March 2, 2016
In the go-go 80s the only thing that garnered more prestige than owning one company was owning several. After a while, it was almost a taboo to be in the upper echelons and only own one company. Small business owner? More like a peasant with a loan. Thanks to corporate personhood (not really) even Ford as an entity wanted to become an Auto Group to be hip like all the others. That was a satirical tirade, companies do not have wants or inherent desires. However, those who own them obviously do. That said, part of that diatribe was true. Ford really did want to appear more prestigious by proxy. Unlike all the other Auto Groups who built up incrementally, the Blue Oval shot straight for the stratosphere in 1987. Their very first acquisition was irrefutably the coolest automaker ever (I am biased and...) Aston Martin. This purchase instantly ingrained the intentions of integration quite evidently. Barring Mazda (who stayed sovereign throughout) Mercury was the most meager manufacturer purchased, and it went bankrupt. Instead of starting a wide foundation on which to build a tapering empire (think Volkswagen Auto Group (VW AG) sans Winterkorn), Ford started building straight up without regard for any other objective. Of the eventual seven automakers in their Auto Group, only Ford itself made fast moving (not literally) entry level fundamental cars, thus they were working with an essentially nonexistent safety net. Starting in the late 1980s (with Aston Martin) the Motor Company began a buying spree. In under 15 years, they bought Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercury and most of Mazda by the beginning of the third millennium. The expansion was as explosive as it was irrational. Ford as a company had no experience with true top tier autos, but the prospect was so enticing and addictive that Ford went full force in trying to class up their brand. Unfortunately, less than a decade after the last company was procured Ford had to sell them all at a loss. The reason was simple, if one tries to juggle 10 eggs before even getting 3 down; all but two are going to be scrambled on the floor sooner or later. Ford was not the only automaker that crashed driving down this Auto Group route. General Motors (GM) Corporation technically no longer exists due to their auto group experiment. Chrysler had it a bit backwards in that they were bailed out twice, both times being bought (once to escape bankruptcy). Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are struggling to regain prominence with their Auto Group, while concurrently cutting costs wherever they go. Luckily, they are producing pretty people-peddlers, so their penny pinching is predominantly pardoned. New GM and Ford learned their lesson, and are going back to basics, minimalist models and entry-level luxury entries. Ford has fixated on fundamentals. Despite not having a competitive Hybrid nor having they innovated anything (aside from Gorilla® Glass Windshields), they are the best selling single automaker in the country. This focus on their Foci, Fusions, F-150s and Escapes have made them more than competitive in the market. Given the fact that they are (allegedly) working with Google, they might be the first to mass manufacture autonomous autos.