Gallons.

    So 70 UK mpg is about 84 US mpg.

    coop

  7. Why does Ford not suck in Europe? When they brought the Focus over, I was intrigued, it’s a good car in Europe, and a crap fest in America.

    Looks like they’re trying again. Why -won’t- the Fiesta suck like the Focus did?

    We’ll get to the gearhead questions once Ford turns down the suck knob and creates solid basic vehicles first who’s front brakes don’t wear out twice a year.

  8. Nutbastard,

    A) Clarkson had nothing to do with it – that was a US Top Gear thing.

    B) They managed to do it because of used parts, no safety equipment, no reliability or maintainability work, free labor, no emissions controls, and bad science.

    Citing that as “proof” of anything is like citing Steorn as proof that zero point energy is possible.

    Coop’s right about US versus Imperial gallons, but the “70mpg” claim was in US gallons.

  9. #8 hits the head of the nails, I don’t believe ppl rejects small cars, ppl rejects small crappy cars.

    btw, gadgetry is ok .. quality is #1

  10. …You know the real reason the US auto industry is going to hell? As I pointed out on the Citroen thread earlier, they keep giving us globs and pregnant eggs for cars when they should be giving us cars that are fun to look at *and* drive. Cars should, by federal law, look like Batmobiles, Centurions, Silhouettes, Beatnik Bandits, Firebird IIIs, and the other classic X-Cars over the years.

  11. GE, Comcast, AT&T, now Ford…Jesus Christ this thing is turning into a frickin joke! Up next, Cory tells us how pleasant it is to use the Mach5 razor.

  12. Definitely tuning out Colonel Gentleman, but please stay tuned for this important message from our sponsor.

  13. Fayska, this isn’t a sponsored thing. Alan is a friend and I thought he had an interesting opportunity for our readers to get some answers from the Ford CEO.

  14. Joel, great, it’s not a sponsored thing, but it’s obviously a marketing thing. C’mon man, can’t you see how this seems suspect?

  15. I used to love driving, but since I moved to Seattle from the UK, I’ve grown to hate it.

    All you seem to have here are cheaply made, fuel guzzling, stupidly big, apallingly handling cars with abysmally spongy suspension combined with soporifically slow speed limits and pitifully badly maintained roads (even in comparison to the UK!).

    I used to love chucking my old Ford Puma and 306 DTurbo around on country lanes back home, but there’s just nothing comparable here to raise driving above a soul destroyingly tedious chore.

    I’ve driven a succession of hire cars over here and without exception the best ones (relatively, although they’re still dire) have been Japanese: Altima, RAV4, Mazda 6, while the worst have been American: Charger, HHR, Caliber, Mustang, Cobalt, Impala, Focus (which surprised me because European Focuses are great fun). I’ve also experienced a couple of nasty Korean PoS – a Sonata and a Rondo, but I’ve tried to blot the memory of those out.

    I can only conclude that the artificially low prices of cars here is what forces manufacturers to make them so awful, seemingly without exception.

    One thing I am really looking forward to when I move back home eventually is getting a decent handling small car (a Fiat 500 perhaps, or a Fiesta) and having some fun behind the wheel again.

  16. Every import car maker has their niche that they shoot for and a slogan to match, marketing themselves as not only as being very specific objects of quality but specific objects for specific people.

    American automakers seem to have given up on targeting anyone specific and instead would rather focus on two generic pitches: “we’re American” and “this is a performance car”. The latter is what I take issue with: American’s cannot seem to take pride in smaller, acceptably performing (as opposed to over-performing) cars.

    This brings me to my question: How does Ford intend to change the perception of American made cars and market them to compete with higher quality imported cars with an already established consumer base? That is beyond, you know, basically importing the cars from Germany.

    p.s. to all the people screaming “shill!” I have only this to say: you neither requested nor did any blogger on boingboing guarantee total corporate impartiality, so blogging about an experience in marketing (whether it’s arguably “marketing” or not) should not offend you.

  17. “All you seem to have here are cheaply made, fuel guzzling, stupidly big, apallingly handling cars”

    That’s what decades of artificially low fuel prices (and a national malaise) have done for auto evolution. The dumb bulky dinosaurs florished while the smart little mammals lived on crumbs.

  18. My first vehicle was a 49cc Diamo scooter. My second vehicle will probably be a bike. I’m a college kid, and so almost certainly out of the market you’re interested in. Anyway, my thoughts:

    What I need in a vehicle, above all else, is low cost. My scooter is severely limited in where it can travel; no highways, only some city streets. It can only break 30 mph going downhill, and it crawls going back up. If I’m in an accident, I am more or less guaranteed dead, especially when paired with any standard US car and speed/surprise. There are many, many, many reasons for me to want a better vehicle. But the scooter is cheap; it cost about $1,300 to purchase, and it goes 80+ miles on a single 1-gallon tank of gas. For all my daily commutes, it works.

    But if a car existed that was half as fuel efficient, managed to go at least 50 mph, and had some bare minimum protection for a crash. And yeah, a used more or less anything would do that. But for the next 5-10 years of my life, that’s the kind of car I’ll be looking for. I’m out of your market until a new car exists that can be competitive against that.

  19. Oh, and I’d happily kill for something with a manual transmission. I loathe the detached feel of automatics, especially these stupid CVT things they seem so keen on over here.

  20. “Joel, great, it’s not a sponsored thing, but it’s obviously a marketing thing. C’mon man, can’t you see how this seems suspect?”

    …Nah, Joel’s hasn’t sold out to Ford. He has a bit more credibility than that.

    Steampunk, on the other hand…

  21. #16

    This isn’t a sponsored post. I openly mentioned I’m part of a marketing experiment by Ford and included all the links to it. What’s suspect about it? I haven’t hid any of that and there are 100 other folks out there including two Jalopnik writers who also have Fiestas. Its a rare opportunity to both test drive what may be the future of Ford and talk to one of the architects.

    As for the interview, I asked Ford to arrange an interview because I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask some critical questions from the head of a company facing some dire times. If you read the questions people asked here and over at our site you’ll see these aren’t fluff questions.

  22. The car prior to my current Toyota Yaris was a Ford Contour, a car I dearly loved. When it came time to replace the Ford, though, my wife picked the Yaris over Ford’s Focus because the Focus looked like it was designed by a committee of Republicans. Take a look at the photo that leads your article. That car is almost a spitting image of the VW Golf of 15+ years ago, with a little bit of my 96 Contour design spun around it. You really think she’s going to go for that?????? Ford’s going to have to do better in the visual department to win her (and me) back!

  23. M has a nice point, although I’d go a skosh further and point out that, while it looks like the Golf, it’s almost certainly (a) less stoutly built, and (b) more gutless than the GTI of the same year. If I could buy a 1990s GTI and get a car that works as well as a car, and is vastly more fun to drive, why would I spend the extra money buying American? Especially when most of the car isn’t likely to be made in the U.S.?

    I can accept the idea of planned obsolescence of vehicles, as long as the cars of today are substantially better than the cars of yesteryear. And the VW folks have that going to them – the GTI of today vs. that of the 90s is a showcase for most of the progress that the automotive industry has made. But does the Fiesta’s tech make it a better driver, a la the GTI, or just give the driver more distractions from the overall suck of the car?

  24. Having owned a couple and hired a few, I am no fan of Ford,UK, Australia,Europe or US.

    The product has always been a slipshod lashed together hodge podge of ill fitting bits, resulting in life raft handling,. More than earning the supposed acronym for FORD, Fixed Or Repaired Daily.

    So when my sister and her husband both bought Fords, Fiesta and Focus respectively, I was heartily dismayed.

    I had been trying to get them to go the VW route.

    BUt I had a go in both cars and afterwards had to get out to double check the name badges did indeed say FORD.

    Both cars were easily Japanese in feel ride handling build and workaday dependability.

    The Focus in particular drives like it’s on rails.

    Now if they make the same thing out of carbon fibre then drop the engine size by about half they’ll have saved the company.

    Never thought I’d find myself praising a fecking ford.

    So Alan Graham, ask them why they can’t knock out CF body panels and stick a small engine in ?

    As the weigh shoots down so too can engine size without any effect on performance.

  25. Wait, the Fords in the US are different from the Fords in Europe? I didn’t know that.

    I was wondering why Ford was doing so badly according to the news, when they make some of the best cars for sale over here. They even get regular endorsement and praise from Top Gear, who are very influential.

  26. Where is “here” (“the Fiesta goes on sale here next summer”)?

    Why do so many BB posts take the lazy default position that its readers are all in the USA? Indeed even some posts from BB posters not in USA do not make clear which country they are writing about and reader has to deduce this.

    First (?) rule of writing – consider your audience.

  27. If I were a Ford executive, I’d be thinking about why people are so excited about new (American) start-up companies like Tesla and Aptera. I’d be thinking waaaay back and asking myself what was so great about the Model T, and comparing its virtues with my current product line. I’d be thinking about what makes a model of car a cultural icon, in its own era and in general. Why did people love, say, the VW Beatle or the minibus so much? What does our era demand?

  28. Daneel, try a Miata. They’re pretty awesome. And usually a manual transmission. Rental cars, though, are almost always automatics, unfortunately.

    As far as roads, it’s a mixed bag. Some areas have incredible roads in good repair, others have boring roads that are falling apart. Keep in mind that the US, land area wise, is almost as big as the whole of Europe. So you can’t judge anything beyond the areas you’ve been. I’m in Ohio and we have some incredible roads in the southern portion of the state. Michigan, just north of us, has the worst condition and most boring roads I’ve ever driven on.

  29. @ MORIARTY

    Yes, spot on there Napoleon of Crime.

    The VW Bug is a great example, when it was built pre WW2 it could drive on a rolling road at Autobahn speeds effectively indefinitely, while a top of the line Rolls Royce of the same vintage could not hold that speed for more than half an hour.

    American cars are like the RR’s of old, full to bursting with a lot of extraneous crap with no thought given to what the core function of the machine is about.

  30. Seconding the Miata, although they aren’t the most practical car. And some people feel weird using a convertible as a daily driver.

    There are plenty of good cars imported from around the world, Daneel. Sadly, most of our American options are pretty much crap — and even our best, like the Corvette, often have some major shortcomings.

    They do tend to go fast in a straight line, though.

    @Fayska: Of course it’s marketing. I trust you are intelligent enough to parse it correctly. Marketing is not inherently bereft of use or information, although you’d be forgiven for presuming that position. And we’re definitely tip-toeing over the line here and there with other things, so I don’t mind you calling us out.

    But I don’t know any other way to say that we’re not getting any money for any of this. Ford isn’t even running banner advertising with Boing Boing. (Although if they want to, they’re welcome. Daddy needs new engine for the BMW.)

  31. Ford executive reads:

    “Currently I’m trying to get by without a car, via public transit and taxi and occasional rentals…My first vehicle was a 49cc Diamo scooter. My second vehicle will probably be a bike…”

    places in circular file.

    President jurors

  32. @nutbastard: Clarkson’s 20-year-old Rabbit isn’t burdened with the emissions and safety regulations that today’s cars are–and isn’t as well-built or reliable, either.
    @coop: Check your math. Going one mile on a larger Imperial gallon means you go less than one mile on a US gallon. Divide by 1.2, don’t multiply.

    And, for Alan, our driver: does the new Fiesta offer Sync? If so, how well does it (or doesn’t it) work?

  33. Why can’t Ford bring home their more successful, appealing overseas models quicker – like the Fiesta and Mondeo? I’d buy a Mondeo _today_ if I could, but I live in Texas, not England. What’s taken (and taking) Ford so long to do the obvious?

    Ford’s U.S. models, like the Fusion, Focus, Taurus, etc., are blandly boring at best and incredibly ugly at worst – and unappealing either way, esp. compared to the Mondeo and Fiesta.

  34. #36 The current car I have has some form of something like Sync but not branded as such…I believe the US version will have it.

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