Thursday

Abbott & Costello Running Ford?


Who's on first, what's on second, and I don't know's on third, said Abbott and Costello. You have to wonder if the same thought process is happening at Ford.

Just last week Ford continued its bragging about how successful the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego and Ford Freestyle models were and how they were planning on doing even better with the 2008 models. Now, in a verbal turnaround that probably left their advertising department spinning, those three model names are gone.

Ford has announced that, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the Taurus name is back. So is the Mercury Sable. And there's a new Taurus "X" model. Oh, these aren't new cars really, they just new names for vehicles already made and called the Five Hundred, Montego and Freestyle. Apparently Blue Oval HQ tossed the chromed labels in the trash can and ordered up some new versions. The old model names are going on the same vehicles they were already building under the new model names. After all, iron is iron.

The Ford Five Hundred will be called the Taurus. The Mercury Montego will be called the Sable. The Freestyle "crossover" will be called the Taurus "X" vehicle. But Ford says it won't be cutting any prices.

"Honestly, we never should have walked away from the tremendous equity we built in the Taurus and Sable names," said Mark Fields, a Ford corporate office. The Taurus nameplate first came out in 1985 and the model was a top seller from '92 to '96, then dropping off steadily as the Toyota Camry picked up steam. Finally, in 2006, it was only built for Hertz and other fleet sales and all production stopped in October. But they must have a lot of chromed Taurus nameplates left over...

The part that's puzzling is the continual shifting of marketing strategies at Blue Oval HQ. After investing millions in the new nameplates, trying to build brand recognition and customer appreciation for its new models, a light bulb comes on ( a "better idea" ?) and management decides to switch tracks. Of course, others have also wondered why Ford's advertising department spends money the way they do.

You can almost hear the board room conversation. "Let's dump those new names and resurrect the old ones. After all, people still remember them and it doesn't really matter what piece of metal we slap it on! Metal's metal and money's money!"

Why didn't someone think of that before they spent millions of dollars advertising some names that would only end up in the trash can? Ford doesn't have that kind of money to throw around anymore and if this board of directors doesn't realize that pretty soon, the stockholders may find someone else who will.

Maybe Abbott & Costello really are running Ford. It sure looks like it from the street...