Seldom have I run across an automotive story that's gotten as much “car talk” as this one. I was home in Detroit this weekend, and I heard a lot of people buzzing about Ford's decision to phase out 90% of its cars.
You read that right. After nearly a century of manufacturing cars, Ford will be down to just the Mustang and the Focus (a new crossover) by 2020. So much for those 5-year product cycles – this one's coming down quickly.
There goes the Fiesta, Fusion, Taurus, and other well-known vehicles that have long been part of Ford's lineup and have likely been in your driveway at one time or another. All of this is an acknowledgment of both Millennials and Boomers moving to SUVs and trucks, something Ford believes is not a fad, but a long-term trend.
And in the process, the team at Ford believes this vehicular sacrifice frees the company up to focus on more popular models – like SUVs – as well as the coming electric vehicles.
And don't look now because GM may not be far behind. Their CFO, Chuck Stevens, told CNBC that GM has “been on this path for a number of years.”
Perhaps you've been surprised these past few years as brands like Porsche and even Bentley have rolled out their versions of SUVs. That's another indicator that North Americans have a decided lean to bigger vehicles. And thanks to better gas mileage, trucks and sport utility vehicles have become less expensive to drive.
While Ford's cataclysmic move may not impact the radio industry directly, it most certainly will make waves across the automotive landscape. Even in an environment where SUVs and trucks have become dominant, you have to wonder if Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, and others won't be in a stronger position to take advantage of what could become a car market void.
It would be akin broadcast radio one day eliminating spot advertising as we know it to focus on digital marketing because of client demand – or lack of it.
But does it suggest a shift to hiring digital-only sellers and new media content creators to leverage the programming and sales products being demanded by advertisers, even in smaller markets?
We've talked about Ries & Trout's Law of Sacrifice a number of times in this blog. And Ford's strategic decision is proof positive that in today's competitive environment it's propitious to marshal your resources, rather than try to do too many things at the same time.
It's a sign that sacred cows and the “we've always done it this way” corporate mindset is rapidly being lapped by a more agile business environment where focus and concentration may be more important than ever – not to mention moving at a faster pace.
In the radio industry, a decision as sweeping as Ford's may be a non-starter – for now.
But who at Ford could have anticipated this move two years ago?
The orphaning of once-popular car brands is another sign that in the modern business era, all bets are off.
That may indeed be the case whether you're selling :60s and :30s, running an AM radio facility, or programming a music station.
Ford's bold move is a reminder not that just the automotive industry is undergoing massive change, but every business is.