They’ve been on a wild ride at Ford lately, sorta like when your teenage kid tries to come up with a clever story to explain the fresh dent and engine knock in the family car after you let them solo with it. First version of the story was that Ford was diving deep into electrification and autonomous cars to get a head start on the future. What actually happened was that Ford added diesel options for the F150 and Transit Connect and dropped the Focus electric and C-Max hybrids, then paid way too much for an abandoned train station and other dilapidated real estate in Detroit. This failed to provide the desired jump in stock value to benefit the close to retirement Ford execs with stock options, and in fact the stock has been on a slow slide downward.

So Ford top management decided that what the world really wanted was hatchbacks on tippy toes called SUVs and kicked the Focus outa their U.S. lineup and put the Fiesta and Fusion on notice… Despite the fact that buyers with late 20s median ages and six figure median incomes lined up and laid down deposits to buy every $40k Focus RS they could build. And with Ford finances hemorrhaging to pay for development of all these electric and autonomous vehicles that not much of anyone seems interested in buying, Wall Street got worried, so after buying up all that future office space Ford announces layoffs of thousands of white collar workers.

But despite top management inattention, Ford’s business of actually building vehicles has been going pretty well- Ford has best in class vehicles in many segments like pickups and full size vans and it’s new world market F-Max heavy tractor just won the International Truck of the Year Award. Ford never much mentioned these accomplishments and the F-Max is darn near a corporate secret here in North America, so the stock slide continued.

When all else fails, blame the ad agency… So Ford brought in a new agency and gave the old one a consolation prize. New agency has to do something “impressive”, so this weekend they’ll debut the new “Ford Proud” ad campaign. But in the last few days the “collaboration” being discussed between Ford and VW Group was rumored to be something more, like a merger. Unlike a lot of mergers a lot of the press thought this marriage made sense, but Ford promptly walked the merger rumor back. Here was chance to merge two great automotive and institutional traditions with complementary strengths… But Ford was too “Ford Proud” to even consider it.