Tag Archives: Ford

Good News Everywhere

22 Nov

The Ford Stamping plant is adding 350 jobs and a 3rd shift to help feed parts to nearby Canadian Ford factories that are being crushed by demand for Ford’s excellent new lineup of cars. (Now imagine if Ford didn’t have to be in the business of providing health insurance for their employees and could just concentrate on hiring the best people to produce its cars, and if people had the freedom to apply for those jobs without regard to health benefits. That’s how it is in Canada, and that’s why Canada is attractive to manufacturers like Ford, Toyota, Honda, and GM. A 2002 analysis found that the labor cost to automakers in the US came out to $45.00/hour; in Canada, with its socialized medicine and all, the rate was closer to $30.00/hour). 

Governor Cuomo has been in WNY practically every two weeks ever since the locals decided that the NY SAFE Act was a horrible affront to 2nd Amendment rights because every American has the right to have an arsenal powerful enough to defeat the most expensive and powerful military in the world. Or something. 

Yesterday, he came to town to announce $225 million project to create a green energy campus at the site of a barren brownfield in Buffalo. Two companies are being attracted from California to develop and produce energy-efficient LED lighting and solar panels. The state is developing the property and buying the companies some machinery, and the companies will be hiring hundreds of locals for well-paying jobs and investing $1.5 billion in the move. Tax breaks are expected to attract even more businesses and jobs to the new green campus. 

Jim Heaney’s Investigative Post analyzes the deal, and declares it to be “progress”, although not a “game changer”. However, one selling point is that it may lead to 5,000 new, well-paying jobs over the next decade. Not a bad day, even if it’s only half as successful as that. 

 

Ford and Chevy Learn a Lesson

10 Aug

2012 Ford Focus Hatchback

Here’s a novel idea.

Sell better cars, designed well, and the company will make money.

The Focus’s average transaction price year-to-date in 2010 was $15,424. This year, despite a few months with the old model, it’s $20,684. Despite this massive jump in the car’s price, in percentage the largest I’m aware of, the cars have been in short supply. They’ve been attracting an entirely different group of buyers, people who could afford a larger car or any direct competitor, but who are choosing the Focus because they like it the best, not because of “the deal.” Six percent of those sold are even the Titanium trim, which can list for over $27,000.

Ingenious!

Until early this year, the Focus sold in the United States was a re-skinned version of the same Focus that was sold here and abroad in 1999. It was a good car then, but in 2010 it had long been lapped by its former competitors. In the meantime, European Foci improved through a significant model change to keep up with other vehicles in the hypercompetitive Golf-class.  Based on Ford’s Global C1 platform, available in the US in the still-selling Volvo S40, C30, and V50, the most recent European Focus never made it here because Ford considered it to be an entry-level car. After all, it’s small and Americans equate “small” with “cheap” – at least, they did until $4/gal gas became an everyday thing.

The new Ford Focus is absolutely gorgeous, has a phenomenal and modern interior, has available features – like navi, bluetooth, and park assist – that you’d more commonly find in luxury cars. It’s one of those huge leaps forward that American car makers have been reluctant to make in the past – a reluctance that led to mediocre cars directed at budgets rather than what cars should really be about – making driving fun.

2012 Ford Focus interior

Not to leave GM out of the mix, the Chevy Cruze, brought in to replace the Cobalt, is a world car slotted to compete in the same class as the Focus. It doesn’t have as many available bells and whistles, but it frankly looks and drives better than the current Honda Civic.

What’s next? Domestic automakers have to do a better job of improving fuel economy with power. That means fewer V8s and V6s, and more turbochargers and superchargers, more hybrids that feature engine assist, and for those of you who haul and tow, more diesels.

The 2011 #Ford #Fiesta

10 Aug

Perhaps you’ve seen Jeremy Clarkson’s instant-classic Top Gear test of the all-new Ford Fiesta. I couldn’t recreate that (a) because it would be derivative, and (b) because West Herr Ford wasn’t about to let me recreate an amphibious beach assault with the Marines.

What they did let me do is drive the all-new 2011 Ford Fiesta around Buffalo a few days ago to put it through its commuter/city car paces. Ford has finally realized that dipping into its stable of truly excellent European vehicles can help fill empty niches here in the States. In fact, Ford hasn’t sold a subcompact car in the US since 1997, when the last execrable, Kia-built Ford Aspire/Festiva left a showroom. The Fiesta has been sold elsewhere without interruption, and Ford has decided to introduce its newest model – Fiesta Mk.6 – to North America.

The subcompact segment is growing, as people of all ages become a bit more fuel-conscious. No longer are subcompacts sold without A/C or radios to students and the poor as used-car substitutes. The Fiesta competes directly with Toyota’s Yaris and Honda’s Fit, and it has a road manner that you’d expect to find from a car costing a lot more. The interior fit and finish is astonishingly good, and the car I drove came loaded with features you’d normally find on cars costing much more. There was Sirius satellite radio, Ford’s SYNC system, which included easy Bluetooth pairing, a start/stop button with proximity key, and a 6-speed automatic transmission. It has good pickup, is easy to park, has a decent amount of cargo space and gets about 40 MPG in highway driving with a normal, non-hybrid, non-diesel 1.6L 4-cylinder engine pushing 120 HP – in this car that amounted to ample power, and the car featured almost no engine or road noise at highway speeds.

Also, that completely-loaded Fiesta still came in with a sticker price of under $20,000. A base model will run you under $14,000.

This marks a new experiment for WNYMedia.net, in that this is technically an ad for West Herr Ford. They paid us to drive this car and record my thoughts about it. This might cause some to doubt the sincerity of my comments about the car, but nothing could be further from the truth. What this stems from is my desire to do more car-related stuff, and figuring out a way to partner with a well-respected locally-owned business to help us accomplish that. All of my comments are real-time reactions to driving the car, and I spent a good hour driving it around town before recording any of my thoughts about it. I’m not merely selling you something West Herr wants me to – I’m selling you the stuff that I like. I like and endorse West Herr, and I absolutely loved this car. For more on this, read Chris’ post here.

Please leave me your comments and send me your feedback, and let me know what car from West Herr’s many local dealerships you’d like me to drive next.

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Collins & Brown never met Gillibrand?

1 Feb

Why would Chris Collins and Byron Brown suddenly come out on the same day, in the same article, and claim – incorrectly – that they had never met (with, in their office with) Kirsten Gillibrand? Why would they do so just a week or so after Harold Ford made his little visit parachuting the hell in and out of Buffalo on a Sunday?

Hm.

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It's a Ford

13 Jan

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire

Clarkson Tests the Fiesta

21 Jun

Best and most thorough test of a car, ever.

Car Browsing Redux

2 Jun

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post about my experiences at three auto dealers when I went out car browsing – not shopping – browsing. I made it crystal clear to everyone and anyone I spoke with that I was not buying anything that day, and that I was sniffing around, kicking the tires, looking around at stuff. I was not, at that time, in the market to buy anything.

But I probably will be in a month or two. So I was narrowing down my choices.

I was very critical of Dave Smith Ford. The owner, Dave Smith, left a comment yesterday:

Mr. Bedenko,
As the owner of Dave Smith Ford, I have to say that I am extremely dismayed at your opinion of our Ford dealership. I feel compelled to defend myself, and my salesperson whom you refer to as “a bit pushy”.
I read what you wrote on your blog, and from what it sounds like my salesperson did exactly what any good salesperson should be expected to do. Assuming that is you didn’t come into the dealership looking for a new washing machine. To sum up your experience, if I may:

1. He introduced himself,
2. He tried to determine your wants/needs,
3. He demonstrated the product,
4. He asked you to buy the product.

I sincerely apologize for not being able to get together on an aggreeable price. Unfortunately, (to my dismay) it seems as if price negotiations and haggling will always be a part of my industry. But from the sounds of it, you never intended to purchase a Ford Flex from ANY Ford dealership.

As for the decor of our dealership, I have to thank you for your advice! We have been planning on updating our office furniture for quite some time. However, with the recent downturn in our industry, we thought it better to put such purchases on hold.

I can tell you that almost 80% of our business is repeat and referral. And our CSI scores are consistently above our peers. Obviously, we don’t have to have the biggest, and fanciest facility to have happy customers.
In closing, I would like to say that we, as well as the majority of dealers out there, have been a member of the Better Business Bureau for over 30 years, we give roughly $15,000 per year to our local charities, we pay close to $100,000 per year in school/property taxes, we pay over $100,000 per year in health insurance premiums, we pay over $50,000 per year in liability premiums (I thought I saw one of your readers say you are an attorney so I’m sure you know all about the pitfalls of our litigious society), and last but not least we are proud to employ 65 of the BEST people in the Western New York! Yours truly, Dave Smith.

Attaway to completely alienate a dissatisfied potential customer. Frankly, I’m shocked that anyone would defend the anachronistic and yes – pushy – experience I dealt with.

Mr. Smith, I told your salesman over and over again that I was just looking, that I was in the market for a vehicle and the Flex was on my radar screen, but I wanted to check it out. I told him several times that I wasn’t in the market to actually buy anything that day. He wasted my time. By the time you came back having driven my trade, I was ready to go. Instead, I’m so polite I let your salesguy start haggling with me over a car I had told him time and time again I wasn’t going to buy that day. What part of that don’t you understand?

As I mentioned to your salesperson, and in my earlier post, I’m preliminarily looking around, winnowing down the list of potential vehicles to buy. Want to know what I mean by pushy?

1. Protesting and continuing with the haggling after I had gotten off the phone with my wife, found out that the baby was up from her nap, and it was time for me to go home. Your salespeople should listen to the words coming out of my mouth.

2. After completing a test drive of the white Flex Limited that had been driven up from Florida, asking me if that was the car I wanted to buy. I responded (again) that I wasn’t buying anything that day. Then he asked, well if you were, is this the car you’d be getting? I responded (again) I wasn’t buying anything, but if I was hypothetically buying a Flex, then I’d be interested in that model. That’s when he whipped out a “sold” sign and had me place it under the wiper. Subtle like a brick – trying to get me into the “I just bought a car, and I’m definitely buying this car” mindset by giving me the feeling of ownership, despite the words coming out of my mouth.

3. As he did the financial breakdown of that white Flex Limited, he wrote down all of its wonderful features, wrote down my trade and went over all of its fantastic features, broke down the price, and then drew a line with an x. He asked me to sign it, and had no good answer as to what I was signing. I’m a lawyer, so I know it’s meaningless. I know the elements of a contract, and we had none. An average layperson off the street might think you’ve got a contract the moment you sign something. That’s not just dumb and uncomfortable. It’s sleazy and deceptive.

4. I don’t need a babysitter. I need a salesperson. As I mentioned in my post, the Flex sells itself. I don’t need a hard sell from an eager salesperson. He was a nice enough kid, but wouldn’t leave me alone for a minute. The goal was to not let me leave the dealership without buying a car. Again – try listening to your potential customers once in a while.

Let me now address specifically some of your complaints:

I sincerely apologize for not being able to get together on an aggreeable price. Unfortunately, (to my dismay) it seems as if price negotiations and haggling will always be a part of my industry. But from the sounds of it, you never intended to purchase a Ford Flex from ANY Ford dealership.

That’s completely inaccurate. I told your salesman over and over again that I didn’t intend to buy any car that day from anyone. Thanks to your whiny and self-indulgent comment, when, in a couple of weeks, I am back in the market for a larger car, possibly with three rows, I may consider the Flex, but it won’t be from you.

That’s great that you’re generous with your salespeople and your charity. But that’s not what this is about. I’m not generally in the market for American cars because I perceive them to be poorly designed and unrefined. This is changing, and I’m opening my mind. I’m used to a certain level of service and non-pushiness from my car dealers – hell, Volkswagen of Orchard Park, where I’ve bought about 3 cars so far, also has a pretty crappy-ass dealership design, but they’re friendly and not at all pushy there. They let me look. They let me try. Then they back off when I make it clear I’d like them to back off.

So, kudos to you for your customer service scores and you have my condolences about the state of the auto industry today. Your customer retention rates are enviable.

But in a couple of weeks, when what I’m waiting to have happen happens, and I’ll be looking to plunk down money for a new, larger vehicle. I’ll be sure to look elsewhere, as you’ve basically told me to go screw myself.

So, I Went Car Browsing

17 May

While the little one napped yesterday, my oldest and I went to do a little light car browsing. It was crappy out, and there were some newer cars I was interested in seeing. This isn’t a car post, though. It’s a dealership post. I went to three very distinctly different dealerships to look at three very different vehicles, and had three very different experiences.

The idea here is that we’re thinking more elbow room for four people to go on roadtrips of over 4 hours. A GTI is fun and all, but pack 4 people and their luggage in for a 8 hour drive downstate or a 20 hour drive to Florida, and it’s just not going to work well.

1. Lia Honda in Williamsville:

We lingered around and checked out the Pilot, the Accord, the Fit, the Odyssey, the CR-V, and the Insight. All of them were quite interesting in their own way, and I walked away finding the rear headroom in the Insight to be lacking, the CR-V to be nice, but I was really torn between the Pilot and the Accord. We took our sweet time, and the dealership was very modern and well-appointed. Everything was new, comfortable, and clean. The receptionist asked us a few times if we needed help, and when we said no, we were left alone. When we asked to test drive a Pilot, we were helped very promptly, and I was able to take it for a short spin on Greiner, Harris Hill, Sheridan, and back to Transit. We walked away with a brochure and a business card. No hard sell, no pressure. The cars sell themselves, and the salespeople know it.

2. Towne Mini in Williamsville:

We were completely left alone by choice. If we wanted help, we could have gotten it. We checked out the Mini Clubman and the new convertible, and I had Maddy check how the back seat room was in each. We were there for just about 15 minutes and again, the cars speak for themselves. (I realize that a Mini is smaller than a GTI. This stop was just for fun). No pressure, no bother.

3. Dave Smith Ford in Williamsville:

Upon entering the former Maroone Ford near Wehrle, the salesman immediately introduced himself and was essentially inseparable from us for the entire time we were there. We were there to check out the Ford Flex, which I hadn’t yet seen in person. There was a well-appointed one on the showroom floor that was deeply discounted and Maddy and I checked it out from top to bottom. It’s quite a good-looking, very nice vehicle. Like a Mini on steroids. I decided I wanted to take one for a spin, and they pulled out a Limited model that the owner was driving. It had every option except navigation.

Oddly enough, the second row has no center armrest, and there is no backup camera – two items that are standard in the Pilot EX I looked at. For some reason, the salesman drove the vehicle off the lot and we pulled into Casilio Parkway in Clarence where he showed me around the car before letting me drive it back to the dealership along Wehrle, with a short turnoff to check its turning radius (the Pilot’s was impressively tight). It was a nice enough car, although the steering was taxicab-loose. Upon returning to the dealership, he asked me if I liked it. I replied in the affirmative. He asked if that was the car I’d want. I said, well, if I was buying a Ford and decided on that, then this would be an ideally equipped one. He asked me to put a little “sold” sign under the wiper so “it wouldn’t get sold in the meantime”. I thought this faux indicia of ownership to be a bit pushy.

Next, they wanted to appraise the trade. I was actually curious as to what number they’d come up with, so I let them. The owner took my GTI for a spin, and the salesman showed me around the repair bays, where a couple of State Trooper Crown Vics were being worked on. The service area was fine, but I found the dealership overall to be somewhat dilapidated. The furniture was a haphazard mish-mash, the sales cubicles were very worn, and the whole place was very utilitarian and not comfortable or inviting. It seemed like a place that telemarketing calls might be made from; very cold.

They made me wait. Longer than I wanted. It started to take on the same sort of hard sell as you might encounter at a timeshare sales presentation. All about closing the deal, making you buy the car today. Making the numbers work. The first offer for the trade was quite low, and the price of the car I had test driven was a solid $10k more than I would ever pay for any car that didn’t say “Mercedes”, “BMW”, or “Audi” on the back. I’m not buying a $40k Ford. Ever. For anything. I told him that there was no way ever I would buy a $40k car from them. Didn’t matter. They gave me the monthly rate for that vehicle with my trade. He asked me what they could do. I said, pay off my trade and offer me a Flex for less than $30k, and we’d be making progress. He called the finance manager and the dance continued. I waited some more. The finance manager came over and gave me the numbers. It was time to go. Thanks, guys. Nice car, but I could have done without the hard sell.

The Ford Flex is a very nice car indeed. It’s a bit pricey – more so than the Pilot – but it’s like a minivan for people who hate minivans. Like the Mini and the Pilot, the Flex sort of sells itself. It doesn’t need a dance with the salesman and his various and sundry managers in order to push, push, push me into buying it. I know that when the Fiesta comes out, I’ll want to see it and drive it. I dread going to a Ford dealer and enduring another hard sell again.

I’m a pretty well-educated car shopper. I know what the invoice price is, I know where the cars are built, I know how they’re spec’d, and I know what their pros and cons are. I know that the Mini Cooper S needs premium fuel, the Flex is larger than it looks and comes with a Vista Roof. I know the Pilot is built on a modified Accord platform, and has a smooth 6-cylinder that shuts 3 of them off to save fuel when cruising. I don’t need the hard sell. I just need someone to answer a few questions if I have them and give me the opportunity to take it for a bit of a spin.

Way to turn off a potential buyer, Ford.

Ford Fiesta FTW

2 Apr

My ownership of two VW GTIs may be a clue that I dig hot Euro hatches.

The newest hot hatch to be sold in the US may very well be available at your local Ford dealer. The Fiesta is coming. Jalopnik drove it.

I look forward to the Fiesta vs. Cruze road tests.

Ford & GM

3 Feb

From Business First:

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. said sales last month plunged more than 40 percent to put the industry on track for the worst month in 27 years.

The Bush malaise will finally help erase Carter as the go-to example for shitty Presidential leadership.