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Via Motortrend

How Ford Plans to Not Botch 2021 F-150, Bronco, and Mach-E Launches
We snagged an exclusive interview with product chief Hau Thai-Tang

February 7, 2020

Ford shook things up this morning with news of the appointment of Jim Farley as chief executive officer, and Hau Thai-Tang is his go-to guy to develop and launch products.

It is the biggest launch year in Ford history, and key vehicles such as the revived Ford Bronco, a baby Bronco slotted below it, a new F-150 full-size pickup, and the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV are all on tap. These key launches must happen without the long-time guidance and steady hand of Joe Hinrichs, president of automotive, who is leaving the company.

It is the biggest launch year in Ford history, and key vehicles such as the revived Ford Bronco, a baby Bronco slotted below it, a new F-150 full-size pickup, and the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV are all on tap. These key launches must happen without the long-time guidance and steady hand of Joe Hinrichs, president of automotive, who is leaving the company.

The weight of getting these important vehicles to market, and developing a more electric and higher-tech portfolio of products for the future, sits squarely on the shoulders of Thai-Tang. The longtime Ford engineer continues to lead product development and purchasing while adding responsibility for Enterprise Product Line Management (charged with better understanding customer needs) and connectivity. The changes take effect March 1.

"We're in the midst of the biggest product refresh in our history," Thai-Tang said in an exclusive interview with MotorTrend after news broke of his promotion. By 2022, everything Ford sells will have been refreshed. "It's a great opportunity," Thai-Tang said. "I'm looking forward to pulling the team together."

He said he will spend some time thinking about how to accelerate the progress of transforming the company, a mandate from CEO Jim Hackett that has taken on additional urgency in the wake of a poor financial performance in the fourth quarter. Much of the hit came from a poor launch of the new Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator at the Chicago Assembly Plant.

Thai-Tang is confident the key vehicles ahead will not stumble out of the gate. Essentially, Ford bit off more than it could chew with the Explorer launch, he tells us. Chicago is one of the oldest plants with little physical space, which limited the ability to set up a pilot area to test assembly of the new vehicle. The plant had to switch from making a front-wheel-drive SUV to models riding on a new rear-wheel-drive architecture. All the sheetmetal was changed. Powertrains are also more complex, with the addition of hybrid and plug-in-hybrid variants. To further complicate things, in addition to the Explorer and the Police Interceptor utility vehicle, the plant concurrently launched the new Lincoln Aviator. And all this was done while maximizing production of the outgoing Explorer.

"Explorer was an anomaly," Thai-Tang said, noting launches of the Ford Super Duty, Escape, Lincoln Corsair, and the Kuga in Europe went as planned. Explorer is not a reflection of Ford's performance, he says. But lessons learned will be applied to the upcoming launches and much effort will go into "de-risking."

No more multiple launches or concurrent assembly, for example. The Mach-E will be built at the Cuautitlan plant in Mexico that is not currently building anything, having ceased Fiesta production there. Champions within the company have been assigned to work with key suppliers. Turnaround time will include more time to train plant employees, and the key launches are also staggered and more validation is being done, we're told.

Under Hackett, employees have been challenged to start small with pilot projects and then expand them. An example is the Mach-E, which has completed its pilot phase as the first vehicle from a new electric architecture and is moving to the next stage: mass production for sale to customers. Thai-Tang says the "start small" approach has allowed them to break free of the status quo and bring new products with more tech to market faster. Then it can be scaled up.

Meanwhile, he will miss Hinrichs, who he has worked closely with for years. "I have immense respect for him. He contributed greatly to our success."
 

Machemark

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I'll have to admit the money Ford lost last quarter is pretty worrying.

Though I'm glad it sounds like they're getting back on track.

If the Mach-E does well and that spills over to say an electric F-150 then I can see Ford turning things around really quick.
 

timbop

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Well, they are actually still doing a horrible job. They couldn't be bothered to send a mach-e to the philly auto show, and as of right now the NYC auto show is not listing one either. I'm not sure if they're bad at geography, but driving 4+ hours from NYC/NJ to the washington or boston shows to just be able to look at the outside of the car is asking a bit much. Had they at least publicized the schedule then some of the 20 million people in the NYC,NJ, and Philadelphia regions may have made the trek; I know I would have. But those shows are over, and it's now too late. So I guess I can see the car for the first time 8 months from now?
 

timbop

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Maybe they are bad at geography, or maybe they just have no idea how to communicate to their potential customers, but I am thoroughly unimpressed with Ford's effort since the debut of the E in LA. It took 10 weeks for them to finally send an "update" email to some of us who signed up for them, and that update had absolutely nothing new. They could have at least published the schedules of where the car was going to be shown on their website, and that was too hard for them to do. I get they are still tweaking the specs, but basic things like leasing program info and options pricing should be shareable at this point.

As for geography, apparently the E was supposed to originally be at the Philly show (per info from 2 dealerships), but it is a no-show there. It is currently not listed at the NYC auto show either. Perhaps one of you Ford employees monitoring this forum could pass on the fact that the population of of the Philadelphia, NJ, and NYC metro area exceeds 20 million, which is a tad higher than San Diego or Montreal. Not that they shouldn't have displayed the E in those markets, but we're talking the 1st and 6th largest cities in the US and the most densely populous state - one would expect a little effort for that demographic.
 

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If you're not happy with how they're doing things, you can always cancel your reservation and don't get the car. I'm going to the NY Autoshow, and it would be nice to see the car there, but if it's not, I'm still interested. None of this has changed my mind, and I won't expect to get the car until the summer of 2021.
 

zhackwyatt

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I don't think your opinion is unreasonable, but I don't think Ford's actions at this point have been unreasonable either. They usually don't develop cars in the open. I followed the Chevy Volt launch and it was much the same. Dribbles of info few and far between.
 

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Is nearly a year before the car is available actually considered part of the launch??

Also is it really necessary to personally make like 5 threads about it showing up at Auto shows?

99.9999999% wouldn't go to an auto show in order to see a car like the Mach E. It will be available to see and drive at your dealer before release. That's the actual important thing for them to do... Not car shows
 
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timbop

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If you're not happy with how they're doing things, you can always cancel your reservation and don't get the car.
Obviously I can exercise that dramatic gesture. I'd rather not. I am aware of at least 2 Ford employees who frequent this forum unofficially, and I would hope someone from Ford monitors it formally. Rather than just taking my ball and going home, I'd rather they were aware of my dissatisfaction. I emailed Ford with the same complaint, so at least someone is aware of a missed opportunity. If I just took the immature route and cancelled my order they wouldn't know why, and I would rather they take corrective action because I still want the car.

as far as I am aware it is possible to have civil discourse without becoming tribal.
 

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It would be easy for them to throw us a bone once a month or 6 weeks. I am sure they have social media people in their marketing Dept. Imagine how much more loyal and locked in we would all be if all they did was take an iPhone interview of some of the people involved and ask what they are doing for example, “What are those multi colored cars doing while they are driving around?” Send it, make us feel a little bit like an insider. I am disappointed that all we have after a substantial period of time is mostly navel gazing in this forum. It is a missed opportunity on fords part.
 

dbsb3233

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I don't think your opinion is unreasonable, but I don't think Ford's actions at this point have been unreasonable either. They usually don't develop cars in the open. I followed the Chevy Volt launch and it was much the same. Dribbles of info few and far between.
I tend to agree. This is an unusual situation. If they've made a mistake here, it may have been in announcing the Mach-e too early. And in taking reservations. I get why they did it, but a year (more if the schedule slips) is a looong time for people to sit and wait anxiously after having mentally committed (and lent them $500 to boot).
 

timbop

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Is nearly a year before the car is available actually considered part of the launch??

Also is it really necessary to personally make like 5 threads about it showing up at Auto shows?

99.9999999% wouldn't go to an auto show in order to see a car like the Mach E. It will be available to see and drive at your dealer before release. That's the actual important thing for them to do... Not car shows
My apologies for ranting
 

Redundant

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I tend to agree. This is an unusual situation. If they've made a mistake here, it may have been in announcing the Mach-e too early. And in taking reservations. I get why they did it, but a year (more if the schedule slips) is a looong time for people to sit and wait anxiously after having mentally committed (and lent them $500 to boot).
Exactly. For $500 bucks I expect an occasional “Hey, how ya doin”? from Ford.
 

macchiaz-o

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Tesla shares next to nothing about their new models between time of fanatic/press unveiling and time of sale. I certainly hope Ford isn't trying to copy Tesla. I'm just pointing out that considering how far out we are from actual assembly lines being finalized, we actually have been receiving quite a bit of info. Much more than I was expecting, as we see the occasional news or blogger interviews with the Ford executives closely tied to MME development.
 

silverelan

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I tend to agree. This is an unusual situation. If they've made a mistake here, it may have been in announcing the Mach-e too early. And in taking reservations. I get why they did it, but a year (more if the schedule slips) is a looong time for people to sit and wait anxiously after having mentally committed (and lent them $500 to boot).
I've never waited so long in anticipation for any product, let alone a car. Our wait is pretty minimal though compared to those reservation holders for the Tesla Model 3. Those guys waited 2-3 years in some cases from the time of the reveal in March 2016 to delivery of their cars.

We'll see dribs and drabs of info as specs get finalized, CARB and EPA certification is completed and service techs at dealers are trained up.

The flood of info I'm truly anticipating is when journalists start getting their hands on the vehicle. Not just your KBB or Edmunds crews, but like real EV specialists such as Bjorn Nyland, Tom Moloughney and Driving Electric.
 

timbop

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99.9999999% wouldn't go to an auto show in order to see a car like the Mach E.
Actually, the POINT of an auto show is for people to see the latest cars and maybe get interested enough in them to consider purchasing them. 250,000 people attend the philly show, so that would be a lot of people who don't frequent this forum or know anything about the E to learn about it.
 
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