RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And the Ford Motor Company plans to extend buyout offers to all its factory workers in North America. That's according to Bloomberg News.
The current buyout program is being offered only at some of Ford's plants. If Ford goes ahead with the new program, it would be similar to what General Motors did earlier this year.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Ford's announcement comes after it decided to slash production to its lowest level in decades. And this morning we have a biography of the vehicle affected most. It's the F-Series truck, like the F-100 or the F-150. It's been the biggest selling truck in America for decades, and you learn about the country from its rise and decline.
We called Paul Eisenstein of the Web site, TheCarConnection.com, and started with the key question: what does the F stand for?
Mr. PAUL EISENSTEIN (TheCarConnection.com): The F is as in Ford, but it also stands for full-size. It was the big work truck for Ford Motor Company, and you could argue it was the big work truck for America for many years.
The F-Series - which actually comprises a whole range of pickups - that series has been the single most popular truck in America for something like two and a half decades.
INSKEEP: Who's been buying it?
Mr. EISENSTEIN: Well, traditionally you had people who were working; whether they were contractors and painters, and tow truck operations or the like. But in recent years - over the last, say, 10 to 15 years - you have seen the so-called personal use market explode. The reality is, it has crossed all lifestyle and demographics.
The F-Series - like its competitors from manufactures like GM, and now we're seeing a new truck coming from Toyota and we have one from Nissan - these big trucks really appeal to a broad cross-section of America. So once upon a time, you expected to see these things, beat up and heavily used, sitting in a construction site. Now you're just as likely to see some very, very well-dressed people getting out of one of these trucks at the fanciest opera or black tie ball.
INSKEEP: Oh, the one in my mind's eye is very shiny and bulges a little bit, like its on steroids.
Mr. EISENSTEIN: Oh, yeah. And that's part of what these vehicles are all about. They suggest that you can do anything and go anywhere. You can haul a trailer, you can haul your mulch, or you can just haul around a lot of friends.
INSKEEP: So now what would cause Ford, at this time, to say that it's cutting back drastically on the number of F-Series trucks that it's producing?
Mr. EISENSTEIN: Well, we have seen, finally, that there is a limit, if you will, to the elasticity of the truck market. Contractors still need these trucks. They're still buying them. But it seems that the $3 a gallon mark has finally clicked, and there is a sharp decline in the personal use segment of the market. How far, how sharply the decline will continue is anybody's guess.
INSKEEP: Although, I can't help but notice that along the way you've mentioned that Toyota, Nissan, and General Motors are all coming out with their own competitors to this truck.
Mr. EISENSTEIN: Well, GM has been out there just as long as Ford.
Mr. EISENSTEIN: So has Chrysler. But what's very interesting is that the Japanese are getting into the big truck segment. So you're actually having more trucks going into a segment that may be declining, which is an awful combination for Ford Motor Company. The only thing that Detroit has going for it is that these buyers are intensely loyal.
Shaking somebody out of a Ford, even to go to a Chevy, is very difficult - never mind to get them into a Toyota.
INSKEEP: Paul Eisenstein, of TheCarConnection.com. Paul, good talking with you.
Mr. EISENSTEIN: Good talking with you, Steve.
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION with NPR News: the M-100. I'm Steve Inskeep.
MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.
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