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Ford Promises Rash of New Products After Debilitating 2018

F-150 and Lincoln EVs, smaller pickups, new Escape all under development

F-150 and Lincoln EVs, smaller pickups, new Escape all under development

Ford product development was constipated when CEO Jim Hackett took over in 2017, followed by a vehicle lineup in 2018 that was not competitive. It added up to far-from-stellar earnings last year: Ford saw its profits fall a tumultuous 52 percent to $3.7 billion USD in 2018.

Hackett and his leadership team promise that will change this year as the automaker spends the next 24 months updating 75 percent of the lineup. And while cars are going away, more crossovers and trucks are in the works, many of them with batteries and electric motors.

Ford has started early work on an electric F-150 but is not saying how far out that will be. A hybrid is coming out by the end of the decade, suggesting the pure electric is still many years away.

But Ford does have a battery-electric SUV coming, inspired by the Mustang, and using a new electric architecture Ford has engineered. The SUV will be shown this year and go on sale in 2020. Hackett told investors on a call to report 2018 earnings that a new Lincoln electric vehicle is being added to the portfolio which could be a more refined version of the Ford crossover. Both are expected to be performance vehicles with off-road capability and a range of about 300 miles (483 km).

The automaker has said Lincoln will take a lead in electrification, much like General Motors has chosen Cadillac as the lead for its electric vehicle strategy. We are starting to see the differentiation in products such as the new Explorer which has a hybrid version while the new Lincoln Aviator, which is the same size and on the same new rear-drive platform, gets a plug-in hybrid.

This will be the first full year of sales of the Ford Ranger in North America and the truck lineup will expand with a more affordable compact pickup being developed to slot below the Ranger in the portfolio, according to Jim Farley, president of global markets.

We will also soon see a refresh for the F-Series Super Duty pickup lineup, a big profit generator.

It would be welcome news on the heels of 2018 where the profit drop is a reflection of tough sledding in all regions of the world and a slowdown in the U.S. where critics continue to ask for more clarity on just what the corporate strategy is under Hackett. The skepticism has been reflected in share prices which dipped below $8 USD this year. Ford shares ended the day at $8.34 USD.

Hackett, self-described as thoughtful in his approach, has said his vision will start to show dividends this year as the company undergoes a global restructuring that will include layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to cut $25.5 billion USD in operating costs over the next five years while spending $11 billion USD on restructuring. But he has been light on details. His outlook for 2019: “potential improvement from 2018.”

Ford is investing in a new campus in Dearborn, refurbishing an old train station in Detroit, and spending to fix the failing operations in other parts of the world. A partnership with Volkswagen on compact pickups, commercial vehicles, and likely future technology for electric and autonomous vehicles will help with the high costs involved.

North America remains the profit engine, earning $7.6 billion USD which means Ford workers will get $7,600 USD in profit sharing. Ford lost money in every other region as well as in the “mobility segment.” Meanwhile it has all but abandoned its car lineup to concentrate on more profitable crossovers, trucks and commercial vehicles.

The big SUVs, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, are carrying the load along with the F-Series. The new Explorer and Aviator will help and a new Escape and return of the Escape hybrid are coming later this year.