Add a little eXtra to the Frontier and…

My rough Photoshop skills of what I think the Xterra would look like based on the Frontier.

Nissan has launched an all new Frontier mid-size pickup truck. It is not a full size pickup like the Titan. There are mixed reactions to the new Frontier in terms of its capabilities and options. People also think that Nissan is to late to the game in the mid-size truck segment. But, overall, the truck on paper appears to be capable. It looks like a truck should as well, in my opinion, so that helps.

Nissan also recently launched a new Pathfinder. Upon seeing it, I started to think about some reports that I read recently that have indicated Nissan dealers are asking corporate to bring back the Xterra. With the popularity of off-roading and many of Nissans competitors resurrecting iconic nameplates with incredible capabilities, Nissan dealerships are saying customers will buy an Xterra if it were on the showroom floors. They also know they need something to compete with the likes of the Ford Bronco Sport, the Toyota 4 Runner, Land Rover Defender, and others.

I am beginning to see how that can come to fruition based on the new Frontier. I am hoping Nissan thought about this ahead of time and planned accordingly to potentially make an Xterra from the Frontier platform. It would simply be the Frontier without a bed and connected to the cab, as I have demonstrated with the above Photoshop render. The only problem is if the Frontier is innovative enough, to use it as a base for an Xterra, and will it live up the expectations of customers? As controversial as it would be, I think that it would. Nissan can’t wait on this if they want to get money from that market.

While we don’t know what the price of the Frontier is yet, Nissan is very extreme in pricing. They are either incredibly affordable, budget cars or they raise your eyebrows in astonishment to what could justify the high price they are asking. If the Frontier comes in at an appealing price, and sells, then I think they will easily green light an Xterra and we might see a new version on the road within 2 years. What do you think?

Should Models be Brands?

 

The subject of should models become brands has been relevant and important lately. I have had conversations with family and friends about the subject since some have texted me wondering why certain car manufacturers are doing certain business decisions. So, here is my take on should car models become brands.

In 2009, Dodge/Chrysler/Daimler/FCA split off the Ram pickup truck from Dodge and created their own brand from that model. That has been a very successful decision. Hyundai has split Genesis off into its own luxury brand, copying a page from Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti recipe, but also making a brand from a model. Chevrolet has rumored that they might consider making the Corvette a brand in itself. Manufacturers have split models into brands in the past, some have success and some were a failure.

Now, Ford wants to make a Mustang a brand, starting with the all-electric SUV, the Mach E. There is also a rumor that they want to make the Bronco a brand as well. Although, what doesn’t make sense is how they use the Raptor nameplate. They utilize that name for the F-150 Raptor, and Ranger Raptor, but apparently that name will not be utilized to distinguish a more powerful Bronco. A beefy Bronco is rumored to be called a Warthog. Confusing, but whatever.

What Ford should learn though, is they have almost been in this situation before. They had Mercury, that they closed because they couldn’t seem to explain to buyers why they should pay more for a car that is identical to the Ford equivalent. Lincoln almost had the same fate. Hopefully, they have learned from those experiences and don’t mess up a new Mustang or Bronco brand. Toyota and Subaru are also the same boat. They had the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, and the Scion FRS all on the market at one time. And now they are almost doing the same thing, but instead of the Scion available, the Supra has taken that slot. We will have to see how this goes. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan does this with their Z car. Especially with the launch of the new 400Z. The Z name is known by people both with and without automotive knowledge so that would be a good start for them.

What do you think? Should auto manufacturers start making separate brands from their successful models?

Pass the Blue Oval: Collect $20

Our 2012 Ford Focus
This is my wife and I’s 2012 Ford Focus.

Ford just cannot catch a break. Following up from my last blog, between the decision to make only trucks and SUVs, a worldwide pandemic, a damaged parts supplier factory, office member shake ups, the fifth and final issues that will be the focus (pun intended) of this blog is a lawsuit for an issue spanning almost 8 years. This is going to be a very rough 2020 for the big blue oval.

Ford was praised for not taking a government bailout during the 2009 recession. While that was a good thing, and I am supportive of that decision, I think it made them lean in product forecasting and ignorant in mechanical reliability. While they were trying to make good financial decisions, it blinded them to what was coming, which will ultimately end up costing them. The worst part is, you get what you pay for.

Starting in 2011, Ford released the third generation Focus, which lasted until 2018. However, the models made from 2012 to 2016 had a major issue with their transmissions which included shuddering, stuttering, weak acceleration, inability to start or randomly shutting down, among other things. I am the second owner of a 2012 Ford Focus and have personal experience with these issues. The issues started almost immediately after customers purchased the cars back in 2012 and after a number of years, it came out that Ford knew about the issue and was not exactly willing to correct it.

That has lead to a major lawsuit and where customers who have owned or currently own a Ford Focus from 2012 to 2016 have sued Ford for knowingly continued to sell a faulty product. The minimum amount Ford has to pay is $30 million and they have already paid $47 million to some Focus and Fiesta owners up until this point. $77 million dollars is a lot of money, but again, that is the least amount they must pay. When the dust settles, they could be on the hook for as much as $450 million according to some analysts. When it comes down to it, any Ford Focus owner past or present, that meet some pretty minimal criteria, can get at minimum, $20 from Ford. I’ll take a free tank of gas, thank you very much! Some may qualify to have their Focus or Fiesta bought back entirely, which is not cheap. It will be interesting to see what the amount will finally add up to when all is said and done.

That is a big black eye to Fords already hurting circumstances. As I outlined in the last blog, their focus on trucks is an all in bet that there is no going back on. When you look back on 2010, you would have thought they would have invested their money on a better functioning, critical mechanical component of the car. But, they probably didn’t want to spend the money trying to fix it and went years just hoping no legal action would be taken. They made bad parts and made bad decisions, and now they are paying for it. To add insult to injury, they don’t even make that vehicle anymore and yet it has become a pebble in the shoe of their move to trucks and SUV’s plan. Loosing all that money on a car that you no longer make is rough. However, Ford has always found freedom in their F-150, so let’s hope that doesn’t fail them this time around.

*Just to note this lawsuit is not just for the 2012-2016 Ford Focus. It also includes the 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta as well.

Ford for all the Marbles

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Last year Ford announced they would no longer be producing compact, small, mid-size, and large cars. They were changing their long term plan to only produce cross over, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Not long after that announcement, the electric Mach E Mustang was introduced, and that vehicle seems to be the kick off of a new large vehicle line up.

But, this plan might be in serious peril before it even gets started. Let’s break down a few elements that might make Ford’s plan very challenging. Many of these things can change quickly though, as they all are very recent themselves in some regard, so this is my opinion and speculation.

First, the world wide COVID-19 pandemic is absolutely destroying the global economy. Auto manufacturers are taking a beating and sales are almost non existent. With people out of work, it makes it hard to entice people to buy a shiny new expensive pickup truck.

Second, the factory that supplies parts for Ford, Ram, and Toyota trucks was recently damaged by a tornado. While this will hurt Ram and Toyota as well, it made most headlines as interrupting Ford’s production. Since Ford’s entire lineup is mostly large trucks and SUVs and the parts supplier that provides the transmissions for those vehicles is damaged, all the eggs are in one basket and about to break.

Third, oil prices are deep in the red in trading value. While that is great for consumers because prices at the pump are very low, this unfortunately isn’t the time to take advantage of it. A thirsty F-150 can be filled for cheap at the moment, but with all shelter in place guidelines and people out of work, it is unlikely that people are going to be wanting a vehicle that is expensive to fill up in the future.

Fourth; very recently Ford announced that they are wanting to achieve 10 percent profit margins, even through this current circumstances. They have placed Lisa Drake in charge to accomplish that goal. She was in charge of the 2004 launch of the 11th generation F-150. That particular skill is what they are desiring her to perform on because she is also tasked her with increasing awareness of new products being launched, something Ford has struggled with for the past few years. Most notable the newest Ford Explorer botched release.

The next blog will be about the fifth and final blow to the Ford fiasco that is brewing. But with all the issues mentioned above, Ford has put all their chips on the table. SUV’s and trucks that with gas prices low but a worldwide pandemic not facilitating using those vehicles, a damaged factory, and the need to produce and profit within all of these circumstances, it is going to be a tough year for the automotive industry in general but I think Ford will really be feeling a pinch. Although Ford has weathered a lot over the years, so I should stop being so negative. The American spirit will prevail.