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Dear Ford Motor Company,

I do not want all US automobile companies to go bankrupt, and I have given up on General Motors and Chrysler-if-it-is-bought-out-by-US-owners. So that leaves you.

Why don't I want all US automobile companies to go bankrupt? Because, like it or not, the US economy is presently addicted to automobiles. That means that collapse of all US domiciled car makers will leave us dependent on foreign corporations for innovation that is vital to our medium term, and possibly long term, economic health.

So, a couple of ideas about how you can save your company, below the fold.

{NB. rotate US auto companies that I have given up on for Open Letters to GM and Chrysler}

So, Ford has adopted Sustainability as a Corporate Goal:

"Welcome to our 2005/6 Sustainability Report. At Ford Motor Company, we have made sustainability a long-term strategic business priority. Sustainability issues touch every aspect of the economies in which we operate. This report explains our strategic thinking and details progress and performance against our Business Principles."

In this part of exurban / outer suburban Northeast Ohio, heavily indoctrinated into buying the absurdly large American SUV, hybrid Ford Escapes now seem to be one of the most popular hybrid vehicles. This is a 3,782 pound curb weight monstrosity that passes for a "smallish" SUV, which relies on hybrid technology to haul the mass around for a claimed 34mpg ... with 30mpg observed by the Auto Channel.

Now, in calling this a monstrosity, I don't want to suggest that it is especially monstrous. Compared to the egregious evil of the 6,400 pound, 15mpg (combined) Hummer, or even the grotesquely outsized 5,800 pound 13-16 mpg Ford Expedition, the Ford Escape qualifies as a fairly mundane, banal evil.

But, really, is that the best that can be done? Yes, 2.2 gallons per hundred passenger miles is better than the 4.4 gallons that the Expedition burns through per hundred passenger miles ... but its still 10 times the fuel consumption of an electric commuter train, and when gasoline hits $10/gallon, 34mpg is not going to be nearly good enough.

Ford's Smallest Vehicle

Now, there is an obvious path from here. Ford pushes this generation of parallel Hybrid technology across into selected broad vehicle markets ... a sedan, a crossover, and a pickup. And at the same time, develop a fully electric drive train in preparation for a fully serial hybrid with high efficiency fixed speed flex-fuel gasoline and/or diesel engine, with ongoing improvements in battery technology leading to a pluggable hybrid as an evolutionary step up.

And as that is obvious, I am not going to dwell on any of that. None of those grabs the American psyche by the short hairs and says, "my, goodness, Ford has something there". And none of them are going to be absolutely flying off the lot when gasoline hits $10 a gallon.

The first revolutionary vehicle, already diaried by a siegel, is the Venture series from Venture One:

VentureOne is not producing these yet ... and that is just the point. They are developing the vehicle, they have obtained rights to the technology they need to bring out all electric and hybrid versions of the gasoline powered Carver ... but to put it into production, they will need more than the technology and the design. They have a business model based on establishing local production facilities in their target markets ... but still, as you well know, production facilities will need to be established, component suppliers will need to be lined up, and perhaps most importantly dealership and repair networks will need to be established.

And of course, as part of its serious decline in this decade, Ford Motor Company has substantial mothballed production sites, and an established dealership network that is going to be absolutely hammered if gas hits $5/gallon, let alone $10/gallon.

This is a perfect joint venture opportunity. Ford's nameplate brings this vehicle instant credibility in the establishment motoring press, while Ford's dealership network brings the vehicle into view straight across middle America. And the nagging worry concern about any niche vehicle - "where will I get it serviced" ... becomes a windfall profit center for Ford's dealership networks during the period while independent service centers are tooling up to repair the vehicle.

And over it all ... even for people that only see it running down the Interstate ... its just so fracking cool ... like it escaped from twenty years in the future, as proof positive of Ford's survival in 2030 A.D.

This is, in other words, not just a dinosaur getting a modest amount more efficient. This is a nimble little mammal, able to take on the impact of $10/gallon gasoline and laugh in its face.

Keeping the Dream Alive

On an entirely different tack, when gasoline hits $10/gallon, what happens to the great American tradition of packing up the camper and heading off for a great escape?

This is something that I am conscious of because my mother is retired, and her husband retires in about a year, and they have been looking for some kind of camper to make it less expensive to go to autoharp / dulcimer type music festivals. And while they do not require a massive living room and kitchen, they do require a comfortable bed and workable bathroom facilities.

And that means that when they settle on something, maybe an A-liner,  maybe a hardshell pop-up, there is a minimum size (and therefore maximum MPG) of vehicle they'll need to haul it. And then, because, they do not have unlimited money, they'll be using that vehicle for everyday use ... going to the grocery store, driving to church on Sunday.

Now, the extra towing capacity is only going to be needed when towing. But ... well, here is the idea. If the vehicle happened to be a full serial pluggable hybrid, then the power generator would not normally be running all the time. That is, after all, the point.

So, suppose that there was an extra battery and additional electric motors in the trailer? A power and network hook-up could let the trailer know when to push ... and, of course, when to brake. It, of course, would not be driving at the speed of the towing car ... simply driving enough so that a smaller car could tow it.

I do want to point out something important: this is not something that Japan will invent for us. We have to invent it for ourselves. And the first car maker to bring it to market will establish the interface standard for the camping trailer makers ... indeed, it may well make a few standard chassis for the camper trailer makers, which the camper trailer makers can finish as they wish ... and that will provide them with a head start on the competition in selling their hybrid cars into the niche of people who want a camper trailer, but also want a lighter weight, more fuel-efficient vehicle to drive around when they are not towing.


So, how about it, Ford? Are you ready to jump into the future? Or are you going to content yourself with being dragged into the future, and risk the total collapse of your business when $5/gallon and then $10/gallon hits us before we are ready to cope.

Virtually Yours,

Dr. BruceMcF (Economic)
Northeast Ohio

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 03:47 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Stamp fund donation jar. (23+ / 0-)

    Come on, I am poor as a church mouse, its not like I can afford stamps. Drop your contribution into the appropriate slot below. and Energize America

    by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 03:51:12 PM PDT

    •  Do you accept S&H green Stamps? n/t (3+ / 0-)

      "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

      As if it matters, I have not announced support for any candidate. Jug

      by JugOPunch on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:09:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm sorry but what IS that? (0+ / 0-)
      It look like a covered motorcycle. I'm sure THAT will be safe and practical in rush hour traffic on I-90 heading out to Lakewood or Rocky River or Bay Village. The guy pictured is dragging his hand on the ground! Or is that just for show? As for electric light rail -- in CLEVELAND? Surely you jest. We have damn fool commissioners who want us to pay $42 million a year for something they have no plan for. I wish there were some prescient minds running this community but -- alas.

      We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

      by anastasia p on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 05:29:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  To start off with ... that guy is just showing .. (0+ / 0-)

        ... off ... if you can't read the banner, its " ; Speed Matters".

        And yes, its a covered motorcycle, except its a three wheeler and the back two wheels stay flat while the front tilts when you steer it like a car and you are surrounded by a crash cage and can buckle in, and it runs on electricity or electric/gas hybrid. But other than that, like a covered three wheel motorcycle.

        And as for electric light rail in Cleveland? I do not recall mentioning it, but it is no joke ... once gas hits $5/gallon to $10/gallon, all of a sudden people in Cleveland will start running to catch up to what people in more forward looking cities are already doing.

        Any city of 1 million will be wanting a rapid transit trunk and connecting light rail lines. and Energize America

        by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 08:09:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Dear consumers: If you hadn't been willing (9+ / 0-)

    to overpay for SUVs and underpay for cars, your domestic car companies wouldn't have fallen all over themselves to build SUVs.

    Dear consumers, you are now starting to get with the program just a little bit: The New Beetle and Mini Cooper are small and fuel-efficient, and both appear to be profitable for their manufacturers, both German.

    If you'd been willing to stump up a decent price for the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cobalt and Dodge Neon, you'd have a wider and better selection of domestic cars that pass the BruceMcF test.

    I find your behavior obscene. Just thought I'd drop a line to let you know.

    By the way, my other car is a Superliner.

    Very truly yours,

    ticket punch

    I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.

    by ticket punch on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:03:47 PM PDT

    •  BTW, my other car is a bike. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JekyllnHyde, OrdinaryGal

      ... an old Schwinn 3-speed.

      And my first car is a cheap department store 15-speed pseudo-mountain bike (hardtail). But I'm hoping to be able to get an 18-speed rear shock soon. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:12:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Or saying it another way, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JekyllnHyde, WV Democrat

      If any of the big three brought those cars (New Beetle and Mini Cooper) to market, they would have been expected to price them around 13K or lower instead of the insane 20k plus that they are priced.

      Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

      by MI Sooner on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:22:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  P/T cruiser much (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, MI Sooner

        Chrysler came out with a couple of retro mobiles (initially as Plymouth before axing that line.)

        The Cruiser was neon based and could sell at that $20000 mark when fresher (it's what 7 years old now?) and the Prowler which sold in the thirties and higher.  If you build a desirable product people will nibble.

        COnversely selling Cobalts/Cavaliers, neons and Fusions has proven tougher.  Its pretty sad that Ford underpins label mates the Mazda 3 and the Volvo S40/V40 with better goods than the focus.  Apparently people won't pay the extra on a Ford.  (Why they don't simply sell the higher zoot model as a Mercury is beyond me but I'm not brand manager.)

        •  Why there are no hatchback Mercurys (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MI Sooner

          It's not going to be so easy to sell the top dollar Mercuries when the neighbor's punk kid has a riced-out Mercury Focus with neons and a fart can in the next driveway.  Your dealership isn't going to look too classy with a bunch of teeny-boppin guys hanging out there, making gangsta signs at each other while their stupid-pants fall down around their ankles.

          •  they had one (0+ / 0-)

            It was a Mercury Courgar; I had one -- it sucked.  It was first and last ford product I bought.  Back to Mopar with me!  Bought it on A-Plan.

            Ps.  My sister replaced her neon with a PT Cruiser, and she still loves it.

            Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

            by MI Sooner on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 06:08:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Nice post and hello from Summit County. With all (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, highacidity, BruceMcF

    of the auto company's infrastructure, one would think they could get beyond the "not invented here" syndrome.

    "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

    As if it matters, I have not announced support for any candidate. Jug

    by JugOPunch on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:05:23 PM PDT

    •  With some of the losers they had running ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... the place, I would doubt it, but at least a couple of the senior clowns have moved on to do their damage elsewhere ... maybe there is a glimmer of hope.

      I wonder if they will answer the letter ... it looks like I am collecting a little bit of mojo to spend on a stamp. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:21:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  they are using Toyota hybrid technology (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JekyllnHyde, JeffW

      in the escape.  I think they are probably screwing up by not having fuel efficient models available.  A lot of engine technology has effectively been wasted on horsepower that could have gone into fuel efficiency.  But that's true of all the automakers, not just the american ones.

      That being said, they might not be able to profitably sell a hybrid that competes with the Prius.  Honda couldn't do it.  I'd like to see them with a hybrid van.

      It's funny that the diarist mentions $10 gas, since I figure we'll see that number before my Prius wears out.  We're shopping for a car for my wife to replace the Pontiac minivan.  My kids want my wife to get another gas hog.  I really want her to get a Prius.  I may settle for one of the Toyota hybrid minivans.  At least that way she will not be wasting so much gas waiting for the stoplights here in town.  There are a ton of them, and they are timed to stop almost all traffic (for misguided safety reasons I believe).

      •  As I said, spreading out the Escape ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JugOPunch, JeffW

        ... level hybrid to other niches is straightforward enough, and given the way they bet their company's future on the SUV over the last decade, starting with a smallish SUV was certainly a defensible decision.

        And they have to be getting working on serial hybrid technology, so they can go to high efficiency fixed speed engines, and so they are on track for pluggable hybrids.

        But that alone is just thinking in terms of $3/gallon to $5/gallon gas. This diary is really about thinking about the very real risk on the upside of that, sometime in the next five to ten years. and Energize America

        by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 05:09:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just posted a diary on THE ELEVENTH HOUR (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, highacidity, BruceMcF

    and this seems to be right down the alley of all things that consume much less fossil fuel, so I'm recommending your diary as another great example of how human ingenuity combined with necessity (in your case $10/per gal oil) can create a way to save an old dinosaur of a company like Ford.

  •  Ford, Chrysler and GM are capable of designing (8+ / 0-)

    very high mpg cars. It involves some serious changes in the market. The bottom line is that the cars will be much lighter and made out of composites, carbon fiber being used as reinforcing. They will be smaller, more expensive and last longer. This is a very different paradigm than they and the public are used to. In order to get there, they will need a level playing field and that requires rules set by the government. They could be very simple rules, perhaps 50 mpg CAFE by 2015. The car companies have demonstrated an amazing turn about on CO2 and fuel efficiency. I'd say that they are now ahead of Washington.

    The car that most families should be driving in 2015 would be a 5 passenger carbon hybrid weighing 1500 lbs, getting greater than 50 mpg overall, and more crash worthy than the current steel tanks. It should be a plug-in hybrid, relying on miserly amounts of carbon based fuel on long trips.

    How do I know this? I'm not going to give anything away, but I'm 100% confident that I could lead a design team to develop such a car and meet those goals.

    •  Note that the VentureOne is not ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... a steel panel vehicle (though I don't know whether its a steel or aluminum crash cage), so Ford entering into a joint venture with VentureOne on producing the vehicle is a way to get access to additional experience of producing with lightweight materials. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:18:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Prius is not a small vehicle (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GayHillbilly, highacidity, BruceMcF

      and it could easily get 50 MPG for all drivers given a little less throttle authority.  Obviously, the real fanatics that drive annoyingly get more mpg with the car in it's current tuning.

      The really sad part of the whole mess we are in with gas standards is that our cars have much higher horsepower than they did even 15 years ago.  I have a Taurus SHO with a fairly exotic normally aspirated 3 liter engine that developed 200 hp that ford was very proud of even though it was made by Yamaha.  That was more than enough HP to get in serious trouble with.  Now it's common to see 260hp engines.  A car like that could easily get by with 150HP, and probably less than 100Hp.  Granted, it would be boring, but cars stopped entertaining me when I realized that stomping on the gas pedal was shortening the number of years that I could actually afford to stomp on the gas pedal.  And it would get a lot better gas mileage

    •  Volt will do it without composites (0+ / 0-)

      Seems like GM has it covered without resorting to exotic and expensive building materials.

      •  If and when... (0+ / 0-)

        ...GM builds it.

        I ain't holdin' my breath!

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

        by JeffW on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 07:22:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But they will move to composites down the track . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Wizard

        ... OTOH, as we proceed, they will stop being exotic and expensive. and Energize America

        by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 08:11:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Light weight strong composite panels (0+ / 0-)

          The probably material of choice will be thermoformable structural composite panels. The panels have a light weight core and carbon fiber reinforcement in the skins and are shaped in molds under pressure and temperature. The panels arrive a flat sections, prefinished. It will remain to be determined as to whether the pre-finish is acceptable or whether a final painting is needed. It would be very desirable to eliminate painting. Unlike some composite panels currently in use, as in the Corvette, these panels are lighter, stiffer and stronger.

    •  how long would it take? (0+ / 0-)

      it sounds like you are on the "inside."

      We have been told, via marketing programs, that bigger is better, that more horsepower is better, that brute force is better, more manly, more this, that, ... and more Amurican.

      If you were given the charge (if what I inferred were true), in the few years it would take to bring this car to market, Ford (or other) would have sufficient time to set an entirely new American perception of cars...
      that more efficient is smarter, that smarter is better, that they were going to be the new leaders of the transportation manufacturing industry.

      It requires a realistic plan for the company for the next twenty years.  The management and board can either run around scrounging profit off this model and that, or set the tone for a shift that has to happen.

      I hope they do.

      Instead of lobbying Congress to keep CAFE standards low, they should blow it out of the water, and boast about it in their PR campaigns.  How about lobbying congress for High Efficiency Vehicle Lanes?  HOV was a nice step, but if a car averages over 40mpg, it should be pre-certified (nationally) for "HEV" lanes.  

      Municipalities want to raise some fine cash? Reserve the left lane for HEVs, fine the offenders.  Truckers have lived in the two right lanes of a three lane highway for years...

      Last November I thought I helped elect a new congress, but all I got was this rubber stamp.

      by netguyct on Mon Aug 20, 2007 at 12:13:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good idea but.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, Bronx59, JeffW

    Ford Motor Company has many issues not the least of which is their dependence on large vehicles, which was covered.  The problems with the vehicle that you document above are numerous.  Let me focus on the area of safety -- my area of expertise.  Any vehicle that comes off of an assembly line must pass several tests from NHTSA -- the feds.  These tests focus on crash survivability.  the vehicle above would not pass the current regs as they are written.  (I wont mention the insurance tests, which are just as difficult to pass.)

    For the country to move to the type of vehicle that you show above, this would mean more of a paradigm shift for the country to move to that type of vehicle not a company product delivery.

    for what its worth...

    Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

    by MI Sooner on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:16:50 PM PDT

    •  The VentureOne does not actually HAVE to meet ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JekyllnHyde, GayHillbilly

      ... all those standards, being a three-wheeler, but it is being designed to comply with most auto-level safety standards ... it is designed with a crash cage, for example. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:19:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not quite (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        A crash cage is a structural device not a safety device.  Safety, in automotive terms, realy means restraints such as airbags, etc.  The federal regs are based on reducing occupant injury and not a particular design.  The insurance guys add on repair cost to the occupant's survivability.

        Born in Oklahoma Raised in Ohio Escaped to Meechigan!!!

        by MI Sooner on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:30:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But its not an automobile ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JekyllnHyde, GayHillbilly

          ... or are they requiring air bags on Harley's now?

          I was not referring to devices, I was referring to safety standards. The crash cage ... as described by VentureOne, so this is part of their sales pitch ... is to meet crash test standards. I think the front wheel / nose cone assembly is also designed to pitch under rather than into the passenger compartment.

 and Energize America

          by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:37:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Bruce, you're always a step ahead of me on this (0+ / 0-)

    Hubby's cousins's husband works for Ford and is one of the people being affected by the unpredicatable changes and probably quarterly this last twelve months. The politicians need to talk to the workers.

    "I had planned to buy that book The Power of Positive Thinking, then I realized, what good could that do?" author unknown

    by OrdinaryGal on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 04:54:55 PM PDT

  •  Another innovative car (0+ / 0-)

    Check this out:

    The NmG all-electric vehicle

    It's a single passenger car that runs on electricity with a range of about 30 miles. I just wish it was less than $27k, but hopefully that will come with time.

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

    by WV Democrat on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 06:09:49 PM PDT

  •  Easier said than done (0+ / 0-)

    Toyota's next generation hybrids will get 100MPG

  •  I had heard... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that Ford was contemplating a hybrid Focus. Say
    what you will, but my 2001 ZX3 has done pretty well,
    only racking up a big bill recently due to wear and
    tear on the rear shocks, tires, and three sensors.

    Lately, however, I've heard nothing about the hybrid
    Focus, and Ford is discontinuing the hatchbacks.


    In a lighter vein, Calamity Jean wanted to do a bit of surveying at the end of this past week on the farm, so she rented an Escape XLT. If I needed an SUV, I'd probably buy the hybrid version of this beast. The XLT had the necessary space to carry my old automatic level, the level rod, tripod, hand auger, an extension pipe, some stools, a bucket of tools, our overnight bags, and the two of us, BTW. And the gound clearance allowed Jean to drive her parents around the property for a 10-cent tour.

    However, what I will need in a couple of years is a
    hybrid pickup: I'd like a plug-in model. With a diesel engine and a particulate filter, too.

    Ford Motor Company, are you listening?

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

    by JeffW on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 06:32:03 PM PDT

    •  Yes, if they have any sense, they will listen ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... to this part:

      However, what I will need in a couple of years is a hybrid pickup: I'd like a plug-in model. With a diesel engine and a particulate filter, too.

      ... a high efficiency, high compression, fixed speed diesel engine in a PHEV will be great ... and plus, its already a flex-fuel engine, since pretty much any diesel engine can run biodiesel. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 08:13:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only if... (0+ / 0-)'re emailing FoMoCo's brass a link to your diary, Bruce.

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

        by JeffW on Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 09:04:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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