US:Ford marshaling its global resources in continuing effort to reduce costs
Ford marshaling its global resources in continuing effort to reduce costs
AMY WILSON | Automotive News
DETROIT -- Massive cost pressures in today's automotive industry are forcing engineers to seek new ways to save time and money developing new vehicles, Ford Motor Co.'s product chief says.
Phil Martens, group vice president of product creation, pinpointed three challenges testing the North American industry. He spoke at the SAE World Congress here last week.
1. Rising prices of steel and other commodities. The cost of hot-rolled steel has risen as high as $700 per ton in recent weeks, more than triple its cost less than five years ago, Martens said.
"The price of steel has hurt us all, our supply base (and) the OEMs," he said.
2. The declining health of the supply base. Rising prices for raw materials, in tandem with constant cost pressures from automakers, are squeezing parts makers.
"We cannot prosper without a stable supply community," Martens said.
3. The emergence of low-cost work forces in places such as Asia and eastern Europe. That not only pressures the North American manufacturing base, but also engineering operations as more science and engineering degrees are earned overseas.
"And, of course, we have just begun to hear the roar of the Chinese economy," said Martens, noting that Shanghai counts more than 130 foreign-owned research and development facilities within its borders.
Ford is trying to manage the pressures by maximizing its resources globally, he said. The automaker wants to increase its use of common parts and spin more distinct nameplates from fewer core platforms.
Ford engineers are looking to Mazda, in which Ford owns a controlling stake, for lessons in hastening development time and reducing costs.
Martens pointed to 10 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles being developed for North America on a modified Mazda6 mid-sized car platform. Up to 800,000 units a year are planned eventually.
The first of those vehicles - the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr sedans - go on sale this fall.
Martens said, "The underlying commonalities will enable us to save time, money and improve product quality, and increase the number of products we can bring to market."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....