Ford leader Fields talks of Broncos, Mustangs and much more

Ford president and chief executive Mark Fields at recent Consumer Electronics Show | Ford photos
Ford president and chief executive Mark Fields at recent Consumer Electronics Show | Ford photos

They come to Barrett-Jackson from all walks of celebrity. There are the entertainers; this year it was Justin Bieber, selling his Ferrari 458 Italia F1, and Steven Tyler his Hennessey Venom GT Spyder, with proceeds from later going to charity. And sports stars, too: Floyd Mayweather offering up his Bugatti Veyron and Dale Earnhardt Jr. selling his NASCAR Chevrolet, like Tyler also for charity. Why, even ol’ Burt Reynolds got into the act, with yet another of his 1978 Pontiac Firebird Bandits.

Also up on the block last week at Scottsdale was the perhaps lesser-known Mark Fields. While he may not be a star of the stage or screen or sports arena, Fields is president and chief executive of the Ford Motor Company and he helped sell a uniquely outfitted 2017 F-150 Raptor pickup that raised $207,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

But before standing up on the block, Fields sat down to talk with Classic Car News about the return of two famed Ford nameplates, to assure Mustang maniacs that they will not be disappointed when the pony gets an electric motor, and to encourage those who buy the new Ford GT to get out and drive their cars instead of hiding them away in storage.

We’re working on the next generation of the Mustang and F-150, and it’s a conflict of emotions. Pride and terror.”

— Mark Fields

Ford announced during the recent Detroit auto show that it will offer a hybrid version of the next-generation of its cherished Mustang. That news might have sent shudders through the Mustang community, which probably thinks of performance in terms of “Prius” when it hears “hybrid.”

But without giving anything away — auto executives are loathe to discuss details of “future product” — Fields knows that Mustang buyers want great looks and great performance and he promises that Ford plans to deliver on both counts, even with the gas-electric version of the car. After all, such ultra-high-performance cars as the Acura NSX, Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and LaFerrari are hybrids, and so is the Porsche 919 that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year.

Sure, hybrids reduce both gasoline consumption and emissions, but those same electric motors can provide gobs of torque, and on an instantaneous basis.

And then there’s this, from Fields: “We’re working on the next generation of the Mustang and F-150,” he said, “and it’s a conflict of emotions. Pride and terror. Abject fear.” Why, because one of the development teams mottos is, “Don’t screw it up.”

In the case of the Mustang, he said, the car needs to fulfill traditional Mustang values yet be viable as well in the new automotive era.

Fields said the new Bronco also will live up to that vehicle’s proud heritage.

Unlike the swarm of unibody crossover utilities flooding the roadways, the new Bronco will be built body-on-frame and will be ready to join the “rugged off-road segment,” Fields said.

He added that the market for such a vehicle is there, and as evidence offered that there is “so much love and passion out there” for the older Broncos.

“Look at the people who put new powertrains and electric (systems) into old Bronco chassis.”

For those who would rather wait for the new version rather than a resto-modded older Bronco, Fields said the new SUV will be available for the 2020 model year.

The latest Ford Ranger isn't sold in the U.S. market
The latest Ford Ranger isn’t sold in the U.S. market

Even sooner, Ford dealers will begin delivering the new Ranger pickup, which will be built in the same Michigan assembly plant as the Bronco. While the old Ranger was a compact pickup, the new one will be midsize.

“We produced the last (American-market) Ranger in 2011,” Fields said. “The (compact pickup) segment was disappearing, and we had to make some choices,” he added, noting that unlike its hometown competitors, Ford avoided bankruptcy by reacting sooner to the impending recession.

In the past five years, Fields said, the midsize pickup segment has grown into viability.

“There’s demand,” he said, explaining that an enlarging group of customers don’t want or need a full-size pickup, but still want or need a less-expensive, maneuverable and capable truck. Ford can base the new Ranger off the more version it already builds and sells in many markets around the world, though the North American version will have its own styling and powertrain options.

Since we were at an auction venue, talk turned to the Ford GT, the Le Mans-inspired version built in 2003 to help celebrate Ford’s centennial, and to the new Ford GT, a more limited-edition, ultra-performance, contemporary-design world-class supercar. Those second-generation GTs have become popular with bidders at collector car auctions, especially those with very low, in some cases stunningly low mileage.

Fields said that while 4,000 of the second-gen GTs were produced, only 1,000 of the newest model will be offered, and at a rate of only 250 a year for four years.

He said Ford is being selective in who buys the cars and that priority is being given to those who plan to drive their cars rather than park them as possible resale investments.

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