Focus challenged as a world car
On the Opinion page of your Aug. 2 issue, under the heading 'Ford learned a lesson,' you stated that ... 'With the new Focus small car, Ford Motor Co. shows it has learned from its world-car mistakes.'
While I agree with your statement that, as a world car, the Ford Contour never found its niche, I question whether Ford has really learned its lesson with the new Focus. I refer to newspaper advertisements quoting the Focus price at $15,999. In the same newspapers are fully equipped 1999 Ford Contours at $10,977 and a new 1999 Taurus LX at $12,875.
I'm not sure what Ford means when it calls the Focus a 'world car,' but unless the pricing strategy changes quickly, who in the world is going to pay these prices? It looks like Ford is going back to school to repeat the Contour lesson.
I am a loyal customer who bought his first new Ford coupe in 1940 and has owned more than 60 Ford Motor Co. vehicles (including three now). It is getting more and more difficult to justify that loyalty when other manufacturers can produce a comparable vehicle at more competitive prices. As we get older, we get more cost-conscious. Thus endeth the lesson!
L. LEE HAZELWOOD
The writer is the retired vice president and general manager of Truckway Service Inc.
Hail, Martinez; boo, Nader
Kudos to Dr. Ricardo Martinez for putting Ralph Nader down (Automotive News, Oct. 18). Martinez said, 'I have little tolerance for those who just stand by and criticize. I can't think of anything that he (Nader) has done to help the agency (NHTSA).'
Martinez's retirement as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Administration leaves very large shoes to be filled. His innovative approach to running the agency as a national resource, and working hand-in-hand with the automotive industry was a stroke of brilliance.
On the other hand, Nader has done nothing but criticize everything in sight. In the mid-1960s, his book Unsafe At Any Speed was unjustly critical of the Chevrolet Corvair, and the adverse publicity caused a slump in sales. It caused General Motors to stop production of that wonderful little car.
My wife passed her first driving test with a Corvair. She drove it for the next three years, frequently with our children and her mother. Indeed, it was our preferred transportation when the roads were icy or covered with snow.
Several years after Nader signed the death warrant of that great-handling, economical small car, he criticized the American manufacturers, stating that they were incapable of building a small, inexpensive, energy-efficient automobile.
Dr. Martinez is a hero, and Nader is a hypocrite!
JOHN A. WORTS
Chairman of the Worts Family Dealerships
Independence conquers all
My hat is off to Ford dealer Brent Butterfield in Salt Lake City (June 14). I don't believe Ford or the six Ford dealers in the Auto Collection will put him out of business unless it is by factory-allocation favoritism.
When his doors open every day, it is his own money that can be made or lost, and you can believe that he will look after it better than any 'hired hand,' regardless of what you pay that hired hand.
Don't misunderstand me. There are a lot of great hired hands. I was one, and I worked like hell. That's how I became a Chevrolet dealer, and I'm proud of it.
Also, I don't believe any Chevrolet dealer, General Motors dealer or any other dealer is going to put me out of business as long as GM is fair with allocation. I have seen them come and go in my town in the past 35 years. To be more specific: two Lincoln Mercury, three Ford, three Pontiac-Buick, five Cadillac-Oldsmobile-GMC, five Nissan, eight or 10 Chrysler dealers plus five Chevrolet dealers within 30 minutes of me.
They have changed hands or closed completely, but we are still here making a profit, and we would make more if we could get the product. We also have an above-average Customer Satisfaction Index rating.
From a country Chevrolet dealer who loves the rat race.
Frank Andrews Chevrolet Inc.
No more car guys; industry suffers
I was pleasantly surprised by an article on Page 3 of your Aug. 9 issue: Ford CEO Jac Nasser is trying to get company executives to think like the customer. I can only say, 'It's about time.'
It has been obvious for a long time that auto executives are as out of touch with their customers as politicians are with their constituents. Quite often, I wonder if they even drive cars at all, let alone drive their own products.
That goes for engineers, too. Do they ever take the time to check how all the parts they design and put together really work in the finished product? And I don't mean one quick lap around a test track.
I read recently about the big press event in France at which Cadillac showed off the new 2000 DeVille. I was shocked to read that during that event, General Manager John Smith took his first drive in the Evoq roadster.
I can't believe that he hadn't been behind the wheel of the car that he and other company executives are plugging as the future of Cadillac.
You want to know why the American auto industry is in the shape it is? Take a look and you will see one big difference between today and, say, the 1960s. Car guys don't run the car companies anymore. No passion, just business.
The writer is a limousine fleet manager.
Names, faces from Ford at 50
Your excellent A Day Inside the Global Automotive Industry sent me to my library to look again at another memento of another milestone: Ford at Fifty, a 100-plus-page book celebrating Ford's 1953 golden anniversary.
Familiar faces look out at us from the pages of the book: a Henry Ford II who looks barely old enough to shave, and a William Clay Ford who surely wasn't; John Dykstra, Ernest Breech.
But what became of some of the lesser Ford lights portrayed? Atlanta hourly assembly worker Felton Ariail, Cleveland Engine Plant Manager Doug Rowe, Ford scholar Henry A. Perez, Jr., for example.
That was a long time ago. If there's any doubt of that, consider this quote from Page 96: 'One of the early moves that Henry Ford's grandson made when he became president of the company was to abolish its famous old no-smoking rule.'
Wesley Chapel, Fla.
The writer is retired. He worked in health care financial services.