Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Ford has some brilliant products in its corner. They've got the F-150, clearly the best looking big pickup out there, the new Mustang, and the upcoming Fusion. The Ford Escape hybrid is a great idea too. But then they do something silly like Autoblog details. They decide not to update one of their stalwarts, the Ranger.
They'll argue of course that falling sales demonstrate that people are tired of that segment. But the falling sales coincide with the aging of the product. When I saw the new Honda Ridgeline, and realized that it was a larger sized pickup, I knew that Honda had messed up and had left a market niche ripe for the taking. The small fuel efficient pickup truck market is dominated by Ford. But if the vehicle just sits there they're asking for trouble. They tried the same thing with the Crown Victoria, and it worked, for awhile at least. With the accidents that vehicle has suffered it won't be long before the Dodge Charger becomes the standard RWD car for police all over America.
Aesthetics are so important. There is a minimum threshold for handling, reliability, price, etc. that most car makers meet, if not all of them. But it's the car makers that are bold aesthetically that do well. I can't tell you how many people are convinced that the Mazda 6 and 3 are "sportier" than their competition. In the case of the 6, it doesn't come in a coupe form, it has less horsepower than the Accord, and probably handles about the same. Why is it "sportier"? Because of the look. Simple as that. If you make something look "sporty" people will call it such. "Bloated", "slow", "ugly", are descriptions as well that a car can have. My point is Ford could go the extra mile by completely redoing the Ranger's look, give it 5 extra HP, and maybe 5 better miles per gallon, and you'd have a winner. It's really all about aesthetics.