Let the good times roll for the Ford Motor Company who continues to see growth in the utility market, pickup segment and with fuel-efficient vehicles inclusive of hybrids and variants of electric powered cars. The domestic manufacturer from Dearborn, Michigan also continues to infuse their products with consumer-engaged infotainment systems in the form of SYNC and MyFord Touch telematics. In fact, 79% of the company’s products feature the connectivity platform. During a recent day with Ford, Automotive Rhythms had the opportunity to sit with designers, engineers and executives to listen to their strategy while engaging with an array of updated and all-new vehicles.
In a recent study rating the greenest auto brands, Ford placed second to Toyota who has set the bar with their Prius. Contributing factors to the company’s rise up the charts are EcoBoost, new and efficient transmissions, hybrids and plug-in hybrids. In fact, hybrid sales are very strong for Ford including Fiesta, Focus, C-Max and Escape. Seven of their hybrids can achieve 40 mpg. Again, behind Toyota, Ford is the 2nd leading car brand when it comes to hybrid production and has sold more in 2013 than any prior years. At Ford’s proving grounds and test track we took a few laps in the Fusion Energi which has a 21-mile electric range per charge. An app dubbed MyFord Mobile uses a database of information to sync with the vehicle.
The messaging for Ford’s EcoBoost technology and its turbo performance is downsizing without sacrificing. For instance, the new Fiesta with its 1.6-liter engine has been a major hit for customers and for Ford. It is small, stylish, easy to maneuver and achieves 40 mpg fuel economy. We started the day driving the hatchback on an autocross and on road courses and understand why it’s so popular. Sporty, decent power and just enough infotainment to appease owners is what warrants the Fiesta’s merit. Though rear seat capacity is tight, the profound Sony Sound System more than makes up for it. Coming shortly will be the 2014 Fiesta ST, enhanced with a body kit, 17” rims and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost with almost 200-horsepower. “Our gains for the Ford brand in the U.S. are driven by our new products,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas. “We are absolutely committed to continuing the aggressive introduction of new products throughout our showroom.”
Ford says they are continuing to see conquest buyers due to their edgy and bold design philosophy. Do you think it’s coincidental that the Fusion has the fascia of an Aston Martin? Consumers are saying Ford’s technology revolution is key as well. And when paired with smaller displacement EcoBoost engines, such as the 1.6-liter, the price of fuel begins to drop in their purchase consideration. Conversely, there has been controversy with some Ford directives such as Sync but executives say they have cut things that have gone wrong by half. Additionally, 74% of MyFord Touch owners said they would recommend to family and friends. Also, half the problems on the dual clutch transmissions have been corrected. “What’s so encouraging is the quality of our share gains,” said Jim Farley, executive vice president, Global Marketing, Sales and Service. “Customers are increasingly choosing highly equipped vehicles such as our Titanium models. We also see this in customers asking for our in-vehicle connectivity SYNC and MyFord Touch systems, which are now in 79 percent of vehicles across the Ford brand – more than double the rate of Toyota and Honda infotainment systems.”
To the contrary, not all Ford’s positive news is relegated to small cars. Their SUVs and pickups are some of the best in the business. How does 36 straight years of success in the U.S. sound? For the first five months of 2013, utility vehicle sales are up 18% and truck sales are up 11% which gives Ford a whopping 40% market share. The Escape is on a mission to surpass 150,000 units after the first half of the year while Explorer receives enhancements to its brakes and steering. However, truck buyers are diverse and oftentimes picky. Consequently Ford will offer another model to the mix in the form of the 2014 F-150 Tremor Sport Truck which will be powered by Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost dual turbo engine with 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque available from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm as well as a 4.10 rear axle with an electronic locking differential. The regular cab, short wheelbase F-150 includes touches like bucket seats, HID headlamps, Alcantara seat inserts and 20″ black rims tucked in Pirelli rubber. Going on sale this fall, Tremor can be purchased in both 2-wheel and 4-wheel variants, tows 8,200 pounds and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in the mid 6-seconds range.
Ford has proven they are ready to compete in the newly defined auto business. Consumers are educated, hungry for innovation and thirsty for technology. We think the domestic brand is primed for the task at hand with room to spare.