Sales of Ford Motor Company’s trademark pick-up trucks and SUVs were down 28% for the month of June, sending the DOW plunging into bear territory again, along with news of the worst inflation yet this year and oil prices today nipping at $143 per barrel. It’s sad really, but also more than a bit maddening.
I’m old enough to remember Ford’s slogan from bygone (and definitely better) days:
Ford Has a Better Idea!
Here and now I want to say to Ford, cool, let’s have it! Time for that better idea guys, and let’s make it snappy, shall we? Because so far, all I’m seeing is lots of panic and punditry, lots of CEO dithering and blathering, but a noticeable dearth of those famed better ideas. It’s as though the whole country has become mesmerized with helplessly watching the steady upward movement of oil prices, kind of like in those old black and white cartoons where some cute loopy farm animals lay around and wipe their brows as the temperature climbs higher and higher and the mercury finally busts out the top of the thermometer with funny sound effects.
I got an email from Common Cause today, which informed me that the 1927 Ford Model-T got 20 miles to the gallon, and the 2007 Ford Taurus gets 28 miles to the gallon.
That’s an improvement of 8 miles to the gallon in 80 years.
Now I know that designing automobiles is hard and complicated stuff and girls just can’t possibly understand it, (especially girls like me who work in call center bank jobs), and that we should really leave these issues to guys with engineering degrees and pocket protectors and CEOs in expensive suits, and not try to butt in where we don’t belong. Still, I’m thinking 80 years is enough time. They’ve had their chance and then some. I’m thinking that at this point, even a bunch of girls could definitely can do better than an 8 mpg improvement. It wouldn’t even have to be a bunch of particularly brilliant girls.
Seriously, we could set it up like on of those dippy reality show competitions that are all over cable TV right now, (there are, for example, dog groomer reality show competitions, interior designer reality show competitions, cooking host competitions…you name it, it’s on cable as a reality show competition). So why not a “design a better Ford” reality show competition, girls only! What do we possibly have to lose?
Say you put Kathy Griffith, Paris Hilton, Cindy McCain, Oprah, and Katie Couric in a little room and said, ” OK girls, here’s the deal: You have eighty years to design a cute inexpensive little car that gets at least 50 miles to the gallon. The first one to come up with a viable design gets out of this little room and wins a Tesla, a gift certificate at Tiffany’s, and a whole new wardrobe from Saks (with Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear not even in the same universe, let alone the same store.)” Here’s a Blackberry, $5000, and some paper for each of you. Have at it and may the best woman win.
I’m telling you, that show would be over in about three episodes, if not sooner. Ford would have its better idea, some lucky girl would have a Tesla, some diamonds, and a new wardrobe, and the day would be saved.
Not that I expect anyone from Ford to pay any attention to me mind you. That ‘you’re welcome’ was sarcasm in case you didn’t pick up on that. You see, I’ve had to interact with Ford Motor Company before, so I know exactly what we’re dealing with here, and trust me, it ain’t pretty.
Let me tell you a story by way of illustration.
In 1991 my mother died and left me a small amount of money. I bought a house and an IMac, and I had just enough left to buy a small car. Now at that time, GM was building a horrible little car called a GEO Prism that got great gas mileage; well over 50 miles to the gallon. It was all over TV, but could I find a single GEO Prism on a single Chevy lot? I could not. I was shown a Cavalier. No, I said, I don’t want a Cavalier, I want a GEO. I went to another dealer who said, “We don’t have any GEOs right now, but if you give me your address and phone number, when we get one in, I’ll personally drive it over to your apartment and let you test drive it before any one else even sees it.”
That was just creepy.
At my third GM dealer, no one would even talk to me. Lots of guys in bad polyester doing not much of anything seemed to be roaming about everywhere, but the very whisper of the word GEO sent them scrambling into their little locked offices.
Fine, I thought, I’ll call Ford. So I did. I called the Ford dealer closest to me and asked for a salesman. I got one. Once the salesman was on the phone I said, “You have a small car called an Escort. Do you have any Escorts on your sales lot right now?” Yes, he said they had a gazillion Escorts. “If I come there right now, with cash, will you sell me one of your gazillion Escorts? And I warn you, don’t toy with me, you are my fourth dealer today, and I’m in no mood for BS.” He assured me he would be beside himself with delight to have the pleasure of selling me a Ford Escort in exchange for my cash money.
Half an hour later, I was driving around in a blue Ford Escort with a balding man in a red polyester leisure suit, who was busy regaling me with tales about what was wrong with each of his former three wives. Finally I stopped the car, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Stop it. I don’t care about your personal life or anything else about you. You are being very inappropriate. Please be quiet and only answer questions I ask you so that I can make this decision.”
We got back to his office. I decided to buy the blue Escort for $12,730. When we sat down to sign the papers, he said that he would have to go talk to his manager about the price. I said, “I’m offering you the sticker price. Don’t tell me that nonsense about your manager. Everyone knows you don’t really talk to your manager, just sell me the car for God’s sake.”
He went to talk to his manager anyway, grinning all the way. Then I saw them both grinning and looking at me. Ha, ha. They knocked $500 off the sticker price (unasked) and threw in an FM radio and cassette player. I said thanks, gimme the car.
About a month later, Ford Motor Company sent me a lovely brochure along with a questionnaire asking me how my recent buying experience went, and how could it be improved? So I told them. In detail. Why on earth, I wrote, do all car dealerships hire these creepy losers to stalk the lots when over 50% of the people buying cars are women? Are you trying to make us hate you? Because if so, it’s working.
I only recount this story to show that 1) Ford doesn’t want to have a better idea, it wants to sell trucks to guys, 2) an affordable car that got over 50 mpg was available over 15 tears ago, so what is the big issue with building one now? and 3) the women of America should forcibly take over Ford Motor Company right now and start running it intelligently while there is still time.
I’m thinking, if their stock falls much farther, taking them over shouldn’t even be all that expensive. It could easily be a bloodless coup, especially if we all wear heels when we show up.
Now, who wants to talk color palettes?