Ford is Ditching Cars and They Are Getting It Right
Ford in the US has announced that, except for the Mustang and a Focus Active crossover, that they will be making trucks, pickups, and SUVs. They cite plenty of sales figures and what not showing that the US public really isn’t buying sedans like they use to. Ford has always done well selling pickups and such, and they various SUVs now are pretty fuel efficient for their size, and the public has been switching more and more away from sedan cars.
It sounds like a pretty good set of explanations, but I think that Ford has purposely decided to avoid explain the idea of Peak Car and the end game that is coming probably within the next decade. Technology is such that fuel only powered cars are going to turn into a rarity as hybrids and full electrics invade the space. Those vehicles are much better built as mini SUVs, you get more space for batteries. Compact electric only cars are not as easy to build, and the technology of batteries and electic engines is such that 200 – 300 miles on a charge for an SUV is no longer a big deal. You also have the question of self driving, driving assist, and such. While this technology has been two steps forward, one step back (especially with accidents and misuse), it’s pretty clear that the future won’t have us having full control of our cars anyway.
More than all of this though, is the question of the pils of public money, taxpayer money that is plowed into trying to keep roads under the cars. We build roads all over the place, and have to build them large and such to handle the number of cars and the relatively poor driving habits of most people. Tens of thousands of people in the US are injured, maimed, and killed every year in accidents related to how poorly we all drive. Even the best drivers are hampered by the simple fact that they are driving around people who are scary bad. The US is a nation of Hoonigans and Grandpa Simpsons fighting for road space. Add booze, drugs, poorly maintained cars, weather… and it’s a deadly cocktail that has been thinning the herd for a century.
So what Ford doesn’t want to talk about is the idea that we are near or at the end of the car as we know it.
Three box car design, the idea of “engine, seating, trunk” is really not much in keeping with the future of personal transport. If (and that is a big if) personal vehicle ownership is permitted, it’s very likely that it will be somewhat or completely automated. That changes all the parameters, from the need for powerful engines to the way passengers will sit. The whole deal changes, let’s consider what a future personal pod car might be:
First up, think box. The Toyota Previa is remarkably close, I think, at least in appearance. Batteries under the floor, perhaps a small engine (hydrogen?) somewhere to recharge the batteries on the fly or when recharging isn’t available. You could do pretty much flat floor front to back, perhaps with partitions to allow for cargo to be carried. You might still need a “steering area” for manual control (say getting into your parking space at home), but the rest is about as free form as you like.
Basically, it’s a vamp on the current SUVs, in a market that Ford can be pretty comfortable in already. They may be leaping into the future without wanting to admit it, but Ford has boldly taken the first step that almost every other company will be forced to consider soon enough.