Regular (or even irregular) readers of this blog have probably noted my disillusionment with Ford of late. Yup, after rising from the ashes Ford stock has dropped a bit and is languishing at around five times what I paid for it in the depths of the continuing Great Recession. And yes, Ford’s hit some home runs, but like GM and Fiat/Mopar they seem to have settled into their historic role as the fat and happy sisters of the american auto industry.

It wasn’t always like that- The Ford name and brand was once a living legend that earned a loyalty no competitor could surpass regardless of their ad budget. I witnessed the still shiny Ford brand last weekend at an auction of the Reber collection of Fords of Henry Ford’s era, the newest being a 1951 and the oldest dating from the Model T days. In the tiny town of Echo, Minnesota, over fifty miles from the nearest Interstate, over a thousand Ford fans gathered to pay homage to the products of Henry’s Ford Motor Company that ceased to exist when the oldest of them were teenagers. A few even got numbers and bid, and these mass produced Fords, none of which appeared to really be restored, went for 5 digit sums, and one even broke the $50k mark.

Why?

Had Henry Ford not erred with  his anti-Jewish screeds, he’d be right up there with the Roosevelts on the list of american heros. A populist, Henry increased the pay of his workers so they could buy the cars they made, earning him the ire of his fellow captains of industry. But that sin against jungle capitalism was forgotten when the now middle class workers bought everything else besides new Fords and made Henry’s fellow capitalists richer. Henry’s populism spread to his product, a simple reliable car that could handle bad roads and big loads with aploomb. Henry’s flathead V8 not only won at the racetracks, but in Ford trucks it could handle massive overloads without complaining. In fact, a whole cottage industry developed to turn the affordable Ford pickups into tandem axle semitractors and trucks that rivaled the best Mack and Kenworth could build at a fifth the price. On the farm, just half that same Ford flathead put the horses out to pasture…And over a half century later, those N series Ford tractors are still mowing, pushing snow, and even yet tilling the fields.

Yup, Henry had it right, and over half a century later we still love his products.

Today’s Ford management should wander over to Henry’s museum in Greenfield and take some lessons. I mean, why is Ford still building five crossovers that compete with each other? And why can’t I buy a mid sized Ford sedan and tow a small trailer with it like grandpa did? And how many engines does an automaker who has abandonned the heavy truck and tractor markets need? And why can’t I shift for myself in a Ford truck… I mean. they’re supposed to be trucks, not cars!

Maybe it’s time to surf on over to my stockbroker’s website and put in a sell order…

 

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