Ford has shown its popular Fiesta model at the Los Angeles Motor Show prior to launching it in North America. On the face of it, the introduction of such a familiar model in just one more market appears to be a minor development. But it tells us a lot about Ford's strategic direction – and why the company, while badly affected by the problems of the US car industry, has weathered the storm better than Chrysler and GM.
Under the leadership of ex-Boeing manager Alan Mulally, the American group has followed what it calls a “ONE Ford” policy, which appears to have two elements. The first is that the face that Ford presents to the market has been drastically simplified, with the overwhelming emphasis being placed on cars bearing the company's own “blue oval” badge. Ford's luxury brands – Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo – have either been sold or are in the process of being sold. Only Lincoln, Ford's premium badge for the US market, is being retained. While mass manufacturers such as Ford and Volkswagen have previously sought to buy up prestige car-makers in the pursuit of higher margins, managing a large stable of brands is a complex task that absorbs a great deal of management time and involves difficult decisions in terms of the brands' positioning in relation to one another.
The other element of ONE Ford is that products are increasingly designed to be capable of being sold around the world, rather than in just, say, Europe. The hatchback version of the US Fiesta appears to be very similar to the European original and the company itself says that the car was “tweaked, not re-designed or re-developed” for North America. Previous efforts to sell the “same” car on both sides of the Atlantic – for example, General Motors' J-Car, Chrysler's Horizon or Ford's own 1980 Escort – didn't live up to their full potential because so many local variations were introduced into the designs, a problem that appears to have been avoided with the US Fiesta.
One significant departure is that the US will also get a four-door saloon version of the Fiesta that hasn't so far been seen in Europe. Grafting a separate boot onto a car originally designed as a hatchback is a tricky job but here, the results appear to be fairly pleasing.Reuse content