Friday, March 11, 2005

Bye Bye T-Birdie

From CNN Money:

Ford plans to again stop production of its Thunderbird sports car after the current model year ends production in July.

The company has sold more than 55,000 of the roadsters since it brought the storied car back into production with the 2002 model following a three-year gap in production. But sales have been slipping since its reintroduction resulted in sales of 19,085 in 2002.


The two-seater model brought back in 2002 was always seen as somewhat of a niche vehicle. But despite some good reviews for the reintroduction, even the best sales of the new model were seen as somewhat of a disappointment for Ford.

Ford said this is not the end of the line for its famous nameplate. Instead, its release referred to the decision as putting the name back in its “future-product vault.”

“We promised all along that this Thunderbird would have a limited production run, and we’re being true to our word,” said Steve Lyons, Ford Division president. “Thunderbird was a terrific image builder for the Ford brand showroom at a time when we needed it.”

I was a T-bird fan from afar. I liked to look at them but I could never afford one, and when they got big and bulbous in the ’80’s I lost interest. (My dad had two T-birds; a 1961 convertible in tobacco brown that was sleek and sharp, and a 1970 two-door in metallic mint green that looked like it had spent too much time in Palm Springs. I’d kill for the ’61 today.) I had hoped that the new T-bird would do well, but I think it just missed the target in styling. It was trying for the retro look of the original 1955-1957 iteration, but with the sloping rear end and the complete lack of any homage to the chrome bumpers that gave the lines a beginning and an end it didn’t cut it, and little touches like that can make or break a look. I hope that if they do bring the badge back in a few years they’ll learn something from their success with the new Mustang: keep it simple and true to the original.