Someone at Ford Motor Co. seems to understand that even in this downturn, about 15 million new cars will be sold in Canada and the United States this year - about 1.5 million in Canada and about 13.5 million in the U.S., according to various projections.
So there will still be millions of buyers out there this year. To reach them, Ford right now is aggressively pushing a media and marketing blitz designed to generate buzz about Ford's new models.
No, it's more than that.
Ford is trying to repositioning itself as a progressive, savvy and green auto maker - a world leader in design and technology. Ford's basic approach is to say, "Judge us not by what we say, but by what we do."
In the car business, that means take the measure of the auto maker based on the vehicles it produces. Thus, the current big push for the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Ford types are gleefully saying their new midsize sedan is about to become the segment leader in fuel economy - better by far than its closest rival, the Toyota Camry Hybrid. At the Los Angeles auto show last November, Ford even handed out T-shirts emblazoned with the bold claim that the Fusion Hybrid is better than the Camry Hybrid.
The numbers: At 5.7 litres/100 km in city driving (that's 41 miles per gallon in the U.S.) and 6.5 litres/100 km on the highway (36 miles per gallon U.S.) the Fusion beats the Camry Hybrid's 7.1 litres/100 km in the city (33 miles per gallon U.S.) and 6.9 on the highway (34 miles U.S.).
Of course, the Toyota Prius has better fuel economy at 4.0 litres/100 km city/4.2 litres/100 km highway, but the Fusion and Camry are midsize cars, while the Prius is a compact. The apples-to-apples comparison is between the Fusion and Camry hybrids.
The Fusion Hybrid is just the start, though. Ford plans to offer a family of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles by 2012. Meanwhile, new small cars will come from Europe to fill out a Ford lineup that has been competing unsuccessfully or not at all in the compact or subcompact segments.
On top of that, Ford this year will start offering its EcoBoost direct injection turbocharge technology on some models. The plan is to sell EcoBoost - with its claims of improving fuel economy without sacrificing performance -- on as many as 500,000 Ford models a year.
Ford, like Toyota and Honda, seems also to recognize that new technologies need to look new and exciting and innovative. So the Fusion Hybrid, when it goes on sale this summer, will have a so-called "smart gauge" that will use a visual cue to tell the driver how efficiently he or she is driving. The cue is a digital vine that blooms or withers depending on whether or not the driver is wasting or conserving fuel.
Ford clearly is trying to position itself as the smartest of Detroit's auto makers and a worthy rival to any of the world's biggest and best auto makers. Toyota is one target here, Honda another.
Ford is also using its borrowed cash cushion to avoid taking any government bailout loan money for the time being, thus also positioning itself as the most financially sound of the Detroit Three.
Now we have heard a lot of this from Ford before - the promises that it would become the greenest of auto makers and so on. Back in the late 1990s and through the early part of this decade, Ford promised electric cars (Think electrics from Norway) and fuel cell cars (Ballard-powered fuel cell cars from British Columbia) and all sorts of other innovations, including a "family" of hybrids that would compete against Toyota.
The promises were run over by Ford's temporarily profitable but utterly short-sighted obsession with pickups and sport-utility vehicles and European luxury brands.
My point is this: it's all well and good to understand something and to have a plan to put that understanding into practice. It's entirely something else to have a plan that actually works.
To put it another way: the Ford family-owned Detroit Lions went into every football game this year with a plan for victory, but lost all 16 games to set an NFL record for failure.
The question, then, is will the Ford family-controlled Ford Motor Co. be more successful than the family's pathetic football team?