The Ford Earnings Call: The Way Forward Is Even Better Than The Real Thing


This morning, our defenses down from being slightly hung over, we endured Ford's quarterly earnings call in its entirety. We'd expected the call to be a numbers buffet, with CFO Don Leclair as matre'd. Then, a bombshell. We got the main men from Dearborn: Mark Fields, CWFO (Chief Way Forward Officer) and Bill Ford, CEO. Seeing as everyone already knows the key takeaway (i.e., Ford posted a rather unexpected loss this past quarter due to big time drops in truck sales), we were curious to see how the two top guys would spin said big news. We weren't disappointed. First, Mark "Movie Star" Fields made it clear he's got a way forward out of the mess Ford's in called high gas prices. The answer is...

...new products. Sounds like a plan — but what manner of Bold Moves has Ford in the product-development pipeline? Fields repeated the answer to this question no less than seven times during the conference call:

"...the turnaround will be led by the Edge and the MKS."

The MKS, as we've known since the Detroit show, is the sort-of replacement for the Lincoln LS — or maybe the Lincoln Town Car, we're not sure (and we're pretty sure Ford isn't convinced either). And then there's the Edge. Interesting bit of trivia here; "The Edge" — the guitarist for U2 — his real name is Dave. The Ford Edge CUV? It features a Gillette-looking front-end that's part of a design language Ford's design guru, Peter "Balls" Horbury calls "Dave." Coincidence? We think not. Either way, as an industry insider remarked to us earlier today:

"It would take The Edge — the real one — coming to my house with free tickets to a U2 show to make me interested in an Edge, i.e. the crossover."

Now, about the whole "Way Forward" plan. First of all — what the hell is it? Media folk are continually told — by no lesser Fordie than Bill Ford himself — "in the next couple of months you'll have an updated copy of [the Way Forward plan]." Ok — but we don't feel like we got an initial copy. Maybe ours was just lost in the mail?

Let's just assume for a moment we'll receive a new copy in the next couple of months. For the time being we know, at the very least, there's some quickening of pace going on. That's what Bill Ford's led us to believe, with statements like, "we're gonna look at going further, faster and deeper" and "there's been a growing realization things needed to happen quicker." Fields echoed Wee Willie Clay's comments with his own use of the words "we're going to need to move faster" four times during the call. However, when journos ask C-level execs questions like "what's the new timeframe for the 'Way Forward' plan," and receive an answer like "we'll make adjustments as we see fit," we wonder what people over in the glass house are actually doing to stem losses and fix the problems everyone knows they have. Barring that, it's all still just a one-way conversation.

Related:
Breaking! Ford Second Quarter Losses $123 Million; Worse Than Expected [internal]