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I don't care for the ProMaster (Fiat Ducato). In the CNH Industrial Group porfolio, the Iveco Daily is my van of choice.

I never see Sprinters rusting in Europe, or here for that matter. As far as repair costs, they're no more pricey to deal with than a Transit. Both are top notch vans.

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My 2015 Transit has 42K on it, nothing more than oil changes and a recall on the driveshaft. Been really good to me so far but the battery under the seat is a pretty crappy spot for it. I can back up what Bob says about rusty Sprinters around here see them all the time. That silly looking rear axle on the Ram Promaster makes it look like a utility trailer from the back.

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Kscarbel I see a lot of rusty Sprinters here in MI. MB dealers in SE MI are few and expensive. FL dealers are busy with heavy trucks. Small repair shop I deal with, hates too work on Sprinters. Any Ford dealer can repair a Transit. I have never driven a Transit, everyone that I know that has one has had good luck so far. I would like to see a T-250 or 350 flatbed like in Europe sold here.

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Ford set to end production at Blanquefort in France

Claude Canellas, Reuters  /  December 13, 2018

BORDEAUX, France — Ford will end production at its Blanquefort plant in France by late August next year after rejecting a rescue deal for the factory, in a move which drew the ire of France's finance minister because of the risk of large-scale job losses.

The French government had this autumn expressed optimism that the plant in southwest France and its 850 employees would be saved, but Ford told the plant's works council that it had rejected the bid made by transmission supplier Punch Powerglide.

"Despite thorough and rigorous talks over the past nine months, and the best efforts of both sides, the plan put forward by the potential buyer presents significant risks," Ford said in a statement to the works council.

"We do not believe that the prospective buyer's plans offer the level of security or protection, or limit the risk of possible future job losses, that we would like for the employees," added the company.

The likely job losses will be a blow for President Emmanuel Macron, coming at a time of public rebellion over his reforms to liberalise the economy, including an easing of labour laws, and battles to haul down the country's stubbornly high unemployment.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in September had described Punch Powerglide as a "credible, solid buyer," and Le Maire reacted angrily to Ford's decision, and called on the U.S. company to change its mind.

"I am revolted, I am sickened by this decision whose only justification is for Ford to get its shares to rise on the stock market," Le Maire told the French Senate.

"I want to attack the cowardice of Ford. For the last three days I have been looking to talk to them, and they didn't even have the courage to talk to the minister of finance and economy over the phone," added Le Maire.

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Ford names new product development chief in Europe

Nick Gibbs, Automotive News  /  December 13, 2018

Ford promoted global programs director Joerg Bayer to head of product development in Europe as part of upcoming changes designed to return the region to profitability.

Bayer, 53, replaces Joe Bakaj, who retires after more than 30 years at the automaker.

The reshuffle is part of Ford of Europe’s cost-saving plan called Sprint to 6 Reset and Redesign, which refers to Ford’s aim to reach a six percent EBIT profit margin in the region. The automaker has not given a timeframe for the plan.

Beyer, a German national, has worked as an engineer within Ford since 1990. He has held a number of product development roles based in Germany, the UK and China, including as chief engineer for the Mondeo and Fiesta cars.

Prior to moving to the new role of executive director for engineering at Ford of Europe, Beyer worked as executive director of Ford’s global programs.

Bakaj joined Ford in the UK in 1985 and has occupied many senior roles within the company. Since 2013, he has been head of product development for Ford in Europe, a role that he had held previously.

Bakaj has been heavily involved in the project to deliver a modular platform to be used for all Ford’s non-SUV cars. Prior to being head of product development, he was global chief of powertrains at the automaker.

In 2011, he was awarded a Eurostar award from Automotive News Europe for his development work and in the same year, an Allstar award from Automotive News for his part in the development of the 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

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As the F-150 got bigger and pricier, Ford saw an opening

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  December 17, 2017

DETROIT — To understand why Ford is reviving the Ranger mid-size pickup after an eight-year hiatus in the U.S., look no further than its big brother, the full-size F-150.

Executives say there was no eureka moment that spurred the Ranger’s return, but the business case became obvious when the first aluminum-bodied F-150 was built in November 2014. The 13th- generation pickup was 2 inches wider than its predecessor, and it came with a bigger price tag, too.

For years, Ford used the F-150 as the rationale for not selling the Ranger in this country, arguing it didn’t want to cannibalize sales of the best-selling F series, which generates the bulk of its global profits. But by the time the latest generation debuted, the F-150 had simply grown too large and too expensive for some buyers, and Ford would much prefer they get behind the wheel of a Ranger than go to the Chevrolet dealer down the street.

“It was pretty clear to us there was a price band and a size that would fit under the F-150,” says Ford’s president of global operations Joe Hinrichs. “We knew we needed to work to make the business case.”

That work got going in earnest in 2015, when company officials identified an opportunity to convert the Ford Focus plant in Wayne, Mich., to build body-on-frame pickups and utilities instead of low-margin cars. Since the Ranger alone wouldn’t fill the sprawling Michigan Assembly Plant, executives chose to bring back another storied nameplate to pair with it: the Bronco SUV.

The desire to build the Ranger and Bronco in a renovated Michigan Assembly became a key bargaining chip that fall in negotiations with the UAW. Days before Thanksgiving, union members ratified the agreement and secured the Ranger’s return.

Different billing

Three years later, the Ranger, due in showrooms next month, is joining a suddenly crowded midsize segment. Ford is billing the Ranger as a rugged lifestyle vehicle that’s comfortable on sand, dirt or rocks and can ferry buyers — and their gear — on weekend camping trips or excursions to the beach. It’s a big shift from the yeomanlike F-150 that’s more suited for construction sites or lumberyards.

“Our research says the buyer isn’t someone who wants an F-150 and can only afford a Ranger; they want something different,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in an interview. “We felt Ranger would be much more of a personal-use, adventure product. It became a relatively easy decision.”

The midsize pickup segment has rebounded drastically since Ford closed its Ranger plant in St. Paul, Minn., in December 2011. It has more than doubled in size since 2014, to more than half a million vehicles this year, and is up 16 percent this year through November after rising less than 1 percent in 2017.

The long-dominant Toyota Tacoma is closing out its fourth consecutive year of gains, and General Motors, which bowed out only for a brief period, has sold some 600,000 Chevy Colorados and GMC Canyons in the Ranger’s absence. Ford also will face competition from the upcoming Jeep Gladiator, which is similarly aimed at adventure-ready buyers.

“We’re about to enter a golden era for lifestyle trucks,” Chase Disher, chief analyst at Autolist, said in a November study about the segment.
IHS Markit predicts only modest growth in the segment into the next decade to just over 600,000 vehicles, according to analyst Stephanie Brinley, which means the players would be fighting over existing buyers more than attracting new ones.

“The majority of the growth has already happened,” Brinley said. “Organic growth is not going to be easy at this point.”

The previous Ranger was regularly among the segment’s top sellers and No. 1 as recently as 2004. Ranger sales routinely totaled more than 300,000 a year in the 1990s before fading in the early 2000s.

Ford says it built 7 million Rangers from 1982 through 2011 and will lean on the nameplate’s history to help sell the new model.

Autolist says the Ranger is still the second-most recognized midsize pickup behind the Tacoma, despite being out of the market for so long.
If the new Ranger is to be successful, Brinley says, it likely will have to steal share largely from the Tacoma, the oldest product in the segment. Ford believes it has a good chance of conquest, saying that nearly 80 percent of early hand-raisers for the Ranger don’t own a Ford vehicle today.

LaNeve said he’s not concerned about Ford’s late re-entry relative to GM and is confident the arrival of the Ranger and Gladiator should drive more growth.

“You are going to continue to see proliferation in this segment,” LaNeve said. “This won’t be the end.”

Watching GM

LaNeve, a sales executive at GM before coming to Ford in 2015, said the decision to bring back the Ranger was further cemented by looking at what his former employer did with the Colorado and Canyon.

LaNeve said the prior-generation pickups significantly ate into sales of the full-size Chevy Silverado, but that hasn’t been the case with the revived versions.

“When they came back in, what was affirming to us is that we didn’t see in the data cannibalization of their full-size truck nearly to the degree before,” he said. “That was affirmation of our own market data.”

The F series has been the nation’s best-selling truck for 41 straight years, and the price of the F-150 has been steadily inching up. Ford sold more than 72,000 F-series pickups in November at an average transaction price of roughly $42,000, LaNeve said.

The upcoming Ranger, meanwhile, will start at $25,395 and top out at over $40,000. That’s about the same as the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma, which starts at $26,595 for the 2019 model, but more than GM’s midsize duo. Pricing starts at $21,495 for the 2019 Colorado and $22,095 for the Canyon. All prices include shipping.

Although consumers are receptive to the high-priced vehicles — Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited and Raptor account for roughly one-third of F-150 sales — rising prices overall for the vehicle have pushed some buyers out of the market, Hinrichs admitted.

And then there was the issue of size. Some pickups are so massive, they barely fit in standard parking spaces.

“Customers want something that’s ‘garage-able,’?” Hinrichs said. “We feel really confident the Ranger buyer is different than the F-150 buyer.”
That buyer, Ford believes, craves off-road performance and capability. The Ranger’s turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine will be able to tow and haul more than the V-6 gasoline offerings from its rivals, Ford says.

Simpler configurations

It will come in just three trim levels: XL, XLT and Lariat. Ford will sell two-door SuperCab and four-door SuperCrew configurations, with each offered in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. An off-road FX4 package will be offered across all trims.

Although those options add up, the Ranger is available in a fraction of the myriad ways an F-150 can be ordered.

Interior and exterior designs on the Ranger have been changed to give the truck a more rugged look for U.S. buyers compared with the overseas model. It has a mostly steel body and axles made by Dana Inc., which also supplies the Jeep Wrangler.

“We’re fairly confident Ranger’s going to be a big success,” Chad Callander, the truck’s marketing manager, said during a media drive of the truck in San Diego last week. “We intentionally designed and built this Ranger so that it would have capability. We wanted to make sure what we were bringing back to the marketplace could live up to the ‘Built Ford Tough’ promise.”

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Limited run of suicide-door Lincoln Continentals coming next summer

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  December 17, 2018

DETROIT — Nine months after promising dealers it would bring back suicide doors on its Continental sedan, Lincoln on Monday confirmed the vehicles will be in showrooms next summer as part of a very limited run for the nameplate's 80th anniversary.

The 2019 "Continental Coach Door Edition" will have a wheelbase 6 inches longer than the standard sedan to accommodate the same type of rear-hinged doors that were first offered on the vehicle in 1961. It's an effort by executives to leverage the brand's glory years and spark interest in a vehicle whose U.S. sales have fallen dramatically since re-entering the market only a little more than two years ago.

Lincoln said it would make just 80 suicide-door Continentals for the 2019 model year. It will also make a "limited" number of 2020 model year vehicles, although it declined to provide a number.

Lincoln plans to sell the suicide-door models for more than $100,000 each, but specific pricing wasn't announced. The base model starts at $47,140 ($46,145 plus $995 destination and delivery).

"This Lincoln Continental echoes a design that captured the hearts of car enthusiasts around the world," Joy Falotico, Lincoln Motor Co. president, said in a statement. "It's something bespoke or unique only Lincoln can offer in a thoroughly modern way."

Coach doors, also known as suicide doors, date back to many pre-World War II vehicles.

Lincoln was considering them as recently as 2007, Automotive News reported at the time. It was a source of tension among designers then. Conventional rear doors won out during the process because they were deemed more feasible for a production vehicle.

Now, though, designers say the doors help show off the vehicle's lush interior, which will include a pass-through console features a stowable tray table with a tablet holder and wireless charging pad.

"People appreciate elegance and glamor," Lincoln's design director, David Woodhouse, said in a statement. "And they want the easiest way to get in and out of a vehicle. These doors answer to both."

The vehicle will be powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine and will be available only in a high-end Black Label trim.

Continental sales have plummeted 30 percent this year through November, and its U.S. future may be in doubt, although it continues to be a hot seller in China. Lincoln produces the vehicle alongside the Ford Mustang in Flat Rock, Mich., where it plans to eliminate one of two daily shifts in the spring.

Photo gallery - https://www.autonews.com/gallery/cars-concepts/lincoln-continental-suicide-doors

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Ford follows GM in moving to quarterly U.S. sales reporting

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 3, 2019

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. this year will follow crosstown rival General Motors by moving to quarterly reporting of U.S. sales figures.

The automaker is abandoning monthly reporting amid a busy product year, where it will continue the culling of its sedan portfolio and add a number of nameplates, including the Ranger midsize pickup and Lincoln Aviator crossover, and debut redesigned models of its Escape and Explorer crossovers.

Ford, which is one of two automakers to hold monthly sales calls for analysts and media, will transition to a quarterly call and release beginning in April. It will still provide monthly figures to data agencies.

"We feel it's kind of transitioning to more of an industry standard," Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Thursday on a call with analysts and media. "We think the intense focus on month-to-month numbers is just not how we want to run the business. We believe quarterly will provide great transparency."

GM moved to quarterly sales reporting last April. Ford, at the time, said it would assess the situation, noting that there's oftentimes volatility in monthly figures.

Analysts have cautioned that moving to quarterly reporting could [will] lead to less transparency and more speculation and errors, especially if some automakers follow suit and others do not.

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Superformance Will Resurrect Ford's Stunning Shelby GR-1 Concept

Steve Siler, Car & Driver  /  January 7, 2019

Remember the Shelby GR-1 show car from way back in the early 2000s? That stillborn project is about to come back to life thanks to Superformance, a tuner based in Irvine, California. The company bills itself as "a distributor of complete, rolling-chassis replica and continuation race cars of the 1960s." But Superformance appears to have hit fast forward on that tape to, well, at least the middle of the past decade: CEO Lance Stander has announced that the company will add replicas of Ford's stunning 2004–2005 Shelby GR-1 show car to its product lineup. It's worth nothing (if you couldn't tell by looking) that the GR-1 was created in homage to the Cobra Daytona coupe. Currently, all of Superformance's products are indeed rooted in the 1960s and currently include replica or continuation Shelby Cobra, Ford GT40, Shelby Cobra Daytona, Caterham, and Corvette Grand Sport models.

The announcement was made at the Petersen Automotive Museum's annual Shelby tribute on January 6 by Stander, who was part of a panel sharing stories about Shelby and discussing Shelby's influence on the industry and racing culture. With Shelby American vice president Vince Laviolette next to him on the panel, Stander said that Superformance has teamed up with Shelby American to develop electric versions of the gorgeous GR-1 in addition to a gasoline-powered version.

Laviolette confirmed this but didn't provide any details other than to say, "It's gonna be very fast." Stander was more forthcoming, saying, "We're shooting for a two-second Shelby."

"It's been a project I've been working on with Ford for about six years," said Stander. "We originally said we want to do the GR-1, and we spoke to everyone at Ford and they said it's never going to happen. Just forget about it. We could have done a replica, we could have done a kit car, but that was never good enough for us. We had to get licensed by the original manufacturer, and it had to have all credibility. So I just kept plodding along and eventually the stars aligned, the right people at Ford got to hear about it and . . . a couple of guys at who really wanted to see it happen at Ford Design in Europe, and the next thing I know is Ford Licensing is contacting me."

The car won't be out for about two years, they said, but when it is, 200 aluminum special-edition GR-1 cars will be made available—which could be either polished or painted—with the remainder wearing carbon-fiber bodies. Whether Superformance will be able to call it by the concept's original name, Ford Shelby GR-1, or whether it will get a moniker such as Shelby Legendary GR-1 or just Shelby GR-1, is still an open question.

And as for the idea of an electric GR-1? "Carroll [Shelby] was always on the edge," said Laviolette, who said Shelby was looking at electric powertrains before he died in 2012. "He was an innovator. And that's the way we still hold the company. You know, the world's changing, and we have to go with the world."

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Ford Explorer gains space for passengers, plywood in major RWD redesign

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 9, 2019

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is seeking to broaden the appeal of the venerable Explorer by better listening to the customers who have made it the nation's best-selling utility vehicle all time.

The automaker says Explorer buyers asked for more interior space, towing capability and performance. The sixth-generation Explorer, introduced late Wednesday ahead of the Detroit auto show, will deliver on those customer wishes, Ford says.

The 2020 vehicle, on sale this summer, was redesigned on a new rear-wheel-drive, unibody platform that gives it sportier styling and what Ford engineers describe as better handling. The seven-passenger crossover can tow up to 5,600 pounds -- 600 more than the outgoing version -- and has best-in-class second- and third-row headroom, Ford claims.

"We built it around the way people use the car," Bill Gubing, the Explorer's chief program engineer, said at a briefing ahead of Wednesday's reveal. "Even the smallest features are designed from a customer perspective."

The 2020 Explorer will be more expensive than the current version, but Ford contends that customers are willing to pay the higher prices for more content and capability. It starts at $33,860, including shipping, $400 more than the 2019 Explorer, but the base model includes more than a dozen new standard features, including a power liftgate, Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assist technology and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The base engine, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four, is expected to get 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a 10-speed transmission. Buyers can upgrade to a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 on the high-end Platinum trim that's expected to get 365 hp and 380 pound-feet of torque. Intelligent four-wheel drive is available.

Ford also plans to offer a hybrid Explorer and a high-performance ST version, which replaces the Sport trim. Ford has not yet released details on those variants.

"It's our broadest-ever lineup," said Craig Patterson, Ford's marketing manager for the Explorer. "We're expanding what the role of the SUV is."

More space for families

The Explorer, first sold as a 1991 model with a starting price of less than $18,000, has been one of Ford's most successful nameplates and last year trailed only the F-series pickup and Escape crossover in the brand's U.S. sales. The automaker has sold 7.7 million Explorers in the U.S. since its launch, the most of any utility.

Now, Ford is looking to cash in on the rapidly growing millennial demographic: 20- and 30-somethings who are getting married, having kids and looking for larger vehicles.

The interior of the 2020 model is quieter and includes more head and hip room. Second- and third-row seats fold flat and can accommodate a 4- by 8-foot sheet of plywood, which wouldn't fit in the outgoing version.

Ford says the 2020 Explorer gains 6.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats, a reversible floor that's easy to clean after hauling kids' mud-caked cleats and a feature that engineers have dubbed the "apple catcher" -- a lip on the rear floor that's meant to stop wine bottles or spaghetti sauce jars from rolling out of the back when the liftgate opens.

Every seating position in the second and third rows has child-seat anchors, and retractable second-row sunshades are optional.

Tall screen, new tech

An 8-inch touch screen is standard, and there is an optional 10.1-inch screen in a portrait configuration -- taller than it is wide -- which is a first for Ford.

In addition to its standard driver-assist technology, including a lane-keeping system and automatic emergency braking, the 2020 Explorer is the first North American nameplate to offer the automaker's second generation of Ford's active park assist. The feature, standard on the Platinum trim, allows drivers to parallel or perpendicular park by pressing and holding a button. Previously, the driver had to hold the steering wheel and control the braking and acceleration.

"We obsessed about what Explorer customers need and want," Gubing said. "We met with customer groups, pored through Internet forums and dissected social media posts to determine what they love about today's Explorer and understand their pain points. Then we found ways to improve it across the board."

U.S. sales of the Explorer fell 3.5 percent to 261,571 last year, partly because of the impending redesign. But the vehicle still outsold its primary rivals, the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse, in a segment that grew 11 percent.

The Explorer was last overhauled for the 2011 model year, when it shed its truck-based mechanicals and adopted Ford's front-wheel-drive, unibody platform that underlies the Ford Taurus sedan and Flex crossover.

Photo gallery - https://www.autonews.com/gallery/detroit-photo-gallery/2020-ford-explorer

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Good looking for sure IMO.  And a 4 x 8 will fit-functional to boot!

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Ford Europe to cut thousands of jobs in turnaround plan

Bloomberg/Reuters  /  January 10, 2019

Ford will shed thousands of jobs at its European operations in a bid to return the business to profitability in a broad restructuring that may include shutting down production plants.

Ford has struggled with an aging model lineup and a contracting market in the UK, Ford’s biggest in Europe, which is in store for further disruption from Brexit.

In a statement on Thursday, Ford said it will seek to exit the multivan segment, review its operations in Russia, and combine the headquarters of Ford UK and Ford Credit to a site in Dunton, Essex.

Ford, in its statement, said it also plans to leverage relationships, "including a potential alliance with Volkswagen AG, to support commercial vehicle growth." Ford and VW could announce details of an alliance on Tuesday at the Detroit auto show

"We are looking to make a step-change in the performance of the business," said Steven Armstrong, Ford’s head of Europe. “There will be significant impact across the region. We will be looking at all options,” which could include plant closures, he told Bloomberg

Ford announced in December that it was working on a  restructuring plan for Europe called Sprint to 6 Reset and Redesign. The name refers to Ford’s 6 percent profit margin target for Europe. The company did not give a timeframe for the target.

Ford has said the plan will involve concentrating on its profit-making SUVs and commercial vehicles and cutting unprofitable model lines, thought to refer the Galaxy and S-Max minivans. Ford has already said it will cease production at a plant in Bordeaux, France, and has started labor talks at the Saarlouis factory in Germany after a decision to end production of the C-Max compact van.

The automaker, which currently employs 53,000 people in Europe, has struggled to turn a profit, posting a 245 million euros loss before interest and taxes in the third quarter, widening from $192 million a year earlier, and equivalent to a negative 3.3 percent EBIT margin.

Armstrong declined to quantify the scale of job cuts, pending negotiations with labor leaders, but said staff reductions would run into the "thousands."

Voluntary separations

"Ford aims to achieve the labor cost reductions as far as possible through voluntary employee separations in Europe," the automaker said.

Ford’s European business currently relies on models such as the recently revamped Fiesta and Focus hatchbacks.

Ford, whose business in Europe includes a “solidly profitable” commercial vehicles unit, said it will establish three separate groups for passenger cars, its vans business and imports like the iconic Mustang.

“We are continuing to invest in the business, especially in electrified cars,” said Armstrong. “We will still have a comprehensive lineup of cars in future with primarily SUVs and crossovers.”

Over the long term, Ford is targeting earnings before interest and taxes of 6 percent of sales in Europe. This year, performance will already be “significantly better” than 2018, Armstrong said.

Ford last year kicked off a company-wide $11 billion restructuring after both Europe and Asia swung to losses and costs to invest in electric and self-driving vehicles mount. Like many other carmakers, Ford has warned it won’t meet its forecasts for 2018, and CEO Jim Hackett jettisoned a goal to reach an 8 percent profit margin by 2020.

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Ford resigned to underwhelming profit even after Europe cuts

Keith Naughton, Bloomberg  /  January 11, 2019

For all the cuts Ford Motor Co. is poised to make in Europe, it’s resigned to the region staying a drag on profitability for the foreseeable future.

Ford on Thursday put a giant German van plant on the chopping block, started a strategic review of its Russia joint venture and vowed to consolidate operations in the U.K., adding to plans for a French transmission factory to cease production this spring.

Even with the cutbacks, Ford is targeting just a 6 percent profit margin in Europe for the long term.

That’s short of its 8 percent goal on a global basis. The company also stopped short of definitively saying it will close any plants and didn’t give any details about how many jobs it plans to eliminate.

The announcement left the market wanting more. Ford’s shares, which plunged almost 40 percent last year to levels last seen in 2009, traded slightly lower to $8.67 on an otherwise upbeat day on Wall Street Thursday. CEO Jim Hackett, who’s caught flack for coming up short on earnings targets and canceling an investor day last fall, will face pressure to be more open and act quickly to turn around a company facing risk to its dividend and credit ratings.

“Investor criticism for Ford over the past year has focused on a lack of details on the fitness plan,” says UBS analyst Colin Langan. “This release still lacks some specifics.”

Ford has stuck around despite Europe rarely generating positive returns for years. The same could be said for General Motors before CEO Mary Barra decided to abandon business there in 2017 by selling Opel and Vauxhall to France’s PSA Group.

Hackett, 63, and Barra, 57, will have more to share with investors soon. GM hosts an investor event Friday. Ford may announce a broader alliance with Volkswagen AG during next week’s Detroit auto show, according to people familiar with the matter, and Hackett and other senior executives will speak at several conferences coinciding with the event in Detroit.

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Ford, VW to detail commercial pickup partnership Tuesday

Ian Thibodeau, The Detroit News  /  January 11, 2019

Ford and Volkswagen are planning to partner on the joint production of commercial pickups as the automakers continue their broad-ranging discussions on global partnership.

Volkswagen's governing supervisory board approved a piece of the partnership Friday in a board meeting in Germany.

The automakers are expected to offer details Tuesday on parts of their agreement — and what they are continuing to discuss — during the Detroit auto show.

Ford is a leading manufacturer of pickups in the U.S., producing the perennially best-selling F-150 and Super Duty pickups. Through its commercial vehicles division, VW has a slow-selling Amarok pickup in Europe. The partnership to develop pickups would allow Ford to expand its commercial vehicle lineup in Europe, and give VW a stronger model in its lineup.

It was unclear Friday if a jointly developed commercial truck would be offered for sale outside of Europe. 

Steven Armstrong, Ford's president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said Thursday that Ford saw value in VW's European plants which Ford would utilize to boost its lucrative commercial vehicle sales there. He said Ford would look to expand its commercial vehicle footprint in Europe to boost the automaker's struggling business unit there.

The automakers are negotiating other partnerships, including an alliance on autonomous vehicles. VW's supervisory board had approved this piece of the partnership.

The board meeting was the deciding factor in whether Ford and VW would make an announcement next week.

Ford and VW have been in broad-ranging discussions for several months regarding partnerships in Europe and the U.S. The automakers have discussed partnering on autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, commercial vehicles and pickup trucks.

The automakers signed a memorandum of understanding last summer to look into partnering on commercial vehicles, Ford's best-seller in Europe. Pickups are a weak spot for VW, which vies annually to be the global leader in vehicle sales.

The companies have also discussed partnering on the more futuristic and expensive side of the business. As part of the partnership talks, Volkswagen is considering a $1 billion-plus investment in Argo AI, the robotics and technology company majority-owned by Ford.

VW CEO Herbert Diess said after a White House meeting in December that he might used Ford plant capacity in the U.S. to build cars. Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said then that the discussions were progressing well.

Partnership negotiations are on-going.

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Ford ditches GoBike deal

Ford is ending its sponsorship of a Lyft-owned bike-sharing service in San Francisco, reports Axios.

In the deal, “part of a larger effort … to transform [Ford] into more than just a carmaker,” bike-share operator Motivate’s bikes were branded as Ford GoBikes.

No reason was given for the unwind on Ford’s behalf; the car company is still involved in a scooter rental startup.

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Ford Axes Its Chariot Shuttles, Proves Mobility Is Hard

Wired  /  January 10, 2019

Chariot has crashed. On Thursday, five years after launching and two and half years after being acquired by Ford for a reported $65 million, the app-based shuttle service announced it is rolling to a permanent stop.

Transportation technology companies have never been sexier than in the past decade, but this stumble is a potent reminder that creating a profitable transportation business can be far harder than it seems.

When Chariot launched in 2014, it joined a wave of Uber-inspired "microtransit" tech companies hoping to disrupt transportation services by providing faster, more efficient options for riders sick of—and underserved by—traditional public transit.

Less than half a decade on, most have gone the way of the Hawaiian tree snail. San Francisco-based, elitist-wooing Leap Transit closed up shop just three months after its March 2015 launch, amid a regulatory fight with California. Bridj, which promised on-demand shuttle services, ceased American operations in early 2017. Shared rides company Via still operates in Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC, but has diversified—it also runs a software business. Meanwhile, Uber itself continues to burn through millions and millions in funding every year, even as it preps for an IPO in 2019.

Chariot struggled with ridership, spokesperson Erin Simpson says. Its 14-seat commuter shuttle services, which run limited, public routes in Austin, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, and the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in London, will shut down February 1. Chariot’s newer initiative, running vans for specific companies, will end in March. Some of its 625 employees could be offered positions within Ford.

Turns out transporting people really is very hard. In dense cities, it’s competitive: Riders might choose to use public transit, ride-hail, or even the bike- and scooter-share networks that now blanket so many city sidewalks. In less dense places, the transportation business is pricey: Dispatching vehicles to retrieve far-flung passengers takes time and plenty of fuel. And transportation firms generally must contend with regulators, another oft-expensive hurdle. In October 2017, California briefly shut down Chariot’s operations in the state after discovering some drivers did not have proper licenses.

Chariot, which in San Francisco was charging $3.80 for off-peak rides and $5 during rush hour, always had a difficult road ahead. In fact, it hadn’t expanded its public commuter transit options in at least a year. “The microtransit companies would never say this, but you could see from their actions that a market for a public transit service paid for through fares was, at best, very limited,” says Bruce Schaller, a former New York City transportation official who now runs a transportation consultancy.

Furthermore, Chariot could only fit so many fare-paying riders into its vans. It owns those vehicles, and its drivers are unionized. “Running a van cheaper than a bus, per passenger, is a daunting idea,” adds Schaller.

As Chariot put it in a blog post announcing its death: “In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly. As those changes continue, it has become clear that the mobility services delivered by Chariot over the past five years will not be a sustainable solution going forward.”

In recent months, the Ford subsidiary had tried to adjust its business to fit customers’ needs. Though it continued to run its San Francisco-based commuter network, open to any member of the public, it had focused its business on enterprise solutions, signing contracts with private businesses that wanted to give its employees other options for getting to or from work. As recently as December, Chariot CEO Dan Grossman told WIRED that the company was focusing on solving first mile/last mile problems—helping companies connect their offices to major commuter train or bus lines. Grossman also said the company had thought about growing the size of some vans, perhaps up to 28 seats. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” he noted then.

Ford spokesperson Karen Hampton says lessons learned from Chariot’s run will inform the automaker’s larger mobility business. That includes “routing, dispatch, customer interfaces” at Ford Commercial Solutions, its fleet telematics and data arm; GoRide, its nonemergency medical transportation division; Ford Pass, its mobile application for vehicle owners; and “even the self-driving businesses we are building,” according to Hampton. The company has said that it will have a fully automated vehicle in commercial service by 2021.

While Chariot’s demise proves the transit business is a tricky one, tech-enabled shuttle services aren’t dead. Public transit agencies—including Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation—are still experimenting with on-demand options, which riders beckon with a call or tap of an app. Agencies hope these sorts of services might help them cut down the costs of providing public transit in areas with little demand. Flexible van services and jitneys continue to operate in US cities too, including New York City’s robust, decades-old dollar van system.

Ford, meanwhile, already has its hands in the latest transit hotness. In November, it acquired startup Spin. The Detroit stalwart has joined the scooter game.

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Ford, VW advance alliance plans on vans, pickups

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 15, 2019

DETROIT — Ford and Volkswagen on Tuesday said they will collaborate on commercial vans and midsize pickups, and are exploring the joint development of autonomous and electric vehicles as part of a broad partnership designed to save both companies money.

The automakers have been exploring ways to collaborate since at least June. Both sides released details of their talks and planned a conference call with media featuring Ford CEO Jim Hackett and VW CEO Herbert Diess. Both men met briefly Monday at Ford's stand at the Detroit auto show.

As part of the alliance, Ford will develop medium-sized pickups and commercial vans for both companies as early as 2022. The mid-size pickup will be based off Ford's global Ranger and the van will be based off Ford's mid-size Transit Custom, which is not sold in North America. Volkswagen intends to develop and build a city van for both automakers.

Ford and VW are also open to working on additional vehicle programs.

The companies estimate the cooperation will yield improved annual pretax operating results starting in 2023.

The two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding "to investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles."

"Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society," Hackett said in a statement. "It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility."

Diess said the two sides will "harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world," Diess said. "At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness."

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Meh... VW gets outa having to develop a next generation Amorak and Crafter, and maybe Ford gets the next generation Transporter. No wonder the stock market is underwhelmed...

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19 minutes ago, Maxidyne said:

Meh... VW gets outa having to develop a next generation Amorak and Crafter, and maybe Ford gets the next generation Transporter. No wonder the stock market is underwhelmed...

Not the full-size Crafter, but rather than dated mid-sized Transporter.

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Is this letting the fox in the henhouse????

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2 hours ago, Dirtymilkman said:

Is this letting the fox in the henhouse????

Nah- as Neville Chamberlain thought-"these are honorable foxes"  And the dieselgate fiasco?  Those at the very top who knew what was going on have learned a good lesson and we can rest easy that there is a new culture at VW....😴

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Farley says Ford, VW alliance could eventually include U.S. project

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 15, 2019

DETROIT — The budding alliance between Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group eventually could include a vehicle program in the U.S., said Jim Farley, Ford's president of global markets.

The two sides on Tuesday announced a broad partnership under which Ford will build commercial vans for VW in Europe and midsize pickups in South America, Europe and Africa, among other things. The plans don't include selling any vehicles in the U.S. — at least not yet.

"We're still talking," Farley said Tuesday.

The two sides also are exploring tie-ups on autonomous and electric vehicle development.

Farley on Tuesday evening reiterated that the two companies will not merge and are not seeking equity stakes in each other.

"When we did an inventory of all the lessons we've learned as a company on our partnerships and joint ventures, it was a really pithy list and in that was 'pick the right projects,'" he said. "If you pick the wrong projects, it doesn't matter how hard everyone works; things could — and have — gone south."

Farley said both companies' product cadence matched up well. They anticipate launching the vans and pickups as early as 2022.

"The product timings are perfect for both companies," he said. "What happens next will be based on that criteria."

Ford's partnership with VW comes as it seeks to turn around its struggling business in Europe. Ford last week announced plans to cut thousands of workers and eliminate low-profit vehicles.

Farley on Tuesday said the VW deal "will help Europe but won't save Europe" for Ford and reiterated the need to restructure now so it can work toward making a profit again. Ford Europe operated in the black for three consecutive years, from 2015 through 2017, but anticipates posting a loss for 2018.

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VW, Ford eye low-cost Turkey, Poland production to boost profits in lucrative van market

Nick Gibbs, Automotive News  /  January 16, 2019

Ford likely will build mid-size vans for Volkswagen in Turkey while VW will produce compact vans in Poland as the two automakers jointly develop commercial vans to tap into a lucrative market that each automaker was too small to effectively compete in on their own.

VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said Ford's factory in Turkey that builds the Transit vans is "an option" for VW's Transporter midsize vans.

Such a move would mean VW transferring production of its T6 vans from Hanover, Germany, to Turkey and the next Transporter moving to a Ford platform using Ford engines.

VW is in discussions with labor representatives in Hanover about the change, Diess said on Tuesday, as Ford and VW announced details of their partnership.

Germany's Handelblatt said VW likely will continue to build T6 passenger vans continue in Hanover while panel vans for businesses would transfer to Turkey.

VW needs to free up capacity in Hanover after announcing in November that it will build the I.D. Buzz retro-styled minibus at the factory, with production likely starting in 2022.

Ford and VW plan to launch vans in 2023 to replace the current Transit and the Transporter vans.

VW will build a new compact van to replace both the VW Caddy and the Transit Connect at VW's plant in Poland, where the automaker produces the Crafter large van, Handelsblatt reported. The new van would use VW engines.

Ford will build a midsize pickup to replace the VW Amarok to sold alongside a new Ford Ranger starting in 2022.

The models will be sold in Europe, South America and Africa, the companies said. No production location was given. Ford currently builds the European Ranger in South Africa.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles CEO Thomas Sedran said that "clear decisions" on production locations have not yet been made.

To be competitive "the more production we have in the low-cost countries the better, and of course Turkey and Poland are both very competitive," Sedran said.

Diess said VW and Ford would see similar savings from the commercial vehicle partnership by helping spread the cost of future technology and also making savings on product development.  "It's mitigation against potential cost increases because of the new drivetrains we need for the electrification in this segment and also the CO2 penalties we are facing," he said.

Rising demand

Unlike the slowing passenger-car market, demand for light commercial vehicles is on the rise. Global output will increase by 12 percent in the next five years, forecaster LMC Automotive says. The business commands higher profit margins. Ford has said profit margins on its European van range run at 13 percent.

Ford's head of global markets, Jim Farley, said on Tuesday he expected Ford to make a pretax profit gain of $500 million annually by 2024 once the joint vehicles were on sale.

Together VW and Ford could become the industry's highest-volume global collaboration in that market, they say. In Europe, the two companies combined build more light commercial vehicles than PSA Group, Renault-Nissan and Fiat Chrysler, all of which are currently larger, according to LMC.

With VW taking over production of compact vans, Ford's factory in Valencia, Spain, would lose the Transit Connect, the only van Ford does not build for Europe in Turkey. The plant also makes the Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy, three models thought to be under threat as Ford looks to cut unprofitable lines. Ford announced in 2017 an investment of 750 million euros for the plant to build the next-generation Kuga compact SUV. The current Kuga accounts for around half the output of the plant.

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Our 2003 Explorer was getting long in the tooth and finally gave up the ghost around Thanksgiving. We had previously done research and testing on comparable new mid-size 7 passenger replacement vehicles. We did not like the current Explorers in almost any respect and ended up going with a new '18 Dodge Durango, which was the closest in design and feel to our '03 Explorer.

If the newly redesigned Explorers were out, we'd have looked at Ford again, but they weren't. Either way, we are very pleased so far with this new Durango.

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