Ford's license to thrill revoked in Europe

Until recent years, nothing was more fun than playing with - I mean running - an American car company.

Like a youngster accumulating more toys than the other kids, Ford Motor Co.'s leadership had snapped up Britain's Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands, as well as Swedish safety stalwart Volvo.


What could be cooler? It didn't have any idea how to make money with them, but those trips to Europe must have been a blast. Can you imagine the great model-year introduction parties? Priceless.

Now, Ford is selling Aston Martin to a private investor group. Aston Martin, whose sports cars were made famous in the James Bond movies, manufactures about 5,000 vehicles annually that cost more than $100,000 apiece.


It's unloading the brand because, to be perfectly honest, the parent company needs the money. It finally has enough common sense to get rid of something it had not needed in the first place.

The only surprise is that it didn't sell off money-losing Jaguar first, as rumored. Apparently there's some hope that this sale will clear the way for Jaguar to finally move into the black, though that logic still needs some work.

In the film Goldfinger, Bond's silver Aston Martin DB5 sports car had optional equipment that that should be standard for any self-respecting spy: A passenger ejector seat, tire shredders that extended from its wheel hubs, oil slick dispensers, smoke screen dispensers and dual machine guns located below its headlights.

In Thunderball, powerful water cannons were added, while in Goldeneye, a refrigerated glove box that held a wine bottle and two glasses made its debut.

None of these have been included in vehicles produced by Ford since it has owned Aston Martin, but one can easily imagine its executives sitting in the front seat, squinting their eyes and pretending that they were Agent 007 himself. It was lots more fun than approving color charts for a Taurus.

Today's Ford is working hard to get its act together under a new chief executive and introducing innovative new models. Investors, employees and millions of Americans hope it succeeds.

Ford's European adventure was a costly departure. It should have left those premium brands alone and devoted greater attention and energy to bread-and-butter vehicles that provide the majority of jobs and keep the economy rolling. Its domestic strategy too long consisted mostly of rebates.

An automaker fighting for independent survival can't afford tactical errors or flights of fancy. It must leave the toy manufacturing to more experienced toymakers.


Andrew Leckey writes for Tribune Media Services.