The president of Ford of Canada is on the line and because David Mondragon has just learned my teenager is about to start driving, I am at risk of losing a lot of money on this interview.
"We've got an all-new Fiesta coming into the market for $12,999. You're not going to be able to beat that value in the market. Think about that," says Mondragon, an ex-football player who talks like I'm sure he used to hit players when he was a defensive back in college.
In Pictures, Ford's newest models for 2011 and 2012.
So I, of course, start blocking (hey, Mondragon is not the only guy who played football around here). No, no, I say, the Fiesta isn't quite right. Very nice little car and I love the dual-clutch automatic transmission ($1,200 extra). But I'm thinking a small pickup would be better.
Then, like any gridiron veteran running a car company, Mondragon calls a new play:
"Start with a Ranger. We can get you in a Ranger under $15,000. There you go. We have Employee Pricing starting next month (July), so you can have an employee pricing program - you pay what we pay," he says.
I can see that if I don't find another gear, if I don't change field and head in new direction, I'll only escape this interview by writing a $15,000 cheque. Yet, even as my brain races through the journalist's playbook, I also cannot help but notice one of the reasons why Ford of Canada is the No. 1 car company in Canada by sales. If the boss pushes this hard to move the metal - all along chuckling and cajoling me to buy a Ford - that attitude must filter down to the trenches where cars are sold one at a time.
In this week's What Car? feature, a reader wants to buy the three-door Mazda2 hatchback which is currently sold in Europe. Can she buy one in Canada?
My new gambit: jump in with the leadership question. Big bosses always like talking about leadership. I ask: What's it like to be No. 1 in Canada by sales, to have a bit of target on your back?
"Being No. 1 in Canada is not our No. 1 goal," says Mondragon, thankfully letting go of my teenager's driving needs. "It is a great pride point for us and our dealers and I think it's a great pride point for our customers, as well. But it's not our No. 1 goal. We are very focused on sustainable, profitable growth for us as a manufacturer and our retailers. And that's our No. 1 goal."
In other words, he says Ford of Canada is not going to buy market share with oversized sales sweeteners, unprofitable cash-back deals, cut-rate financing offers and overly well-equipped models. Ford will do what's necessary to stay competitive, but the days of bribing customers while losing money doing it are over. A brush with near-extinction will do that for a car company.
Remember, Ford Motor Co. amassed nearly $30-billion in losses between 2005 and 2008. To survive and reinvent the company, an essentially broke Ford in late 2006 borrowed $23-billion (U.S.) to fund a turnaround based on a single-minded focus on globally developed models for the Ford brand.
"If you look at some of the stupid things in the market ... We're not going to put incentives in the market to claim leadership," he says. "After all the hard work we've done as a company to build our brand and strengthen our financial position and our bottom line? No, we're not going to do that.
"So we might not be No. 1 when everything is said and done. But I will tell you that we will have a very sustainable and profitable business going forward." And yes, the Canadian unit of Ford is profitable, he says without divulging specific numbers.