Ford (F) And The Self-Parking Car Debacle

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"Baby, you can drive my car /yes, I’m gonna be a star/ Baby you can drive my car /And maybe I’ll love you."–The Beatles.

The matchless idiocy which has defined the fall of the US car industry can be summed up by one event. Ford (F) is introducing a "self-parking" automobile.

According to The Wall Street Journal, "Ford Motor Co. plans to offer two Lincoln models next year that can park themselves, the latest move in a strategy aimed at improving the public’s image of the auto maker." It is hard to imagine how the "improvement" part of that works.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Ford design center an overeducated engineer came up with a plan which would allow a driver to get out of his car and watch it move its big, shiny body into a parking space. The engineer probably got a new patent to his name. A product development team then drew up a budget for the thing–probably several million dollars. It then went over to "The Glass House", Ford’s headquarters, and though an inept process, the program was approved.

No one knows for certain, but the new parking feature will probably add about $1,000 to the cost of a Lincoln, which is the division of Ford which will offer the option.

New, complex car features may well cost more to develop than they bring in as revenue. They are "elective" portions of the car-buying experience. If a consumer does not want to have his car parked by his car, he will simply say "no" to the $1,000.

Every time an American car company adds complexity to its manufacturing process it costs money. Ditto for developing features. At that point, another hurdle has been created for the consumer to ponder. A feature is not a feature if no one wants it.

Douglas A. McIntyre