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Ford recently announced the end of the latest variation of the Thunderbird. The popularity of the original 2-seat models is well known. What did Ford hope to accomplish with today’s Thunderbird?
Before the retro T-Bird hit dealer showrooms Ford was proudly touting the new and improved features. Retro styling, removable hard top, and modern design were supposed to bring back the 50s feel with modern convenience. The baby boomers were full of nostalgia and had plenty of disposable income. Perfect timing, right? Well, maybe not. From pre-release literature Ford could make a profit selling the T-Bird in the $25,000 range. Not bad for a great looking car. But wait! Ford wanted this car in the $35,000 range so the price was set there.¹ What was the buyer going to get for the extra $10,000? Well, we are still waiting for that.
Lets look at the what and the who of today’s car market. The original T-Bird was no muscle car, out with the muscle car group. The original T-Bird was not an expensive luxury car, out with that group. The original T-Bird had an appealing style, lots of competition in that group today. So far I fail to see a large group to which this car would appeal, thus producing a profit for Ford. In comparison the retro Mustang has it all especially the drop top to which I am particularly attracted. It has style. It has go. It has everything. I think the difference is obvious. Unfortunately for Ford there are many competitors for the retro market and the T-Bird was not up to it. Chrysler’s lineup of retro style and modern go along with a smaller like offering from GM left the T-Bird among too many buyer alternatives. Unfortunately there was little to make the T-Bird stand above the crowd.
Maybe someone at Ford should have asked the right people what appealed to them and what they were willing to pay for it. A few years ago, as a 50 something baby boomer, I participated in an opinion poll for one of GMs future production cars. Apparently GM listened because the car is a success today. Whether Ford got the wrong information or did not listen to the public matters not now, the T-Bird has taken a swan dive. I am glad to see the Thunderbird name has been stored for future use. As a Ford owner and Ford investor, I wish Ford success. As a nostalgic baby boomer, I say “Better luck next time Thunderbird”.
In anticipation of your question “What do you drive 50 something baby boomer?” I also drive a short lived car variety. I have a 1989 Chrysler’s TC by Maserati. Expensive ($33,550) and with a cheaper LeBaron look alike already on the highway it was a 3-year model with only 7300 made. Not yet a classic or collectable it is fun to drive and stands out in the crowd. It has a removable hard top with port holes like the T-Bird. It looks like I may have been in that T-Bird crowd after all.
¹ I apologize to my readers for not recording the source of this information. I am relying on memory, which is not the most accurate source for writing articles. I feel the accuracy is sufficient for this article but have no way to verify the information.
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