The hot topic this past week was Ford’s revelation that it plans to jettison traditional passenger cars — Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Taurus — in the U.S. to concentrate on bread-and-butter trucks and crossover/SUVs. Every post we’ve had on the topic has generated a ton of comments from readers, most of whom seem to think it’s a bad idea. If you’ve got an opinion, chime in below.
But before you criticize, here’s a piece of data out this month that might help you see Ford’s point of view: In the first three months of this year, light trucks and SUVs (and a smattering of vans) made up a 66.6 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales. That’s right, just a third of sales were passenger cars.
Vehicle trends change, and sure, this one could too someday, but for now the market’s tough for sedans. So Ford will sell trucks and crossovers/SUVs, and if a vehicle isn’t a truck or SUV, Ford may try hard to dress it up like one. Meanwhile, in the absence of smaller, frugal cars, Ford plans to make its trucks and SUVs — the vehicles people are actually buying — more fuel efficient.
That strategy sounded awfully familiar — we read it in another news story last week. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt got grilled on the Hill for five hours last week, in a congressional hearing ostensibly about EPA budget and business, but which delved into the many ethics investigations into Pruitt’s conduct. But between his explanations for all that, he did get a word in edgewise about his intention to derail the Obama administration’s goals for automaker fleet fuel efficiency in 2020-25. (Latest trial balloon is a freeze on the CAFE standards throughout that period):
“We ought to endeavor as a country to set standards for lower emissions on cars that people actually want to buy,” Pruitt said. “And what’s happened is we’ve created these arbitrary levels that has put a certain sector of cars in the marketplace that no one is purchasing, which means they stay on older vehicles and it defeats the purpose of the rule.”
Make the vehicles people are buying — trucks, SUVs — more efficient. Ignore the sector nobody is buying — fuel-efficient cars. Sounds exactly like Ford’s plan. And it’s a play that certainly has worked well for FCA, so well in fact that the automaker is close to retiring its debt.
Final word on Ford trucks: We reviewed the new F-150 Power Stroke diesel and F-150 4×4 XLT, and gave you tips for picking a rig for towing and hauling.
Another highlight of the week: Porsches. Our Senior Editor Alex Kierstein traveled to the Isle of Man to drive a family reunion of Porsche 911 RS cars, from the original through the current GT3 RS. And our contributor Jason Harper, meanwhile, joined Le Mans champion Mark Webber and flung a Weissach GT3 RS hard into the Nürburgring. Oh, and it was Luftgekühlt week — we showed you the coolest of the air-cooled.
Finally, two stories that proved grownups can still be 8-year-old boys inside: First, the Tesla owner who recklessly set Autopilot and then abandoned the driver’s seat. Second, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s personal potty car, proving that everybody poops, even dictators. That one has been our most-read story three days running, and though, yes, it does fascinate us all with its offbeat scatalogical weirdness, it’s also a story with a serious side: It shows just how threatened North Korea feels by the U.S. and the West, imposing secrecy even on Kim’s bowel movements. The coming weeks of nuclear negotiations are going to be interesting.
For more wrap-up on the week that was, check out the latest Autoblog Podcast.