View from City Road: Ford has another shot at integration

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The Independent Online
Ford, the world's third-biggest industrial group, is trying hard to lose its American identity. Its new chairman, Alex Trotman, who comes from Glasgow, slips back and forth between a Scottish and American accent.

And to emphasise the point, briefings yesterday to announce the most important shake-up in years at Ford were held simultaneously in London and Dearborn, Michigan.

The message was that national barriers were being torn down; American and European operations are being integrated. A series of world cars will be built. They will be cheaper and better than the national cars of the past because economies of scale for car panels and engines seem to go on increasing ad infinitum.

The logic seems impeccable, begging the question of why hasn't Ford done it before? The answer: it has but the experiment failed. Ten years ago Americans could buy a car called a Ford Escort. It looked like a European Ford Escort, but shared about six components. American engineers suffered from an excess of not-invented-here syndrome, and insisted on rebuilding the thing from scratch.

The result was a car that drove like a pig, and no economies of scale.

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