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Daily Edition: Jan. 23, 2006

Ford "Way Ahead" Coming Today

The countdown is reaching its final hours for Ford Motor Co. On Monday morning, the beleaguered automaker unveils its long-awaited "Way Forward" plan.

If you read the papers or scanned the Web this past weekend, you were bombarded by conflicting reports. According to some supposedly well-placed sources, Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant had dodged the bullet. Others insisted theAtlanta line won a reprieve.

No matter which source is ultimately correct, the cuts at the third-largest automaker in the world will be deep and painful. As many as ten major parts and assembly plants will be shuttered, up to 35,000 blue and white-collar jobs cut.

To help sell the plan, expect Way Forward architect and President of the Americas Mark Fields to deliver some unexpected bombshells. He's well aware of the cold shoulder Wall Street gave General Motors' own revival plan last November. 

Fields also realizes even the best laid plan will fail without worker buy-in. He's studied other turnaround efforts, including GM's vast 1984 reorganization, which resulted in two years of corporate paralysis because management underestimated the need to give the workforce a clear sense of what was going on - and why.

"They need to be scared enough to take action," stresses Dan Gorrell, chief auto analyst with Strategic Vision. Yet at the same time, "You've got to get people hopeful." 

To underscore the urgency, expect the cuts to reach the most senior levels of management. As previously reported, marketing chief Steve Lyons is reportedly among a number of officer-level executives who'll be broomed.

Follow the announcements beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET Monday morning, as links to live video and audio webcasts will be available here:

Ford "Way Ahead" Coming Monday (1/22/2006)
The real challenge begins after the cuts are made, analysts say.

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The Camaro That Almost Was

A close look at the Studio X design, the Camaro concept that almost was.

A close look at the Studio X design, the Camaro concept that almost was.

Enlarge Photo
Call it the Camaro that almost was. The pony car that shook up this year's North American International Auto Show was really the result of a top-secret shoot-out between some of General Motors' top designers.

Even before GM pulled the plug on the last production Camaro, the automaker has been struggling with ways to bring back the once-popular muscle car. An ill-conceived concept car nearly made it onto the auto show circuit in early 2005, but was abandoned on orders from CEO Rick Wagoner.

Ford was already committed to the retro path, with a Mustang unabashedly repeating the theme of the much-loved 1967 model. So Wagoner ordered his design team to come up with something that picked up the visual cues of past Camaros without being slavishly retro.

GM's Advanced Design studio didn't get back to work on the Camaro concept until spring 2005, but "within about three weeks, maybe four," recalled GM design director Ed Welburn, they already had something striking in mind. Sketches were transferred to clay, and soon, a life-size model was ready for review.

"When I walked out onto the patio and saw it, it was obvious it was a Camaro," Welburn, himself a Camaro collector, told TheCarConnection. But he still wasn't satisfied. "I liked it, but I wanted them to push it farther."

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