While sensibilities have certainly changed over the past quarter-of-a-century (let alone the last decade) there are a number of us who remember a time when roads, streets and highways were primarily ruled by the classic sedan. The staple of any automaker’s lineup, sedans were as appealing to executives as they were accommodating to families. A time before offerings felt as “strategically conceived” as they do now. It was time before automakers had to compete in each and every segment in order to chase relevance. And while performance and luxury sedans continue to be the calling card of upscale professionals, it would appear that the exhausting pursuit of pertinence may have finally proved overwhelming, in part, for the rest of the segment. mCalling back to the opening comment, the last twenty-five years have seen the sedan replaced largely by the ever-increasing number of SUV offerings. And the accommodating nature of those SUVs formed the basis upon which the more eco-friendly crossover was built. Families alone provide a perfect depiction of the visible trend, with automakers using a kitchen-sink mentality to give drivers and passengers everything they could possibly want, and need, in a vehicle. And, over-saturation aside, it would be difficult to argue the fact that the crossover segment remains a contemporary cash-cow eager to be milked, confirming the eventual death of the family sedan. Since it feels a little hasty to use a word as decisive as ‘confirmation’, the idea that days are numbered for the sedan seems most validated by current auto news. Specifically, we’re referring to Ford’s announcement that they would be phasing out their entire lineup of cars (with the obvious exception of the iconic Mustang) in order to evolve their lineup to meet evolving sensibilities. An incredibly dramatic decision, to say the least, and yet…how many of us were nodding our head as we heard this, immediately certain that Ford was making a smart choice?
I mean, let’s be honest. Forget about the big picture for a moment, and focus in on Ford’s overall lineup. We could spend hours extolling the virtues of the F-Series, but we don’t even need to. Aside from being the best-selling lineup of trucks with a competitive advantage that seems impossible to overcome, Ford trucks represent the best selling of any vehicles on the planet. As for crossover and SUV offerings, you begin to see the cracks in Ford’s proverbial armor. Aside from mainstays like the high-end Expedition and enduringly appealing Explorer, the lineup feels uninspired overall, and a little bit inconsistent. Giving credit where it’s due, Chevy feels more successful in this regard, creating a progressive, true-to-type lineup that manages to make both technology and amenities affordable.
While we’re not here to talk crossovers, Ford’s offerings segue perfectly into the stylistic struggles which make their decision so sensible. Not everyone will share the same opinion, but the prevalence of bland design philosophy cripples every model from the Fiesta to the Taurus, tipping the scales in favor of the decision. Even taking into consideration the benefits of their more modest footprint, it’s hard to be excited by the likes of the Focus, Fusion or C-Max. It simply comes down to one statement: while there’s nothing wrong with any of them, there’s nothing about them that screams “Ford got it right!”
In a world where the F-Series reigns supreme, the intoxicating Raptor continues to turn-heads at breakneck speed, and the highly-anticipated return of a redesigned Bronco has captivated our love of Ford, it feels like the automaker is recovering from a slight identity crisis and embracing innovation in all that they do.
And what better place to start than the segment which, in theory, should offer the greatest options for increased sustainability? In recent years, young professionals, urban dwellers and eco-warriors have asserted themselves as a massive portion of the Millennial, Generation Y and Z consumer bases. There is plenty of room for everyone in the EV and Hybrid segments, and a blend of compact and midsize offerings seem to fit the direction things are moving in. While the family sedan may have certainly been rendered obsolete by the crossover, and luxury sedans seem better suited for high-end automakers, this is a great place for Ford to reassert itself.
Hopefully, the decision will lead to some innovatively-styled offerings that appeal to the changing mindset of tomorrow’s drivers, giving Ford an overdue renaissance within the segment.