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Ford to review all products

2006-10-24 11:30

Poornima Gupta

Ford is committed to a review of all its products and brands as the No. 2 US automaker tries to turn around its North American operations, according to Chief Executive, Alan Mulally.

The automaker will "look at the entire product portfolio, at the investment decisions, to make the entire portfolio productive," Mulally told Reuters in an interview after the automaker posted a $5.8 billion third-quarter loss. "I think that integrated look is going to be really good for Ford."

When asked if the review will include domestic brands such as Mercury, Mulally said "yes."

Ford has been criticized for not moving fast enough to align its vehicle lineup with changing consumer tastes.

Some analysts have suggested Ford drop its Mercury brand and sell its money-losing luxury Jaguar nameplate as it tries to return to profits through a sweeping restructuring - its third attempt in five years - that includes cutting nearly 45 000 employees and closing 16 plants.

Mulally, a former Boeing executive who took over as CEO from Bill Ford Jr. on September 5, said the company will keep making incremental changes to the revised plan dubbed "Way Forward" that was announced last month.

Mulally said he looks at the status of Ford's restructuring every Thursday in his weekly business plan review with senior executives.

"We look at the metrics of the business environment, travel, GDP growth, new housing starts, economy," Mulally said. "Then we move to our strategy and then we move to the plan, which includes most of the elements of the income statement and the balance sheet."

Credited for turning around Boeing's commercial airplane business, Mulally said the idea is to keep tabs on the business environment so that the automaker can refine its present restructuring plan.

Ford will be making "continuous quality improvement in the plan," he said.

Mulally is also focused on Ford's product pipeline, which so far has been dominated by large pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles.

Analysts and dealers have said that Ford needs to make a bigger push into areas it has been neglecting far too long - fuel-efficient passenger cars and "crossover" vehicles that are lighter SUVs built on car platforms.

High gas prices have cut deeply into demand for Ford's profitable SUVs, like the Explorer, and the company's market-leading F-Series pickup truck models are competing in the most-heavily discounted part of the market.

"The second part of the (restructuring) plan is to make sure that we have a very good product development plan to make the products that our customers really want going forward," Mulally said.


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