Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ford, with help from Volvo, tops safe car list

By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writer Tue Nov 25, 7:49 am ET
WASHINGTON – The insurance industry named dozens of new cars and trucks, led by Ford Motor Co. and its Volvo subsidiary, to its annual list of the safest vehicles Tuesday, helped by the increased use of anti-rollover technology.
Ford and Volvo had 16 vehicles in the 2009 model year on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's list of the safest new cars, followed by Honda Motor Co. with 13 vehicles.
Seventy-two cars, trucks and SUVs received the top safety pick designation for 2009, more than double the number of vehicles in the 2008 model year and three times the number in 2007.
"The sheer number of this year's winners indicates that automakers have made huge strides to improve crash protection," said Institute president Adrian Lund.
The selected vehicles are the best in protecting people in front, side and rear crash tests based on institute evaluations during the year. The vehicles are required to have electronic stability control, or ESC, to qualify for the award.
IIHS said electronic stability control is now standard equipment on virtually all new SUVs and three-quarters of passenger cars for the 2009 model year. ESC is standard on more than one-third of 2009 pickups.
Ford was led by the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize cars with optional ESC; the Ford F-150 pickup, Ford Edge and Ford Flex midsize sport utility vehicles; and the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner small SUVs. The list also included the Mazda Tribute, which has the same underpinnings as the Escape and Mariner.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally argued last week in Washington that the automaker had made safety strides when he testified along with other Big Three executives seeking massive government aid.
"Every year, we're going to improve the quality, we're going to improve the fuel efficiency, we're going to improve the safety, and we're going to keep improving the productivity so we can offer the consumer the very best value," Mulally told a House committee.
Honda and its Acura unit had vehicles in nearly every category, including top-sellers such as the Honda Accord; the Honda Civic 4-door with optional ESC; and the Acura MDX and RDX midsize SUVs; and the Honda Fit with optional ESC. The Fit is the first mini-car to earn the safety award.
Volkswagen AG and its Audi brand had nine vehicles on the list, including the Volkswagen Jetta and Passat and the Audi A3, A4 and A6.
General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. both had eight vehicles on the list. GM's included the Cadillac CTS and the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook large SUVs.
Toyota's top performers were the Toyota Corolla with optional ESC, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra and Scion xB.
Using the awards, consumers can compare vehicles without having to review results from multiple tests. Automakers pay close attention to the institute's findings and frequently note positive ratings in television commercials.
The institute has advocated for an early adoption of anti-rollover technology such as ESC ahead of a government requirement for the systems by the 2012 model year.
Electronic stability control senses when a driver may lose control and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to keep the vehicle stable and avoid a rollover. It helps motorists avoid skidding across icy or slick roads or keep control when swerving to avoid an unexpected object in the road.
IIHS said Chrysler LLC was the only major automaker that did not receive a single award. They said Chrysler could have picked up five awards if the head restraints had been improved in the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring, the Sebring convertible and the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country.
Chrysler spokesman Cole Quinnell said he could not comment on whether the head restraints might be upgraded in the future. He said Chrysler vehicles are equipped with a variety of safety features and the institute's results "are just one of the sources of information about a vehicle's crash performance."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hybrids to pace race

Ford Motor Co. will provide Nascar with a pair of its prototype Fusion Hybrid models as pace cars for its championship weekend in Miami.
It will be the first time a hybrid car has paced the field in the stock-car racing series, Ford said in a statement. A hybrid Fusion will lead the field to the green flag to start the Ford 400, while a 263-horsepower Sport model will be used during caution periods in the race.
Nascar has been slow to embrace alternative fuels and switched to race-blended unleaded gasoline from leaded fuel in 2007. The rival Indy Racing League switched to ethanol from methanol the same year. Ford says its hybrid Fusions, which are to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Nov. 19, will be able to get 700 miles of city driving on a tank of gasoline.
The two Fusions used to pace the race Sunday will be painted with a Nascar-themed camouflage design. Either Jimmie Johnson, who drives a Chevrolet Impala, or Carl Edwards, who races a Fusion, will be named Nascar champion after the race.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ford Vehicles Gain in Reliability

The Associated Press
updated 3:30 p.m. PT, Thurs., Oct. 23, 2008
NEW YORK - Toyota Motor Corp.’s Scion brand topped the list of most reliable cars in Consumer Reports’ annual vehicle reliability rankings released Thursday, as Asian automakers continued to crowd the top of the magazine’s rankings.
Meanwhile, Chrysler LLC vehicles saw their scores fall sharply from 2007, while Ford Motor Co.’s nameplates gained ground over their Detroit rivals.
“Scion has a portfolio of three fairly small, fairly well equipped vehicles,” said David Champion, director of Consumer Reports’ auto test center. “It’s a basic form of transport, but put together well.”
The study compiled responses from Consumer Reports readers for more than 1.4 million vehicles this spring, using the results to predict reliability of 2009 models. The results are closely watched by automakers because of their influence on car buyers.
In this year’s study, Honda Motor Co.’s Acura and Honda lines ranked right behind Scion, followed by the Toyota nameplate and Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. Asian names occupied all of the magazine’s top 10 slots, with a domestic automaker not appearing on the list until No. 11 with Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brand.
Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis said Toyota was pleased to see Scion — which just launched two 2008 models, the xB and the xD — top the list.
“Generally speaking, when a vehicle first launches, that’s when you’re more apt to have any issues that need to be worked out, and this is a vehicle that came right out of the gate and earned this praise right away,” Dominicis said.
Champion noted that Ford nameplates have pulled ahead of their Detroit rivals this year, with nearly all Ford products carrying average-or-better rankings, with the exception of some of its truck-based vehicles. In addition, the Ford Focus sedan has been vastly improved since its 2000 debut, Consumer Reports said, and the car was ranked No. 4 for most reliable family vehicles.
“Ford’s vehicles, especially their car-based vehicles, have all been exceptionally good in terms of reliability year after year,” Champion said.
Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, said the rankings are further affirmation of the changes the company has made to improve its vehicles, particularly in drive quality, electrical function and quietness.
“Being neck and neck with Toyota and Honda is satisfying for us,” Fields said. But he added that topping General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC isn’t enough. “We have our eye squarely on becoming the leader in the industry.”
Consumer Reports called GM cars a “mixed bag,” with bright spots being the redesigned above-average Chevrolet Malibu. The Buick Lucerne V-8 and Pontiac G6 are also came in above average, but a quarter of GM models came in below average.
Chrysler vehicles, on the other hand, clustered near the bottom of the rankings, with nearly two-thirds of its lineup below average. The Chrysler Sebring was Consumer Reports’ worst-rated car, coming in at 283 percent below average.
“I believe the introduction of some of their new models were not fully developed, and they hadn’t worked out all the bugs before they came up,” Champion said.
He said recent changes at Chrysler may have contributed to poor quality ratings. Germany’s Daimler AG sold an 80.1 percent stake in Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP last year. Now, Cerberus appears to be in talks to sell the automaker, possibly to GM.
Chrysler spokeswoman Beverly Thacker said the automaker was dissatisfied with its performance and will work “aggressively to improve every aspect of customer satisfaction.”
“We do have pockets of success that demonstrates we can meet our customers’ expectations,” Thacker said in a statement. “The Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot were rated above average.”
To calculate its reliability ratings, Consumer Reports averages the overall reliability scores from readers for the most recent three model years. If a model has fewer than three model years, than it uses data from as many years as are available.
Consumer Reports’ reliability issue is scheduled to hit newsstands Nov. 11. The magazine is published by the nonprofit Consumers Union, based in Yonkers, N.Y.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27341890/

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ford's Plans for the Future

Public Affairs Update – Friday, August 15 This week, the Center for Automotive Research gathered automotive industry experts to participate in workshops, panels and networking activities as a way to share the latest news and views of the automotive industry. This year's theme, "Transcending Turbulence: A New Beginning" focused on strategies automotive companies are doing to overcome today's economic challenges.
Today, Tony Brown discussed how Ford is working with suppliers through the Aligned Business Framework to develop long-term s ourcing strategies for global programs including the upcoming C-sized vehicles. Brown’s address builds on speeches earlier this week by Mark Fields, Bennie Fowler and Jim Buczkowski on North America small car profitability, quality and connectivity plans.
Below are brief overviews of the news items discussed and further details can be found on the Public Affairs page on FMCdealer.com.
FORD'S GLOBAL PRODUCT PLAN TO DRIVE INCREASED SMALL CAR PROFITS; NEW TEAM TO BOLSTER VEHICLE CONNECTIVITY Ford Motor Company expects the quality, fuel efficiency, smart technologies and shared global nature of its upcoming new Focus small car in North America and other derivatives built off a new global C-car platform to deliver a double-digit percentage profit improvement compared with today's North American Focus.
In addition, Ford is forming a new customer connectivity team to accelerate its leadership in vehicle smart technology solutions that are increasingly important to small car customers, including Ford SYNC, SIRIUS Travel Link and Ford Work Solutions and HD radio.
Mark Fields, announced on Tuesday, the latest details about the company's accelerated transformation and plan to introduce several new fuel-efficient small cars during his speech.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY NAMES SEVEN ADDITIONAL MEMBERS T O KEY SUPPLIER NETWORK Today, Ford Motor Company announced seven new Aligned Business Framework (ABF) suppliers, bringing the total number of companies in the ABF network to 65. Under ABF, Ford and suppliers enter into long-term contracts to strengthen collaboration and drive mutual profitability and technology development.
Aligned Business Framework members added in the last year include: Dürr, Imagination, Jack Morton Worldwide, Linamar, Microsoft, Neapco and Synovate.
Launched in 2005, ABF agreements establish working business models for both Ford and the selected suppliers. The agreements comprehensively and formally spell out business practices designed to increase future collaboration, including phased-in up-front payment of engineering and development costs, extended sourcing and data transparency. As part of the agreement, Ford increases the volume of business with select suppliers. Since launch, Ford has identified 46 production and 19 non-production ABF suppliers

Thursday, July 31, 2008

FORD ACCELERATES SMALL CAR MANUFACTURING

IMMEDIATE RELEASE



FORD ACCELERATES TRANSFORMATION PLAN WITH SMALL CAR OFFENSIVE, MANUFACTURING REALIGNMENT




  • Ford adding new fuel-efficient small cars and crossovers to North American product lineup

  • Six European small vehicles coming to North America from global B-car and C-car platforms

  • Three large truck and SUV plants converting to small cars; retooling begins in December

  • Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup to be almost completely upgraded by end of 2010

  • Ford plans to be the best or among the best in fuel economy with every new product in its segment

  • Hybrid vehicle production and lineup to double in 2009

  • Capacity for North American four-cylinder engines to double by 2011

  • Ford, Lincoln and Mercury confirmed in company's North American brand portfolio

DEARBORN, Mich., July 24,2008 --Ford Motor Company [NYSE: F] today announced a significant acceleration of its transformation plan with the addition of several new fuel-efficient small vehicles in North America and a realignment of its North America manufacturing.


The actions represent a considerable shift in Ford's North American product plans and investments toward smaller vehicles and fuel-efficient powertrains in both the near-and mid-term in line with rapid changes in customer buying preferences.


In addition to bringing six small vehicles to North America from the company's acclaimed European lineup, Ford is acceleration the introduction of fuel-efficient EcoBoost and all-new four-cylinder engines, boosting hybrid production and converting three existing truck and SUV plants for small car production, beginning this December.


"We continue to take fast and decisive action implementing our plan and responding to the rapidly changing business environment," said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. "Ford is moving aggressively using our global product strengths to introduce additional smaller vehicles in North America and to provide outstanding fuel economy with every new product."


Mulally said the company is more focused than ever on its transformation plan, which calls for:



  • Aggressively restructuring to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix

  • Accelerating the development of new products that customers want and value

  • Financing the plan and improving the balance sheet

  • Working together effectively as one team, leveraging Ford's global assets

"The progress we have made in working together to create a 'One Ford' global enterprise during the past two years gives us a unique competitive advantage in today's environment," Mulally said. "We are in a stronger position than ever to leverage Ford's global assets to address the North American business environment. We also are building on the past few years of progress in continuously improving our quality, reducing our cost structure and introducing strong new products."


Aggressively Restructuring


Ford will convert three existing North American truck and SUV plants for small car production, with the first conversion beginning this December.


The moves are in addition to Ford's announcements in May and June that it is reducing its North American production plans for large trucks and SUVs for the remainder of 2008, as well as increasing production of smaller cars and crossover.


"We are transforming Ford's North American manufacturing operations into a lean, flexible system that is fully competitive with the best in the business," said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. "We remain committed to matching our capacity with real consumer demand, and we can respond quickly to changing consumer tastes.


"In addition, we are adding four-cylinder engine capacity to meet the growing consumer demand, while expanding production of our new EcoBoost engines, six-speed transmissions and other fuel-saving technologies," Fields said.


Among the manufacturing realignment actions:



  • Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Mich., which currently builds the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs, will be converted beginning this December to production of small cars derived from Ford's global C-car platform in 2010.

  • Production of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator will be moved to the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Ky., early next year.

  • Cuautitlan Assembly Plan in Mexico, which currently produces F-Series pickups, will be converted to begin production of the new Fiesta small car for North America in early 2010.

  • Louisville (Ky.) Assembly Plant, which builds the Ford Explorer mid-size SUV, will be converted to produce small vehicles from Ford's global C-car platform beginning in 2011.

  • Twin Cities (Minn.) Assembly Plant --which was scheduled to close in 2009 --will continue production of the Ford Ranger through 2011 to meet consumer demand for the compact pickup.

  • As previously announced, Kansas City Assembly Plant this year will add a third crew to its small utility line for the Ford Escape, Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid.

In tandem with the realignments, Ford will continue to offer targeted hourly buyouts at its U.S. plants and facilities, working with the UAW to secure competitive employment levels. Ford also said it remains on track to reduce salaried-related costs by 15 percent in North America by Aug. 1.


Ford North America still expects to reduce annual operating costs by $5 billion by the end of 2008-- at constant volume, mix and exchange, and excluding special items--compared with 2005. In addition, the company said it plans to continue to reduce structural costs beyond 2008.


The company also confirmed Ford, Lincoln and Mercury will remain in its North American brand portfolio. Ford said it will work its dealers to broaden and accelerate its dealer consolidations, which will result in a dealer network that reflects the changing industry size and model mix.


Ford also updated its current North American planning assumptions, which include:



  • U.S. economic recovery to begin by early 2010

  • U.S. industry sales to return to trend levels as the economy returns to health industry for full-size pickups-- though not back to levels experience previously-- as the economy and housing sector recover

  • Oil prices to remain volatile and high

  • No near-term relief from current level of commodity prices

  • About 14 percent U.S. market share for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands

Accelerating New Products


Ford is adding several new North American products in the near-and mid-term, and shifting from a primary emphasis on large trucks and SUVs to smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. By the end of 2010, two-thirds of spending will be on cars and crossovers-- up from one-half today.


"We are accelerating the development of the new products customers want and value, "Mulally said. "We sell some of the best vehicles int world in our profitable European and Asian operations, and we will bring many of them to North America on top of our already aggressive product plans."


The new products include six European small vehicles to be introduced in North America by the end of 2012. Ford's acclaimed European products are set apart by their world- class driving dynamics, exciting design and outstanding quality.


"While we have no intention of giving up out longtime truck leadership, we are creating a new Fore in North America on foundation of small, fuel-efficient cars and crossovers that will set new standards for quality, fuel economy, product features and refinement," Fields said.


The Ford, Lincoln, Mercury line will be almost completely upgraded by the end of 2010, including:



  • 2009 Ford F-150, on sale in late fall with the most capability, most choice and most smart features of any full-size pickup, and with more than a 7 percent fuel economy improvement

  • 2010 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln MKZ sedans, on sale in early 2009, with Fusion's and Milan's four-cylinder fuel economy expected to top Honda Accord and Toyota Camry

  • 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid beginning production late this year and on sale in early 2009- with fuel economy expected to top the Toyota Camry hybrid

  • New Ford Mustang- coupe, convertible, and glass-roof models --in early 2009

  • New Ford Taurus sedan-- with EcoBoost engine and even more advanced safety and convenience technologies-- in mid-2009

  • New European Transit Connect small multi-purpose van in mid-2009

  • New Lincoln seven-passenger crossover-with EcoBoost engine --in mid-2009

  • New European Ford Fiesta, in both four-and five-door versions, in early 2010

  • New European Ford Focus, in both four-and five-door versions, in 2010

  • New Mercury small car in 2010

  • New European small vehicle that will be a "whitespace" entry in North America in 2010

  • Next-generation Ford Explorer-- with unibody construction, EcoBoost, six-speed, weight savings and improved aerodynamics for up to 25 percent better fuel economy --in 2010

With every new product, Ford expects to be the best or among the best for fuel economy. This is aided by one of the most extensive powertrain upgrades ever for Ford. By the end of 2010, nearly all of Ford's North American engines will be upgraded or replaced. In addition, within two years, nearly all of Ford's North American lineup will offer fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmissions.


The improvements build on several Ford fuel economy leaders today, such as:



  • 2009 Ford Flex, which is the most fuel-efficient standard seven-passenger vehicle on the market, topping the 2009 Honda Pilot

  • 2009 Ford Focus, with highway fuel economy of up to 35 mpg-- better than than the smaller 2008 Honda Fit and 2009 Nissan Versa SL and a key reason Focus retail sales are up 50 percent

  • 2009 Excape, with a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission delivering best-in-class highway fuel economy of 28 mpg--ahead of Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V

  • 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid, delivering 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, making it the most fuel-efficient utility vehicle available

Coming in 2009 are the first applications of Ford's new EcoBoost engines. EcoBoost uses gasoline turbocharger direct-injection technology for up to 20 percent better fuel economy, up to 15 percent fewer CO2 emissions and superior driving performance versus larger-displacement engines.


EcoBoost V-6 engines will be introduced on several vehicles next year beginning with the Lincoln MKS and Ford Taurus sedans, Ford Flex crossover. Four-cylinder EcoBoost engines will debut in 2010 in both North America and Europe. Ford will offer EcoBoost on more that 80 percent of its North American lineup by the end of 2012.


Ford also plans to double capacity for North American four-cylinder engines to more that 1 million units by 2011, to meet the consumer5 trend toward downsized engines for fuel economy. The smaller engines will deliver significant fuel savings.


In addition, Ford plans to double its hybrid volume and offerings next year-- and is looking to expand further going forward. Production of the all-new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid begins in December-- with fuel economy expected to top the Toyota Camry hybrid.


With these new models, the Ford Escape Hybrid- now in its fifth year of production- and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Ford will offer four hybrid vehicles. That will make Ford the largest domestic producer of full hybrid vehicles in North America, second only to Toyota in sales volume.


Ford also is introducing six-speeds with PowerShift that offers the fuel economy of manual transmission and convenience of an automatic; and start-stop engines that shut off when the vehicle stops; electric power steering; direct injection, and Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing engines. These technologies will be progressively introduced within the North American lineup by 2012.


"One Ford"


Driving Ford's product transformation is the company's "One Ford" global product development vision, which will deliver more vehicles worldwide from fewer core platforms, further reduce costs and allow for the increased use of common parts and systems.


In the next five years, Ford will build more that 1 million vehicles a year worldwide off its global B-car platform and nearly 2 million units worldwide off its global C-car platform.


"Ford is investing most where consumer growth is taking place- and that's in highly fuel-efficient global small cars," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development. "One of every four vehicles in the world today is a 'C' or Ford Focus-sized vehicle, and we expect the segment to grow more than 20 percent 6 million units in North America an 25 million worldwide by 2012. We see similar strong growth in the B-segment, where the Fiesta competes."


With Ford's global product development plan, all of the company's vehicles competing in global segments will be common in North America, Europe and Asia within five years. In addition to B- and C-sized small cars, the company's Fusion-and Mondeo-sized C/D cars and utilities will be common globally. The same will be true for commercial vans.


Ford said it is uniquely positioned to take advantage of its scale, already acclaimed global products and the strength of the Ford brand around the world to respond to the current changing marketplace and to begin to grow profitably. The company said its success in growing market share and profits with smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles in Europe is now the template around the world.


"We remain absolutely committed to creating an exciting, viable Ford going forward- and to transforming Ford into a lean global enterprise delivering profitable growth over the long term," Mulally said. "We continue to make progress on every element of our transformation plan, and we are taking decisive steps in the near term to ensure out long-term success."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Top 10 Ford Motor Company Quality Success Stories

Ford continues to make great strides toward achieving its goal of best-in-class qua lity. The following ten examples show some of the successes already achieved along the way.

Now shoulder-to-shoulder with industry leaders in initial quality – The quality of Ford brand vehicles soared to the top of the charts equaling that of Toyota and Honda, according to the second quarter 2008 U.S. Global Quality Research System (GQRS) study conducted by RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The study showed Ford brand improved 6.5 percent versus last year with a combined average of 1343 things-gone-wrong (TGW) per 1,000 vehicles during the first three months of ownership. This performance is statistically equivalent at the 95% confidence level to the TGW levels of Honda and Toyota.

Virtual technology expertise worth sharing – For nearly a decade, Ford has been using its industry-leading digital ergonomics research to help line operators do their jobs efficiently and issue-free. Led by a world-renowned ergonomics expert, the team optimizes every movement so employees can build car after car and avoid fatigue and injury. This upfront virtual technology greatly reduces issues at launch and relates directly to quality. The company shares its findings on how to reduce repetitive stress and other injuries with the other American automakers and University of Michigan researchers.

Best-in-class paint performance – According to GQRS studies, Ford is tied in first place for fewer chips and scratches and more long-term durability. Its three-part wet application process not only provides better long-term resistance to chips and scratches than water-borne paint, it reduces the plant shop’s CO2 emissions by 15 percent. An eco-friendly anti-corrosion system helps prevent rust while cutting paint shop water use nearly in half and reducing the production of sludge by 90 percent. Also, Ford is the first automaker to implement a technology called High-Gloss Mold-in-Color. The 2008 Ford Super Duty’s wheel lip molding is injection-molded with the high-gloss metallic color built right in – no primer or paint required. This increases long-term appearance and durability, as well as being more environmentally friendly than priming and painting those parts.

Chart-topping electrical functions – Thanks in part to stringent electronics testing during the predelivery process, Ford topped the charts in20GQRS studies for electrical functions such as the radios. Hundreds of end-of-line evaluations take place and are tracked through Ford’s Quality Leadership System (QLS), which gives anyone in the plant the ability to flag a vehicle as having an open concern and keeps that vehicle from leaving the plant until it’s been fixed.

Quality testing goes green – As the 52-year-old high-speed test track at Ford’s Michigan Proving Grounds undergoes its $13 million reconstruction, it’s reusing almost every bit of existing material, preventing 130,000 tons of debris from going to local landfills. The track is critical to Ford’s quality assurance process, as it’s used for a wide range of vehicle testing.

Earning third-party accolades – In May, two separate research firms confirmed that Ford continues to make great strides in quality. San Diego-based researcher Strategic Vision put Ford neck-and-neck with Toyota for total quality, and ahead of everyone else. The firm said the two automakers were tied for topping the most segments on its Total Quality Index with three vehicles each. Winning Ford vehicles are Ford Edge, Ford Mustang Convertible and Ford F-250/350, which was also a segment winner in 2007. Meanwhile, noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific released the results of its 2008 model year vehicle satisfaction research, putting Ford on top or tied for first in six Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. Vehicles earning accolades were Ford Taurus, Mercury Milan, Lincoln Mark LT, Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Ford Explorer and Ford Edge.

Ford Flex boasts ultra-quiet ride – Ford Motor Company’s wind noise went from second-w orst in the industry in 2003 to best in the bunch for 2007 based on TGW according to GQRS results. The all-new 2009 Ford Flex is no exception. In Ford’s wind tunnel tests, it delivered a quieter ride than competitors including the Acura MDX, Toyota Highlander and GMC Acadia, good news for customers who equate quietness with quality.

J.D. Power says Ford Focus is most improved – The 2008 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study by J.D. Power and Associates showed that Focus gained 88 index points over last year. The Ford Escape also earned a spot among the top 10 most improved vehicles in the industry. In addition, five Ford Motor Company vehicles received second- or third-place honors in their segments: Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Mazda CX7, Mazda CX9, Ford Focus and Lincoln Navigator.

Long-term durability improves – Ford brand improved at a rate of 3 percent versus the industry average of 1 percent according to the 2008 GQRS three-years-in-service report. The survey looked at 2005 model year vehicles (compared to 2004 model year in 2007). The top non-luxury brands were Toyota, Mercury, Honda and Ford, with a gap of only 0.6 problems per vehicle difference from Toyota to Ford. For the fifth year in a row, Mercury did better than Honda in this durability study.

Ford brand makes significant quality gains – According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality Study, Ford vehicles increased in quality at a faster rate than the industry average. Continuing its five-year upward trend, Ford brand improved by eight points over last year’s study, bettering the industry’s seven-point improv ement. Ford Motor Company vehicles received 10 honors, including three with the highest rankings in their respective segments: Lincoln Navigator, Mazda MX5 Miata and Ford E-Series.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ford focuses on smaller engines with big results

DETROIT – Smaller may be smarter, says Ford Motor Co., the world's largest producer of big pickups. When Ford unveiled its Explorer America concept vehicle Sunday – a stylish crossover that looks like a highly contemporary midsize SUV – the real news was lurking under its hood.
Instead of a V-6 engine typically found in vehicles like it, the Explorer America was propelled by a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine – a four-cylinder producing 275 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque, considerably more than the current Explorer's V-6.
The big boost in power comes thanks to a turbocharger and direct fuel injection, a combination Ford calls EcoBoost. The automaker plans to use EcoBoost in as many as 500,000 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles during the next five years, allowing the automaker to employ high-powered four-cylinders in place of conventional V-6 engines and turbocharged six-cylinders instead of V-8s.
"What we are emphasizing is the broad-based application of this technology," said Dan Kapp, Ford's director of powertrain research and advanced engineering.
The smaller engines should deliver 20 percent to 30 percent better fuel economy, decrease greenhouse gases and deliver more power, Ford says. Moreover, the new engines should actually feel more powerful to drivers than the ones they replace.
"Much of the torque – the power that drivers feel – will be available from 1,500 rpm, just off idle, to the peak," Mr. Kapp said.
The half-million vehicles would be about 20 percent of Ford's cars and trucks.
A turbocharger is a small compressor under the hood driven by exhaust gases. It pushes the air-fuel mix into the engine's cylinders under pressure, forcing in a larger, denser amount of air and fuel – and increasing horsepower.
With direct injection, gas is squirted directly under high pressure into the cylinders rather than mixed with air in an inlet port leading to the cylinder. Though more expensive to build, direct injection is much more efficient than the port mix.
A 3.5-liter V-6 equipped with the EcoBoost system would produce about 340 horsepower, more than any of Ford's current conventional V-8s and about 75 horsepower more than Ford's conventional 3.5-liter V-6.
"The beauty of this technology is we can apply it at high volume and top to bottom in our lineup," Mr. Kapp said.
Although the system increases under-hood heat and subjects the engine to greater pressures, Ford believes it can deal with those challenges, as other manufacturers have, and maintain all current warranties.
"Customers are smart," said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of marketing and communications. "They value vehicles – the more efficient, the better."
The Explorer America has room for six people and is capable of "moderate" towing and off-road driving.By TERRY BOX / The Dallas Morning News

Ford sees potential in full-size sedans

DETROIT -- Reports of the death of the big, rear-wheel drive car have been greatly exaggerated, a senior Ford official said yesterday.
Small, front-wheel drive cars are the way of the future for Ford, as they are with all automakers, but the big, rear-wheelers may still have a role, said Mark Fields, president of the Americas for Ford Motor Co.
But he stopped short of saying that's good news for the Ford of Canada St. Thomas assembly plant, where three large, rear-wheel drive cars are assembled.
"We are studying rear-wheel drives very carefully. We feel it is important and gives us a number of options in how we position and design our vehicles," Fields said.
"There is a market, there will continue to be one . . . especially in the luxury market . . . but (for St.Thomas) there may be no significance in us studying rear-wheel drive."
The St. Thomas plant builds the Grand Marquis, Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car. Ford has made a commitment to those models until 2010, but after that the plant's future is uncertain.
While Canadian Auto Workers officials have called for new investment in the plant, Ford's position on rear-wheel cars may see St. Thomas get another rear-wheel drive car in the future even if it's not retooled, added Dave Cole, analyst with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"We will see more rear-wheel drives. It can do things like police cruisers (such as the Crown Victoria), or high performance or general utility vehicles. There may be a good chance St. Thomas gets a replacement vehicle, but it has to compete against other plants to get it."
Ford kicked off the first day of the media preview of the North American International Auto Show here by unveiling its latest F-150 pickup truck, which now comes in 35 configurations.
Ford also unveiled new variants on its popular Mustang line and a new alternative fuel system, called EcoBoost, which betters performance in vehicles by 20 per cent.
At its morning news conference, GM also stressed going green, announcing an investment with a new ethanol maker Coskata, in Illinois, which has developed technology to reduce the cost of ethanol, and get the cleaner burning fuel from more than corn, including agricultural waste and even used tires.
Although GM, which debuted the Volt electric car last year, is stressing hybrid technology with eight hybrid models this year and 16 within four years, ethanol vehicles will play a larger role, said Rick Wagoner, GM chief executive.
Wagoner also struck an upbeat tone about the future of the auto industry in Canada.
"Those plants have done a good job for us. A lot will depend on demand, particularly in the U.S. Canada has been solid, our hope is that this economic crunch gets behind us."

Ford sees potential in full-size sedansBy NORMAN DE BONO, SUN MEDIA

Sunday, January 13, 2008

F-150 bids to stay on top with makeover




Scott Burgess / The Detroit News
The new F-150, Ford says, is built Ford tougher.
It's hard to argue with that.
The redesigned 2009 Ford F-150 underwent an overhaul inside and out, as Ford designers changed out all of the sheet metal, provided more standard features and more choices for the company's best selling vehicle. Even the F-150 badge is updated.
Ford also added a new premium truck, the Platinum Series, to one up the high-end Western motif found in King Ranch.
In other words, the new F-150, which will be unveiled today at the North American International Auto Show, offers more, is stronger and has more amenities to choose from than ever before. With three cab styles, four box options and seven trim levels, there are 35 different configurations customers can build their pickup. Add on 13 wheel choices and Ford offers even more variety.
However, Ford has taken away the V-6 option on its trucks with the 2009 model. Instead, customers can choose from the 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter V-8s. A diesel engine and Ford's EcoBoost direct injection turbocharged V-6 will be available in 2010.
The redesign comes at a tough time for the auto industry. Large trucks have fallen out of favor with some consumers as gas prices remain high, the housing market continues to slide and the threat of a recession increases.
Demand for full-size pickups dropped last year 3.2 percent, according to Autodata Corp. Ford's sales fell 13.2 percent.
That didn't stand in the way for Ford. The Dearborn-based automaker rebuilt the truck from the frame, which is now 10 percent stronger, all the way through the interior.
While the trucks keep their Ford looks, every model will have a different version of the Ford's iconic three-bar grille.
"We wanted to give every model a distinct appearance while keeping the truck's signature tough look," said Pat Schiavone, design director, Ford truck and SUVs.
The fenders keep their flares, but add a distinctive groove above them. Additional trim along the doors connects the fenders and creates the optical illusion that the trucks are larger than they look.
But don't mistake that for these trucks being small. They're far from it.
As the height of the beds grew through the years, many customers have complained that they couldn't reach into the bed, so Ford added a unique side step between the cab and the rear wheel. The feature works perfectly, opening up with the touch of your toe and allowing you to step up and reach into the bed. It closes just as easily as pushing your foot against it.
The most dramatic change of the F-150 is its tailgate, which now includes a pull out step found on the Super Duty trucks.
From the rear, the taillights look smaller, but they wrap around the side, taking up more quarter panel real estate on the side than the back. The effect makes the truck look wider.
The bed is also more functional. Aside from the box side step, Ford will offer a factory installed cargo management system, and stowable bed extender, which folds up and rests against the bed walls when not in use.
Inside, Ford has refined the interior. A back up camera integrated into the rear view mirror allows the driver to easily back up and connect the truck's hitch to a trailer.
Ford's Sync system is also available, which allows the driver to operate a phone and music device with voice commands.
Ford also added more storage spaces inside. All told, there are more than 30 places to store items. The center console is two-inches longer, providing more space.
The shifter was changed to make it more ergonomic, and the switches were made larger. There are also two 12-volt outlets placed on the dash and center console.
The seats were upgraded and designed to include a power recline and power adjustable lumbar, as well as heating and cooling functions.
Retooling this top selling pickup is a difficult task. But the 2009 F-150 hits the mark -- inside and out.

New 2009 FORD F-150: More Capability, More Choice, More 'Smart' Features For America's Truck






DETROIT, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The vision for Ford's truck team was clear: Redesign America's favorite truck inside and out to give customers unrivaled capability, unprecedented choice and a host of smart, game-changing features.
The result is the new 2009 Ford F-150, the new benchmark in the full-size pickup segment from the industry's truck leader -- which has built more than 33 million F-Series pickups since 1948.
The Ford truck team adopted a holistic, 360-degree approach to revamping the new 2009 F-150 -- from its segment-first features to the tough new exterior highlighted by a dramatic three-bar grille and more spacious, flexible and refined interior, to the unparalleled choice of cab styles and trim levels -- including a new Platinum series that redefines truck luxury.
The improvements are just as dramatic beneath the sheet metal. A new high-strength, lighter-weight chassis is the backbone that allows this tough truck to deliver more horsepower, better fuel economy and safety, and additional towing and payload capacity.
"The Ford F-150 is an American icon," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "Ford is the truck leader, and F-150 customers expect and demand the best truck on the market.
"Our team not only met those expectations, they exceeded them with the new 2009 F-150," Fields added. "With Ford's product-led transformation in full swing, the new F-150 could not have come at a better time -- for Ford and for our customers."
In all, more than 1,000 Ford engineers, designers, researchers and others worked together to develop the new 2009 F-150. The team drew inspiration by listening to Ford's large customer base.
"Before we started working on the new truck, we continued the conversation with people who use these trucks every day for work and play," said Matt O'Leary, chief engineer of the 2009 F-150. "We went to their ranches, their job sites and their homes, making sure we crafted features that would improve their ownership experiences and, really, their lives."
The results will be clear to customers when the new 2009 F-150 rolls off assembly lines at Ford's Dearborn (Mich.) Truck Plant and Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. -- and as the new F-150 goes on sale in dealer showrooms this fall.
Most Capable
Ford F-150 customers tackle tough jobs when they work and play, and they need a full-size truck that rises to the challenge. The current F-150 is already the most capable truck on the market, but Ford's truck team drove capability to new levels with the 2009 model.
The improvement starts with the 2009 F-150's fully boxed frame constructed with hydro-formed and high strength steel side rails. The lightweight frame delivers 10 percent more torsional rigidity, which delivers increased durability and safety. The sturdy chassis also paved the way for the new 2009 F-150 to improve upon the current model's class-leading towing and hauling capability across all cab configurations.
"The new, improved chassis helps deliver additional payload and towing capacity as well as improved fuel economy, which we know is top of mind for customers," O'Leary said.
Thanks to the strength of the frame and comprehensive package of standard safety equipment, including side-curtain air bags, the new F-150 is engineered to earn top safety ratings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Complementing the modern frame is a high-tech suite of features that ensures the F-150 is sure-footed and safe in all driving and load conditions. The new F-150 offers segment-first standard AdvanceTrac(R) with RSC(R) (Roll Stability Control) and Trailer Sway Control plus available Rearview Camera Assist as well as Integrated Trailer Brake Controller a segment-first on light-duty pickups.
The interior of the new 2009 F-150 SuperCrew offers more usable space for moving more people and gear thanks to a 6-inch stretch that improves rear seat legroom and cargo capacity. A mechanically articulated second-row seat flips up and out of the way. Combined with a truly flat load floor, the feature gives the new SuperCrew class leading 57.6 cubic feet of space behind the front seats and can accommodate items up to 47.9 inches tall, such as flat- screen TV that needs to be hauled from the electronics store to home.
Most Choice
Ford's F-Series may be America's best-selling vehicle, but one-size-fits-all does not apply to today's truck buyer. From the Texas rancher to the general contractor in Florida, F-150 customers have different needs and tastes.
In response, Ford's truck team designed a truck that offers more choice than any full-size truck on the market. With three cab styles, four box options and seven unique trim levels, the F-150 comes in 35 different configurations to meet the widest range of customer needs and wants -- all delivered with quality.
Customers can choose from the no-fuss XL workhorse, to the sporty STX and off-road capable FX4, to the mid-range XLT. For those looking for tough luxury, Ford offers the high-end Lariat and King Ranch F-150 models.
New for the 2009 F-150 is the Platinum series, the most luxurious F-150 ever and the answer to a perennial question: Just how high-end do truck customers want to go?
The striking F-150 Platinum features a satin chrome grille with fine mesh inserts, 10-way captain's chairs upholstered with top-quality leather, tuxedo stitching and embroidered logos on the seatbacks. Satin gloss Lacrosse Ash wood grain accents and real brushed aluminum panels give the dash, center console and doors an upscale look and feel. Standard 20-inch, 16-spoke polished aluminum wheels give the truck a commanding presence on the road.
With more customers interested in personalizing their trucks, Ford is offering the largest selection of wheels in the segment with 13 offerings across the F-150 lineup.
Under the hood, the new F-150 will be powered by three modern V-8 engines, mated to either a 4-speed or a new fuel-efficient 6-speed automatic transmission. The engines include: * 5.4-liter, 3-valve Triton V-8, which has been optimized for better
performance with improved horsepower and torque, and is capable of
running on E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline), regular
unleaded gasoline or any blend in between.
* 4.6-liter, 3-valve V-8, which is new for F-150. Both the 5.4-liter and
4.6-liter 3-valve V-8's utilize open valve injection. This unique
feature improves the flow of fuel into the combustion chamber, which
results in an increase in horsepower during towing and reduced
emissions.
* 4.6-liter, 2-valve V-8, a third V-8 choice in the line-up that delivers
more horsepower with the same fuel economy performance as the outgoing
truck's V-6.
This all-V-8 engine lineup delivers a fleet-average 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy versus the outgoing F-150.
Diesel and EcoBoost gas turbo direct injection engines are planned for F-150 in 2010 as well.
Most 'Smart' Features
Ford's researchers spent thousands of hours listening to truck buyers to gain inspiration for a host of smart new features for the new 2009 Ford F-150.
It starts with the clever interior, which features a flow-through console that has been lengthened by approximately 2 inches and is large enough to stow two or more laptop computers. Special ridges are molded into the edges of the bin to accommodate file folders. The console also has a multi-tiered, removable tray and locks to protect valuables.
More than 30 storage areas are built into the interior, ranging from a bin on the top of the instrument panel to a number of small spaces designed to accommodate tools like cell phones, MP3 players, PDAs and gate access cards.
A redesigned, more ergonomic shifter remains on the console. New, larger buttons and switches are ergonomically designed and within easy reach and view of the driver. A USB port and auxiliary MP3 player input are conveniently mounted on the dash. Two 12-volt outlets are located on the dash and center console.
Even the pickup box on the new F-150 breaks the mold with clever and capable features the competition cannot match. The class-leading cargo capacity of 65.5 cubic feet is only the beginning of the story. The F-150's pickup box is made easier to use, more flexible and accessible with such new features as Ford's industry-exclusive Tailgate and Box Side Steps, Stowable Bed Extender and Cargo Management System.
"These features are impressive on their own. For the customer who uses their pickup box five, six or seven times a day, these innovations together make a huge difference," O'Leary said.
That same kind of logic drove the team to include other clever features on the truck, including Ford's Easy Fuel(TM) Capless Fuel-Filler System. When fueling is completed and the nozzle is removed, the system automatically seals shut, reducing emissions.
The new 2009 Ford-150 also will allow truck customers to be connected to the world like never before. Ford has been working with Microsoft, Sony and SIRIUS to offer customers leading technologies to help them stay connected with their lives while on the road including: * Industry-exclusive Ford SYNC(TM), a voice-activated, hands-free,
in-vehicle communications and entertainment system offers even more
functionality for the 2009 model year, with 911 Assist and Vehicle
Health Report.
* SIRIUS Travel Link(TM) that when combined with voice activated
navigation will provide users with a suite of data services including
real-time traffic, coast-to-coast weather conditions and fuel price
information for over 120,000 gas stations.
* Voice-activated navigation that integrates several functions, including
voice recognition destination entry, climate control and SIRIUS
satellite radio into one easy-to-use system, displaying them on an 8-
inch touch screen display.
* Sony audio system that features 700 watts of power, 5.1 surround sound
and 10 Sony speakers and amps and is certified by Sony to deliver a
unique, rich listening experience.
"We know how important the F-150 is to our customers," said O'Leary. "With the new 2009 F-150, we are delivering a top-quality truck lineup that is second-to-none in capability, features and a range of choices that will continue to make Ford America's favorite truck."

Verve Concept: Small Cars in Ford’s Future


Ford unveiled the Verve Concept last week at the Frankfurt Auto Show. It’s the latest iteration of Ford’s ongoing “kinetic design” theme. The new Kuga, Mondeo, and redesigned Ford Focus Europe will be hitting the roads of Europe by the end of 2008, but this concept car is a bolder step in the small-car direction. Martin Smith (Executive Director of Design for Ford of Europe) describes the Verve Concept as “a chic, modern, and individualistic statement for a sophisticated, fashion-aware generation.” The concept was created by a team of designers from Ford studios in Dunton, England, and Cologne, Germany.
Ford is looking for public reaction to inform the design team’s vision. European design chief Martin Smith said that showing the Verve Concept at Frankfurt will be one of several opportunities in the near future for public feedback, and John Fleming (President and CEO of Ford of Europe) described the Ford Verve as a “bespoke concept car to generate reactions while our production plans are taking shape.”
This is significant for Ford. They’re shifting their design direction and creating a new small car portfolio in major world markets. Verve is the first of three small-car concept vehicles which will debut in Europe, Asia, and North America.
Given a wide degree of freedom to create the concept, the design team, including lead exterior designer Chris Hamilton, grounded their efforts in reality. From its surfaces, colors, and materials, the Verve has a sense of sophistication and fashion. While Ford Verve Concept was created with an eye toward production, there’s no news about specific plans yet.

2007 Ford Verve Concept



Say hello to Verve. Oops, sorry, that was the tag line for somebody else's small car, but there's little denying Ford's need for a small, fuel-efficient and affordable alternative, something that could go up against the likes of the Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit. And from the hints theU.S. automaker is dropping, its Verve concept may very well fill the small car hole in its lineup.
The concept builds on prior prototypes, such as the Iosis, which, in Ford-speak, introduced the new "kinetic design" philosophy. The sculpted form is designed to project both agility and muscularity - in sharp contrast to the cheap-and-cheerful small cars of the past.

From nose-on, the Verve's design is dominated by an inverted, trapezoidal lower grille, with the traditional Ford oval in a smaller, upper grille. The prominent headlights, featuring projector and LED lights, flow into the sculpted hood.

In person, the Verve's huge eggcrate grille dominates the view from the front and gives it an aggressive look that's toothy yet toothsome. From the side around to the back, the Verve's smooth arcs and gently contoured surfaces contrast with the front end's sharpness. Unfortunately, such lines would likely never make it to production as they look like they would obscure visibility and the view from the back seat.

"Our design team took an unrestrained approach to how our future small cars could look, and this eye-catching concept was one of the results," said Ford of Europe President and CEO John Fleming in the press release that accompanied the unveiling. "If we get the reaction we expect, I'm certain that the team will incorporate elements of this advanced design vision into our final production design."

From the side, the goal was to project a sense of motion, enhanced by pillarless side windows and a curvaceous roof line, as well as a dynamic "belt" and bold wheelwells.

The Verve's rear features a central exhaust integrated into the lower diffuser, with complementing elements of dark chrome and brushed aluminum.

In show car form, the Verve rides on 18-inch, 12-spoke, two-piece alloy wheels.

The high-tech interior was inspired, according to Ford designers, by the latest mobile phones. While some manufacturers are consolidating electronic systems into a select set of controls, Ford "decoupled" the various elements, such as navigation and audio, with buttons and controls placed in logical and easy reach.

The primary gauges - speedometer and rev counter - are uniquely framed by binocular-shaped, short tunnels of brightwork which complement the center stack and contrast the rich interior colors like a fashion accessory.

While Ford officials suggest the Verve is an indication of what's soon to come from their design studios, John Fleming, president and CEO of Ford of Europe, cautions that the concept's primary goal is "to generate reactions while our production plans are taking shape."

Ford officials are notably silent on some critical specifics, including the Verve's powertrain package. Considering the show car will first be seen in Frankfurt , it's a safe assumption that at least one diesel is in the offing.

Meanwhile, there's no specific timetable for production, but there are ways to make an educated guess. Last December, Mark Fields, Ford's President of the Americas , suggested a new small car would arrive for Stateside buyers in about two years, meaning sometime during the 2009 model year. A final version of the Verve is likely to be that car - or at least one version, anyway. European buyers would likely see the Verve roll into their showrooms about the same time.

Ford Verve shows small-car future


BY SARAH A. WEBSTER and MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITERS
A sporty new subcompact car, suspended in air with cables, slowly descended through a crowd of smoke onto the stage at Cobo Arena today.
After the rouge-red car landed, Ford Motor Co. executive Jim Farley unveiled the Verve concept with a simple message: "Verve is our future."
AdvertisementAfter 10 years without a subcompact model below its Focus model, Ford is getting ready to bring its hot, sporty small cars to the United States after having success with them in Europe for years.The new small car won't hit showrooms until 2010, though, bringing Ford to market years after the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and other small models have been gobbling up customers.Farley stood in front of the Verve, and a hatchback version.Hatchbacks have been popular in Europe, but less so in the United States, so Farley encouraged customers to give Ford their thoughts on the new hatchback, which would be sold here if Ford receives the right customer response.Ford is relying on cars like the Verve to help it differentiate its truck-dependent lineup in the future. Last year, Ford's sales in the United States fell 12% compared to 2006.With the graceful and classy-looking Verve, Ford answers two questions that have bedeviled the automaker: Why don’t you build a really good subcompact car? How come Europe gets beautiful Fords we can’t buy here?The Verve’s beautiful fastback sedan shape is almost identical to a small car Ford will sell in the United States beginning in 2010, and its driver-oriented chassis and powertrain come direct from the company’s European engineering center.Ford calls the Verve a B-car, which means it’s smaller than the Focus. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the car that arrives in 2010 will be a subcompact.Each class of cars gets a little larger with each generation, and the concept’s interior space appears to compare very well with current compacts like the Focus.The sedan and a two-door hatchback will be on Ford’s stand at the auto show. The hatchback is the European body style for the car, which Ford will build around the world in different versions tailored to individual markets.The sleek exterior is an example of what Ford calls kinetic design, the styling theme first seen on the acclaimed Mondeo midsize sedan in Europe. Variations on the sleek and distinctive theme will shape future Ford-brand cars sold in America.While the Verve’s appearance is realistic, the concept’s interior serves as a showpiece for advanced design and materials rather than a look into the 2010 production car.Intriguing visual touches include control buttons that look like a mobile phone’s keypad and climate-control dials inspired by the handles of luxury showers.Along with the Verve and the F-150 pickup, Ford also unveiled the rounded and contemporary-looking Explorer America concept, which showcases the engineering advances Ford will use to boost the fuel economy of future vehicles.From lightweight body construction to turbocharged direct-injection engines, the Explorer America relies on available technologies instead of the futuristic drivetrains many concept vehicles claim to use.Combining direct gasoline injection and turbocharging produces a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 275 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V6 generating 340 horsepower. A car-like unibody chassis, six-speed automatic transmission, lightweight materials and energy-efficient accessories like electric power steering would boost fuel economy 25% to 35% versus the current Explorer.Despite its SUV looks, the concept has sliding rear doors to provide minivan-like access to the rear seats.

Job 1 for new Ford executive: Selling EcoBoost


DEARBORN, Michigan - Soon after Jim Farley became Ford Motor Co.'s marketing chief after a 17-year career at Toyota, he took a spin in a subcompact with Ford's new direct-injection, turbocharged engine.
"I couldn't wipe the smile off my face," Farley said. "I've never driven a Toyota like that, ever. The torque, out of that kind of displacement — in this case a 4-cylinder — was shocking."
It is a good thing he feels that way, because one of Farley's first and most critical assignments as vice president of global marketing will be to sell Ford's engine — dubbed EcoBoost — to buyers bewildered by the ever-growing options in vehicle technology.
Ford sees the EcoBoost four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines — which will be unveiled at this month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit — as a key part of its strategy to improve fuel economy in the near term, along with improved aerodynamics and lighter materials.
The 2009 Lincoln MKS sedan, out later this year, will be the first Ford vehicle with EcoBoost as an option. Ford said EcoBoost will give the MKS's 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 the power and torque of a V8.
Ford says EcoBoost can deliver up to 20 percent better fuel economy and a 15 percent improvement in emissions without compromising driving performance. It is also promoting the engine as a less expensive alternative to hybrids and direct-injection diesels. Ford did not reveal how much EcoBoost will cost, but said customers can expect to recoup their initial investment through fuel savings in two-and-a-half years, versus seven-and-a-half years for a diesel or nearly 12 years for a hybrid. EcoBoost is also ethanol compatible.
With direct injection, fuel is injected into each cylinder of the engine in small, precise amounts, which improves fuel economy and power. The turbocharger uses waste energy from the exhaust gas to drive the turbine.
Casey Selecman, manager of powertrain forecasting for the auto consulting firm CSM Worldwide, said Audi, Volkswagen, General Motors Corp. and others have had similar technology on U.S. roads for several years now, but Ford is aiming for higher volumes. The company hopes to put EcoBoost engines on 500,000 vehicles annually by 2013.
"I think this is really going to be a brave one. We're going to have to invest. We're going to have to tell customers how we're different," Farley said. "Direct-injection gas is really a technology that could be implemented in the millions. It's significant. It's broader."
Farley said U.S. drivers are not as familiar with direct injection as drivers in Western Europe, who quickly embraced direct-injection diesels as a way to cut high gas costs. Many U.S. truck buyers also have adopted direct-injection diesels, Farley said. Now it is his job to bring that technology to the masses.
"We need to simplify things for customers. As marketers, it's unrealistic to expect customers to understand high-pressure direct injection or forced induction in turbocharging," he told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
"Let's face it. Ford is a populist brand. On a good day, when Ford works right, it's a company that democratizes technology."
Farley is an executive who democratizes marketing. The intense, mop-haired 45-year-old, who is widely credited with the success of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion brand, said he came up with Scion's marketing plan after a two-hour conversation with a security guard.
At Ford's recent holiday media party, which was held in the same complex where Farley's grandfather once worked in a Ford foundry, Farley skipped the hors d'oeuvres and huddled in a back room with one of the maintenance men so he could get an honest opinion of the new F-150.
"That's me. I'm off somewhere else. That's what I'm good at. I'm good at diving in, unlocking the secrets, and really taking advantage of opportunities where it looks hard to others," Farley said.
"I enjoy it, and I think there's no bigger opportunity in the automotive space than Ford Motor Company right now, because I think it's a brand people really do love."
Alexander Edwards, who heads the automotive division of the San Diego-based Strategic Vision consulting group, said Farley was extremely well-regarded at Toyota. Ford's current workers have survived drastic employment cuts and are eager for leadership, Edwards said.
"Jim Farley is someone who knows what can be done if he understands the culture Ford is in right now," Edwards said. "The message needs to be reassurance, both to the people who will be working at Ford and to the customers."
In recent years, Ford has been battered by fierce competition, quality issues and high gas prices, which slashed sales of sport utility vehicles. Ford lost $12.7 billion in 2006, and the company's U.S. market share has plummeted to 15 percent from 25 percent a decade ago.
The latest blow came last week, when Toyota overtook Ford as the No. 2 automaker by U.S. sales behind GM, a position Ford had held for 75 years.
In the past, Farley said, Ford did not have a good enough story to tell to customers. But the company has vastly improved quality, safety, resale value and other measures, and those strides have been noted by Consumer Reports and others. Its crossovers — the Ford Edge, Ford Escape and Lincoln MKX — were runaway hits in 2007, and the F-150 remains the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
But Ford cars still are not getting the consideration they should, he said, so he is developing a new marketing plan that will try to re-establish trust. As part of that plan, he wants to decentralize marketing, involve more local dealers and make better use of auto shows.
"That's the place where you can turn people on. So many companies go to auto shows and it's like a parking lot," he said. "It should be a hands-on museum, like a kids' museum."
Farley said he feels a deep obligation to Ford's workers to communicate the company's progress. He's gone so far as to meet with psychologists to figure out how to reach customers who are apathetic about the company.
"We can't unlock this unless we're real honest. We have to look in the mirror and say, 'OK, no baloney. Where are we with customers? Take away Mustang and F-series, and where are we? Who are we?'" he said.
"When I do that, I see customers who want Ford to succeed, but they put the burden of responsibility on the company to unlock that key. You tell me why I should care about your company."
The Associated Press

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ford's Mulally: Showing The Quiet Confidence To Lead



By Phil LeBeau
Having covered and coming to know Alan Mulally during his time running Ford and previously as head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, I've come to expect him to be upbeat, even in the most dire of times. I've also been with him enough to know when his optimism turns to quiet confidence.
I saw it when he shifted Boeing's future plane plans from one that could fly 10 percent faster to one that will save 20 percent in costs: a strategy that has made Boeing's 787 Dreamliner a red hot seller. Mulally knew the strategy was right and it ultimately paid off. I'm sensing that same self confidence in his turnaround plan at Ford.
Tuesday night Mulally, Ford President Mark Fields and other Ford executives held an "on the record" dinner with several journalists. There were a few kernels of news like Ford expecting the Jaguar/Land Rover sale to close in the first quarter and Mulally not considering any mergers since he thinks the best way to fix Ford is to integrate it's global assets.
What struck me the most was the demeanor of Mulally. It's the first time since he took over at Ford that I saw glimpses of that quiet confidence I saw in him at Boeing. Maybe it's because he is more than a year into the job and there are signs his plan to build "one Ford" is working.
The promise is in the company's growing business overseas. Or it could be in the company's plan to roll out more fuel efficient models including a hybrid Fusion and hybrid Mercury Milan by early '09. Or in the fact that Mulally feels he has the management team in place needed to revive the automaker. Whatever the reason, the quiet confidence is there.
Now, this doesn't mean I'm completely sold on Ford's future. I like what I see with the new Flex, the Verve, and F-Series pick-up. And Ford's vision for waking Lincoln is intriguing. Still, I want to see Ford re-establish itself with car buyers through better marketing. The "perception gap" between the quality of Ford's cars and how the public views them will have to be closed.
We will look at Ford's future models including the new F-150 pick-up Monday night in CNBC's primetime special at 9 Eastern. Check it out--you won't want to miss Ford's vision for its Lincoln line.

Ford targets global market


Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- The United States is less critical to the ultimate success of Ford Motor Co. as the automobile business becomes increasingly more global, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, said Tuesday night.
About a third of Ford's business will be in North America and South America, he said, a third in Asia and the Pacific; and a third in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
"The companies that prosper are going to be global companies that serve all three markets," Mulally said during a dinner with journalists.
Mulally said that nearly 70 percent of all Ford vehicles sold in 2007 were sold outside the United States, and he expects that to increase as the company rides the wave of growth in emerging markets such as Russia, Brazil and China.
Ford sales in China increased 30 percent year over year in 2007, Mulally announced Tuesday.
"We're growing as fast as the fastest in China," he said, noting that the Ford Focus is now one of the top 10 vehicles there.
In a move to boost its market share in India's booming economy, Ford said separately Tuesday that it will double production in India with a $500 million investment and start making an inexpensive car.
A significant part of Ford's investment will go into developing new products, including a new small car, within two years and an engine facility by 2010, the company said in a statement.
When asked about India and Tata Motors' plans to introduce a $2,500 vehicle in its home market, Mulally said Ford will choose carefully how it responds.
"We're going to be very selective about which markets we participate in," Mulally said. "We'll stick to our strengths and use our size to be competitive."
At the same time, Mulally said Ford will better match production with demand and adjust North American production capacity.
Mulally said Ford's sinking stock price, which hit a 20-year low last week, will not change the company's plan to stick to its "Way Forward" turnaround plan.
He said Ford still plans to return to profitability in 2009, despite increasing economic headwinds.
"Liquidity-wise, we're in very good shape," he said.
In other news Tuesday night:
• Joe Hinrichs, Ford's global manufacturing chief, said buyouts for United Auto Workers members will likely be announced in the first quarter.
He also said the Canadian Auto Workers union will have to make Ford's factories north of the border competitive if they want to keep production.

Ford hints at new Explorer with concept



By DEE-ANN DURBIN AP Auto Writer
AP Photo
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. is hinting at a new, more fuel-efficient direction of its iconic Explorer sport utility vehicle with a concept that will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The most radical change: The Explorer America concept is built on a more car-like unibody frame, rather than the traditional truck frame, to reduce weight by 150 pounds and improve drivability. But Ford says the Explorer America is still roomy enough for six passengers and gear, and can tow 3,500 pounds.
The Explorer America improves fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent compared with today's V-6 Ford Explorer, depending on the engine. Choices include Ford's new EcoBoost gas turbocharged direct-injection engine - a four-cylinder, two-liter engine that would provide 275 horsepower - and a V-6 with 340 horsepower.
Lightweight materials, smaller but more powerful engines, aerodynamic improvements and fuel-saving electric power-assisted steering are among the other ways Ford dropped weight from the vehicle to improve fuel economy.
Derrick Kuzak, Ford's head of global product development, said last month that Ford is experimenting with materials, including steel, aluminum and magnesium, and will make decisions in the next few years about using them for future products. He said reducing weight will be a key part of meeting tougher fuel-economy standards recently set by Congress.
"We have to be serious about lightweight vehicles," he said.
Ford has sold more than 6.5 million Explorers since the SUV went on sale in 1990 as a 1991 model. The Explorer still leads the mid-size SUV segment, although the segment has been suffering because of high gas prices. U.S. Explorer sales were down 23 percent in 2007 to 137,813.
The Explorer suffered a setback earlier this decade when hundreds of people were killed or injured in accidents involving tread separation on tires, most of which were on Explorers. Ford blamed tire company Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., while Bridgestone said the Explorer's design was faulty. Ford replaced the tires.
In November, Ford agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit covering 1 million plaintiffs in four states who claimed their Explorers lost value because of the perceived danger. The company is still facing personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits.

Farley Wants More Fords Soon


Ford is looking for ways to speed up the introduction of its next generation of vehicles, says the company's new vice president of marketing and communications.
Jim Farley, hired away from Toyota by Ford, told TheCarConnection.com he was in the process of revamping the company's marketing effort, which he says is too centralized. He's also in the process of streamlining the presentation of option packages and dealing with Ford's dismal sales numbers for 2007.
Ford's sales dropped twelve percent last year, more than those of any other major automaker, and the company wound up yielding the number-two spot in sales to Farley's old employer Toyota, which sold 2.62 million vehicles to Ford's 2.57 million units.
George Pipas, Ford's sales analyst, said the decline was due to Ford's decision to slash sales to rental car fleets and end production of the old Ford Taurus. The cuts in fleet sales will put Ford on a better footing and help boost the residual value of the company's products, easing consumer concerns about rapid depreciation, Pipas said.
Nevertheless, the sales numbers were worse than expected and Ford stock dropped to $6 per share in trading to close at $6.11, the lowest price after adjusting for stock splits in 22 years, according to Bloomberg News Services.
Farley said the numbers, while difficult, showed that Ford could still attract consumers with the right product. The Ford Edge has been doing very well in California and he flatly predicted the new Ford Flex will also do well later this year.
The 45-year-old Farley was recruited by Ford from the fast track at Toyota, where he had blazed through a series of assignments and promotions over the past decade, presiding over the launches of the Scion brand and the new Tundra pickup truck.
Speeding up the recovery
Since joining Ford in November, Farley has gone through an immersion in Ford's corporate culture and it's clear his marketing portfolio has been stretched to give him influence on product planning and product development.
For several months, analysts have expressed concerns about whether Ford's cash will run out before the company's long-promised product offensive get underway early in the next decade.
Farley, however, told analysts and reporters during the monthly sales conference call that some Ford products are being pulled ahead to expedite their introduction.
"We're going to bring some products earlier," he said. However, he offered no specifics about the changes in the company's product plans.
However, Farley also said the company was looking at its global product portfolio for additional vehicles that could be sold in the United States. He is particularly eager to shore up the company's position in the "B and C" or subcompact and compact car segments, he said. With gasoline prices topping $3 per gallon, subcompacts and compacts have been gaining buyers for the past couple of years and are expected to grow again in 2008 and 2009 as consumers grapple with higher fuel prices.
Farley, however, also said the company still had some latent strength that will provide traction in a difficult market. The F-Series is still the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S. despite the competition from General Motors and Toyota. The Edge crossover and the Fusion sedan show the company can build appealing products and the improvement in the company's quality levels is genuine. The revamped Ford Focus, equipped with Sync, also is off to a fast start and illustrates the company's ability to reach new customers, Farley said.
"By the end of the year 70 percent of our Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury lineup [will] be new or significantly upgraded," Farley said.
The upcoming North American International Auto Show is vital for Ford because it will offer a chance to show Ford's latest hardware, including the F-Series pickup truck, which has been revamped completely in face of the new challenges. Farley didn't outline any specific goals for the show but he made it clear he wants the show to leave an impression.
Still, the challenges at Ford are daunting. General Motors' turnaround appears to be gaining momentum. Ford will have to go several more months without any new products in the showroom, noted Tom Libby of J.D. Power & Associates.
"But they know that and they seem prepared to deal with it," Libby said.

Ford brands at top of delightful listing

FREE PRESS STAFF REPORT
Ford Motor Co.-owned brands won or tied for first in six categories, more than any other automaker, in the 2007 Strategic Vision report on "most delightful" vehicles.
Strategic Vision, a San Diego, Calif.-based market research firm, uses a Customer Delight Index to rate the emotional response that auto buyers have to their vehicles, accounting for a wide range of attributes including style, performance and innovation.
AdvertisementThe segment winners by automaker were:
Ford Motor Co.: Mazda3 (small car); Volvo V50 Wagon (medium multifunction); Ford Expedition EL (large SUV); Lincoln MKX (tied for near-luxury SUV); Land Rover Range Rover Sport (luxury SUV); Ford F-250/350 (heavy-duty pickup).
General Motors Corp.: Chevrolet Monte Carlo (mid-specialty car); Saturn Outlook (medium crossover); GMC Sierra 1500 (tied for full-size pickup); Chevrolet Avalanche (tied for full-size pickup).
Volkswagen AG: Volkswagen Rabbit (small multifunction); Volkswagen Passat/Jetta (medium car); Audi A3 (luxury multifunction).
BMW AG: BMW 3-Series (near-luxury car); Mini Cooper (small specialty under $28,000); Mini Cooper Convertible (convertible under $30,000)
Daimler AG: Mercedes S-Class (luxury car); Mercedes SL (convertible over $30,000).
Toyota Motor Corp.: Toyota 4Runner (medium SUV); Lexus RX400H (tied for near-luxury SUV).
Honda Motor Co.: Honda Odyssey (minivan); Honda Ridgeline (compact pickup).
Chrysler LLC: Dodge Charger (larger car).
Hyundai Motor Co.: Hyundai Santa Fe (small SUV).
Porsche AG: Porsche 911 (small specialty over $28,000).

SYNC Sparking Sales, Satisfying Customers



DEARBORN, Jan. 2, 2008 (FCN) -- In 26 years of selling cars and trucks, Ken Venema says he has never seen a feature impress
customers like Ford's SYNCTM.
"I must have a half-dozen sales because of SYNC. I strongly believe
that," said Venema, a sales consultant at Pfeiffer Lincoln Mercury in
Grand Rapids, Mich. "I'm sold on it. And I'm sure glad Ford's got it."
The dealership even switched its radio spots recently from advertising
price to promoting SYNC.
"I am using (SYNC) as a showroom builder. I am pumped on it because
it's something that we can offer the market that doesn't focus on price,
and it's something we have that our competitors don't," said Kim Winkler,
new car sales manager, Pfeiffer Lincoln Mercury.
SYNC, Ford's industry-exclusive technology that provides customers invehicle
voice command compatibility with portable digital media players
and most Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, is helping drive vehicles
sales across the country.
SYNC-equipped Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles were moving more
than twice as fast off dealer lots in November than those same vehicles without SYNC. And customer satisfaction is high.
According to a Ford survey of SYNC customers, nearly 80 percent of respondents "definitely would" recommend it to a friend.
Microsoft, which collaborated with Ford on the technology, was very encouraged.
"It's early in SYNC's launch -- we'll know more about its impact in a few months -- but so far all indicators are extraordinarily
positive," explained John Emmert, SYNC marketing manager, Ford Motor Company.
The survey also revealed that most customers thought SYNC was easy to use, and that dealers were helpful in explaining and
demonstrating the new technology.
Sales consultant Everton McLeod of Manhattan (N.Y.) Ford says extensive in-dealership training prior to SYNC'S launch was very
beneficial.
"It wasn't like they just told us about it. Everybody had to do something -- pair a phone, dial a number -- so the instructor could see
that we actually grasped what he taught us," said McLeod.
SYNC is also hitting its targeted customers, which include a savvy, tech-toting younger demographic as well as an older group that
likes the convenience of hands-free mobile phone operation.
Emmert says Ford employees frequently stop him at work to relate stories about SYNC's ability to raise awareness and purchase
consideration for the company's products among relatives and friends who swore off domestic vehicles years ago.
"When you think about a feature having the power to put Ford back on customers' shopping lists, it's pretty impressive," he said.
SYNC currently is offered on 12 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. The first SYNC-equipped vehicles, including the redesigned
2008 Ford Focus, began reaching customers in late September. When offered as an option, the system is priced at $395.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ford's SYNC Sales In Sync With Buyers Desires


By John Fossen, FCN DEARBORN, Mich., Jan. 2, 2008 -- In 26 years of selling cars and trucks, Ken Venema says he has never seen a feature impress customers like Ford's SYNC.
"I must have a half-dozen sales because of SYNC. I strongly believe that," said Venema, a sales consultant at Pfeiffer Lincoln Mercury in Grand Rapids, Mich. "I'm sold on it. And I'm sure glad Ford's got it."
The dealership even switched its radio spots recently from advertising price to promoting SYNC.
"I am using (SYNC) as a showroom builder. I am pumped on it because it's something that we can offer the market that doesn't focus on price, and it's something we have that our competitors don't," said Kim Winkler, new car sales manager, Pfeiffer Lincoln Mercury.
SYNC, Ford's industry-exclusive technology that provides customers in-vehicle voice command compatibility with portable digital media players and most Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, is helping drive vehicles sales across the country.
SYNC-equipped Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles were moving more than twice as fast off dealer lots in November than those same vehicles without SYNC. And customer satisfaction is high.
According to a Ford survey of SYNC customers, nearly 80 percent of respondents "definitely would" recommend it to a friend. Microsoft, which collaborated with Ford on the technology, was very encouraged.
"It's early in SYNC's launch -- we'll know more about its impact in a few months -- but so far all indicators are extraordinarily positive," explained John Emmert, SYNC marketing manager, Ford Motor Company.
The survey also revealed that most customers thought SYNC was easy to use, and that dealers were helpful in explaining and demonstrating the new technology.
Sales consultant Everton McLeod of Manhattan (N.Y.) Ford says extensive in-dealership training prior to SYNC'S launch was very beneficial.
"It wasn't like they just told us about it. Everybody had to do something -- pair a phone, dial a number -- so the instructor could see that we actually grasped what he taught us," said McLeod.
SYNC is also hitting its targeted customers, which include a savvy, tech-toting younger demographic as well as an older group that likes the convenience of hands-free mobile phone operation.
Emmert says Ford employees frequently stop him at work to relate stories about SYNC's ability to raise awareness and purchase consideration for the company's products among relatives and friends who swore off domestic vehicles years ago.
"When you think about a feature having the power to put Ford back on customers' shopping lists, it's pretty impressive," he said.
SYNC currently is offered on 12 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. The first SYNC-equipped vehicles, including the redesigned 2008 Ford Focus, began reaching customers in late September. When offered as an option, the system is priced at $395.