JUNE 2018 IN

Ford Retreats From Cars

Ford startled the world when it said it would get out of cars, with the notable exception of the Mustang, yet the move makes sense.

With the commuter car business shifting rapidly to electric cars, a category where Detroit does not have a realistic chance of competing, efficiency and practicality cannot be the key selling points. The future of fuel-burning cars will center on collector cars. There are few cars in the last century with a better story than the Ford Mustang, so it is the obvious choice as the one car for Ford to keep in its showrooms.

Ford cars will not disappear quickly. Ford will continue to make cars for another year, and it may take a year after that to sell off the remaining inventory. Ford cars could remain on the road in large numbers until 2040 if parts remain available and fuel prices remain low.

Though Ford made headlines with the boldness of its retreat from fuel-burning cars, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are doing the same thing on a smaller scale. With half of car shoppers already saying they really want an electric car, it is not such a stretch to forecast a limited future for fuel-burning cars.

Conventional thinking in Detroit says the new Ford “cars” will be the “urban” SUVs, designed for pavement, taller but still light in weight. But if electric cars are expected to dominate the sedan category by 2021, the lightweight SUV category will be just three to five years behind in moving to electric, so that is hardly a safe haven for a company like Ford. Ford’s ace in the hole is the F-150 pickup truck. The pickup truck is the one major category that Ford leads, and that will have to be its starting point when it designs its new products. There is still time for Ford to design and fine-tune a range of rugged light trucks that can survive the transition from fuel to electric.

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