Ford drastically cuts complex options packages for 2009 models

In an attempt to reduce complexity, Ford's CEO, Alam Mulally, announced a slashing of the available equipment combinations on 2009 model year vehicles in Ford's stable. The cuts will reportedly reduce vehicle order combinations by 50 percent.

Vehicles of all nameplates will have less optional equipment and more standard features, the logic being to offer the customers what they want, instead of having dealers slash prices and offer other incentives to get a prospective buyer into a vehicle that doesn't exactly fit their needs and wants.

When Ford's luxury division -- Lincoln -- sold the LS (which was discontinued in 2006), it was available in 50,000 different combinations. In contrast, the all-new Lincoln MKS will be available in about 300. Moreover, the MKS will only have three major option packages and six standalone options.

Ford is using existing sales data to determine what content combinations are most popular, and amp up or reduce production of such models appropriately, according to Automotive News. Also, Ford is asking dealers for input on what sells best in their areas, and developing software to help dealers order what the company believes are the best selling combinations.

The expected benefits Ford expects are numerous. For one, dealers will be more likely to stock models that customers actually want, reducing inventory expenses and saving money by not having to offer incentives by pushing an aging model out the door. On the assembly line, Ford can cut manufacturing costs and focus on quality thanks to the reduced numbers of variations being produced.

The move should also speed up the buying process, as dealers want to sell what they have on the lot, and not have a customer take up valuable time by filling out a custom-order sheet.

Ford also believes the changes will better help them compete against foreign marques. Automakers such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan have typically offered fewer options and more standard equipment in order to simplify the ordering process. In recent years, General Motors has also reduced the number of possible combinations throughout its lineup.