Mr. Ford: It’s Called a “Market”

So the eponymous CEO of Ford Motors, Inc., went before Congress to argue for tax breaks to encourage “investment” in more fuel-efficient vehicles. Choice quote;

Bill Ford said more action was needed to stimulate the development of hybrid vehicles and those powered by ethanol.

Um. Mr. Ford, sales of the Toyota Prius should have stimulated your development of hybrid vehicles four years ago. If the best you can come up with is licensing their older technology for existing products that don’t sell well, then you aren’t familiar with the term “investments”. Investments are made by the market in places where it can actually generate a return. The problem is, you’ve been developing crap that nobody wants, because apparently you use Homer Simpson as your market tester. You stubbornly hung on to SUV production even as your lunch was being eaten everywhere else. Instead of using that profit to shore up your other lines, you bet the farm on a type of car that any schmuck could have told you would disappear the second gas prices got even a little high.

You don’t need any tax breaks to do what your competition has been doing: innovating. You might be surprised to know that innovation doesn’t happen in Congress, it happens in the lab. If you can’t get money from the markets because you’ve proven you can’t sell air conditioners to Floridians, well, that may be a signal that you don’t have what it takes. The only thing that’s going to turn that around is to plunge all your R&D effort into finding something that someone will buy. All the images of farmers driving F-250s is great, except that less than 3% of the population of the US is involved in farming.

Your customers don’t need tax breaks either. In fact, since the Prius costs so much, it’s arguably people to whom tax breaks least matter that have been buying them. Here’s a thought: make a really slick version of your Focus with decent handling, a nice interior, amenities, and a hybrid engine, and go toe-to-toe with Toyota. Or take the Focus, strip it down even more, find a way to make a hybrid engine cheaper, and start taking out the Echo market. Or ignore hybrids and use composite materials to make your mid-sized cars get better mileage by reducing their weight. Try joining the rest of the universe and bring back a sport wagon instead of Yet Another SUV. Let your European designers style your American cars. Fire anybody who was on the US Contour design team.

See, there are lots of things you could do to stimulate fuel efficiency. You don’t need anybody’s permission. I don’t know if anybody told you, but you’re CEO–you can actually make this stuff happen if you want it. Try it! Give an order right now. Ask for coffee. See? Look at that power.

Do it, convince people that you can actually build something that people want to buy that is fuel efficient. And do it back in Detroit, not DC.

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