Justin: In the Feast of Being Able to. Amen.

Ramen Noodles and Ford

f150-cruise-control-firesmCash for clunkers has proven to be a failure. The number one vehicle upgraded to was… the Ford F150, boasting a whopping 1mpg over its predecessor. I hope they offered a green colored one.

Ford is boasting record sales, the only auto company not begging from government. This must mean Ford is all about quality, and Americans go for that, right? Or perhaps that its management is superior.

Ford is prospering because its vehicles are the cheapest, and in a rough economy people buy cheap. Ramon Noodles are posting record sales, also. And fish sticks. The fact that Ford is boasting record sales does not bode well for the United States.

Ford remains a company focused on providing the cheapest solutions in every class range. Quality has never, ever, been Ford’s number one focus. Not since its founder discovered that mass production could make for mass sales has it worried seriously with being known for quality. Cheap has a niche, Ford owns that niche, with an occasional anomaly from another maker. Like the 80’s LeCar. That was definitely cheaper.

Price point: Identify at which point the business breaks even and begins to turn a profit. The cheaper the overhead, the lower the price point. The cheaper the materials, the lower the overhead. Cheaper plastic compounds still make for attractive door handles, gear shifts and dash boards. Cheaper metal alloys still make for short-term functionality with zero degradation in visible quality at retail.

Ford parts are cheap. They break. They snap in the cold, they rot faster, they burn out sooner. And worst of all, they are poorly engineered, which is the saddest thing to realize, since it calls into question American superiority, specifically American engineering. But it doesn’t prove American quality is dead.

Consider commercial truck tires. A Goodyear commercial truck tire that costs $350.00 is often displaced by sales of a comparable import, usually Chinese, such as the popular Kumho. Much like those who swear by Ford, buyers of import truck tires likely feel they are making a wise decision and saving money. They may even feel they have no choice. So instead of a $350.00 Goodyear, they buy a $250.00 import that looks the same. They now justify that decision by claiming that their purchase is either “just as good” as a name brand, or “maybe not quite as good but close enough to justify the savings.”

If that was true, Goodyear would have failed decades ago. You see, a disposable society often forgets that quality frequently means durability, and durability means lower replacement costs.

We find that fleet owners respond to inquiries about their import tires with great satisfaction that their cheap tires get 60 or 70 thousand miles before replacement.

When told that Goodyear commercial truck tires regularly see well over 100 – 125 thousand miles, and that they then may be retreaded several times with the casing still under warranty, they either immediately see the large loss of money they’d been calling savings, or they react with a cross between denial and hostility, sometimes embracing their import as the best choice for everyone.

So with Ford owners.

In 1996 I priced comparable trucks from Ford, Chevy and Dodge. Roughly speaking, Dodge was $20,000, Chevrolet was $18,000, and Ford was $16,000. At that time I did not entertain an import. Today I can hardly entertain anything but one.

I really would have liked the Dodge, but 4k dollars was too much of an increase. I bought the Ford, reasoning it was what I could afford.

I have regretted it for years. My truck suffered numerous deficiencies, replacements and recalls over the years, then began burning out at 75,000 miles. Even Ford assured me it was not a lemon.

Let me repeat, my truck began dying at 75,000 miles. The engine blew at 103,000 miles. Before realizing the totality of the engine burnout, I went to a reputable but non-Ford mechanic for consultation. I knew this man from my youth and he always told me the truth, even if in whispers.

“Justin, we ran a fleet of five F-150s two years ago and replaced pretty much all the engines before 100 thousand miles. You got a pretty good one to make it over 100k.”

Does it make sense that my truck was one of the most popular vehicles of the 1997 lineup, and that it was the following year the #1 most stolen vehicle in America? Appearance is everything to the short sighted. Even the reviewers gave it kudos. Unfortunately, Car and Driver can give something a flawless score for quality with no regard whatsoever to durability or longevity. In fact, Ford continues to score near the top in quality ratings each year. Why? Because they are comparing a brand new product, not a 3 or 5 year old product. Try to find a true longevity report. There’s nothing sexy about glossy photos of a 10 year old vehicle. Even Motor Trend’s “longterm” reviews are at a paltry 15k miles. I think my Big Wheel went that long before needing service.

Now, with every claim that Goodyear is far superior to Kumho, someone can honestly show an import tire with some crazy huge amount of mileage. Many factors are at play, such as roads driven, climate types, speeds driven, and one of the most important: precise air pressure. So with Fords. There are people with Fords boasting 200k miles or more on the same engine. It isn’t effective to inform them that Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas don’t boast of instances of 200k miles because that’s normal for them. They instead have instances that people talk about where they only got 100k before going bad. It’s the antithesis of Ford Motor Company.

So, I still drive a Ford because it’s paid for, and Ramen Noodles are my lunch when I don’t go out. I regret the Ford and look forward to advancing beyond both it and Ramen, neither of whom will appear as impressive to the market in a healthier economy.

You must be logged in to post a comment.