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Whether you want a big one a small one a squat one or a tall one, automakers can provide just about any kind of crossover vehicle you desire. These days there’s really something for every person, purse and purpose.
Mays We Introduce You to J?
In case you haven’t heard the news, J Mays is retiring from Ford. As group vice president and chief creative officer of Blue Oval design he’s kind of a big deal. But that’s not the extent of his achievements. Mays’ automotive career spans more than three decades with tenure at companies far beyond the one headquartered Dearborn, Mich.
He’s played pivotal roles in countless iconic designs, whether as the man pushing pencils, the person sculpting clay or the leadership guiding an entire department. Styling is a team effort; it’s hard to pin any one job on a single person. Really it’s the product of a thousand minds and twice as many hands.
Whether he was a stylist in the trenches or a manager in the corner office here are the Top 10 Vehicle Designs J Mays has played a roll in.
Like Mariah Carey’s ancestry, modern crossover vehicles have unusual roots. The award-winning American singer’s family tree is more varied than the flora of a rainforest understory. Her unique blend of nationalities includes African, Venezuelan and Irish. That’s more ingredients than Belorussian variety sausage. Who’s hungry for some lean, finely textured opossum?
Since its founding in 1936, Consumer Reports has become the go-to source for shoppers. From new refrigerators to bottles of wine, Blue-ray players to homeowner’s insurance, if it’s on the market it’s likely the non-profit organization has scientifically tested it. Of course the consumer watchdog is probably most famous for its vehicle reliability ratings.
Autoguide Five-Point Inspection
During this week’s Five-Point Inspection we put the Ford Flex crossover to the test, stuffing all our family and friends into the three rows of seats, and driving it in the city, highway, and rural gravelly side-roads.
A visually striking vehicle, the base Flex SE starts at $30,885, while we drove the upgraded Limited model with AWD and the 365-hp EcoBoost Engine.
We admit to spending many an unproductive hour on Urban Dictionary. Sure, it’s a great way to waste some time, but we always learn a few new things as well. That’s why we were pleased to hear that Ford is following suit with its own “educational” resource, the “Suburban Dictionary.”
Teaming with Christian Lander, author and founder of the popular blog and New York Times bestselling book “Stuff White People Like,” you’ll find the Suburban Dictionary on Ford’s Flex Facebook page. Granted, it won’t be as racy or dirty as Urban Dictionary, you’ll be able to post your fun and PG slang into this glossary of terms that relates to suburban life. Here are a few examples that Lander has already posted:
•Healthy math: Rewarding yourself with a 500-calorie snack after eating healthy for an entire 24-hour period
•Hip hop age check: The moment when you realize the sample being used but not the rapper. This is R&B’s way of saying it’s time to change the station
•Fitness museum: Alternate name for a garage filled with exercise equipment purchased during the resolution phase of January or after frequent viewings of late-night TV
The Suburban Dictionary will allow parents in the ‘burbs to converse with one another using their very own dialect. “In order to help this growing segment of the population, Ford sent me deep into the heart of suburbia to help uncover the language and terminology required to ease into their new life,” said Lander. “I give you the Suburban Dictionary, the indispensable guide to this new and exciting – well, maybe not exciting, let’s just say comfortable and relaxing stage of your life.”
Ford is rather proud of its new SYNC system, and will be making it standard equipment on all 2013 Ford Fusion and Ford Flex models, the American automaker announced. Their MyFordTouch system will only be seen on upper trim levels however.
Surprisingly the 2013 model year of the Fusion and Flex will be the first time ever Ford has made their SYNC standard equipment. Since its introduction in 2007, Ford has installed SYNC in over four million vehicles. Now that it has become standard fare in the Fusion and Flex, Ford expects to add another nine million vehicles on the road with SYNC over the next three years.
“ Ford SYNC technology has led the industry in transforming the way we connect to our cars,” said Dave Mondragon, Ford general marketing manager. “SYNC has enabled Ford drivers to take advantage of the latest communication and entertainment technology with an easily upgradeable architecture that is friendly to use.”
GALLERY: 2013 Ford Fusion
GALLERY: 2013 Ford Flex
The Ford Flex never really caught on in the marketplace, but the car has a cult following among a certain subset, who enjoy its quirky looks and seven-passenger layout. Ford unveiled a revised version Thursday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
For 2013, the Flex will get a few changes to help make it more attractive to consumers. The base 3.5L V6 gets a 20 horsepower increase to 285, while the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 remains unchanged. A 1 mpg bump is also applicable to the base V6.
A revised front end (similar to what was previously seen on higher end Flex trim levels) marks the big change for this year, along with an updated interior and a new version of the MyFordTouch infotainment system. Features like a blind-spot alert system, adaptive cruise control push- button start, rear inflatable belts, rain-sensing wipers and active park assist will all be available.
Gallery: 2013 Ford Flex
Ford is experiencing tremendous success with its new Vista Roof option, a large panoramic sunroof available on their crossover vehicles. Take rates for the inexpensive roof option are climbing as consumers opt for more airiness and light bathed cabins.
Both the Ford Explorer and Flex are popular models featuring the Vista Roof. Almost half of Explorer buyers are opting for the $1,595 Vista Roof, despite Ford expecting a take rate of just 30-35 percent when first introduced. With Edge buyers, 56 percent are choosing the roof and 32 percent of Flex buyers opt for it as well. The Vista Roof’s success in SUVs and crossovers is due to their large interiors that can at once feel claustrophobic for rear passengers but also offer the extra space to best accommodate the headroom-snatching glasswork and mechanism.
Interestingly, there is some degree of regionality to the roof demand. Customers in hot, sunny markets are somewhat less inclined to purchase the option. However U.S coastal regions select the panoramic roof at a near 60 percent rate. Ford has attributed this success to customers desiring more open structures and having more light available. Ford’s success with the panoramic roof only betters its bottom line. One supplier said that the American automaker could be profiting 25 percent or better on the approximately $1,500 average cost.
[Source: Edmunds Auto Observer]
One of the newest safety features in the 2012 Ford Explorer are its rear seatbelts, which inflate during an accident. Now, spurred by the Explorer’s success and advanced safety ratings, Ford is making these available on the Flex and a number of Lincoln vehicles.
The seatbelts expand to protect the head, neck, and chest for rear-seat passengers—most of whom are children or the elderly, as 40% of Explorers have been purchased by parents. They are compatible with child seats and are slim enough to work like normal seatbelts.
And as a result, the Explorer is one of many Ford vehicles with a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. The Flex is another; expect its safety street cred to rise once its belts are upgraded. It’s not known which Lincoln vehicles will features these, but the MKX and MKT are probably a good guess.
With relatively poor sales the Ford Edge and its hideously-styled Lincoln-MKT derivative may be phased out in 2013 after just one generation. While a response to the lack of success for each model, Ford has a larger plan for its two remaining brands, aiming to create a larger gap between Ford and Lincoln.
With the introduction of the new 2011 Explorer, the Ford crossover lineup now has too many products and the Flex is the most likely to get the axe. We won’t be the first to suggest that a Lincoln-branded version of the Explorer could be on its way. This plan is also expected to include a redesign of the MKX in 2014 that will see it move away from the Edge.
Interestingly, while the larger Ford plan will see Ford and Lincoln move apart from each other, Ford is planning a compact front drive car or crossover for Lincoln. This could be a new model based on the upcoming Focus – especially as the elimination of the Mercury brand will also put an end to plans to bring a Focus-based Mercury to market. As for the possible crossover, we’d expected this to be a Lincoln-branded version of the upcoming Escape-replacement – which will fall more in line with the European Ford Kuga. A Lincoln compact crossover would also be a perfect competitor to the rumored Buick compact crossover that’s either going to be based on the Chevy Cruze or Chevy Aveo architecture.
[Source: AutoNews via Autoblog]
Ford announced today that five of their vehicles have been selected as Top Safety Picks By The IIHS, boosting their total to 11 vehicles. The 2010 Ford Flex and Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and MKT and the Mercury Milan all scored the highest possible ratings in the IIHS’s front, side and rear impact tests as well as their roof strength test. The ratings mean that Ford now leads the industry in Top Safety Picks as well as government five-star crash ratings.
Hit the jump to read the official press release
Parents magazine has made the list (and assumedly checked it twice) to bring you their top 15 picks of family-friendly vehicles for 2010. Teaming up with Edmunds.com, Parents has only included models that come equipped with antilock brakes and front, side, and side-curtain air bags. These vehicles also come with family necessities such as sliding rear seats, smart storage for toys, and other amenities that make the drive that much smoother. You may be surprised to learn that not many minivans or SUVs made the list. The picks aren’t in any particular order and are broken down into categories such as sedans, hybrids and large vehicles.
They are listed after the jump, along with a few of their top selling points:
Ford is sticking by its slow-selling Flex crossover despite the distinctive box-on-wheels failing to meet its sales targets, and a host of internal competition in the form of a re-designed Ford Edge and an all-new Ford Explorer.
The Flex was marketed as a family-hauler after Ford killed its Freestar minivan in 2006. However Ford is launching an all-new Explorer SUV that will move from a truck platform to a car based unit. Ford is hoping to cast a wider net with the new Explorer, attracting buyers who want a more traditional vehicle and would normally consider a minivan or large SUV.
Sales of the Flex are up by nearly 15% this quarter, but they lag behind General Motors own competitiors, as well as the current Explorer, which is up over 41%. While the Flex has been praised for its good driving dynamics and powerful twin-turbo V6 engine, the slab-sided styling has polarized consumers into “love it” and “hate it” camps.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
The 2011 Ford Mustang V6 makes as much power as the 2005-2009 V8 version did, proving that six-cylinder technology is no longer for the runts of the Mustang litter. Add a couple turbochargers and direct-injection, and you get Ford’s wonderful EcoBoost motor, which has all the power you could ever want from a big V8, while getting better fuel economy.
Ford customers seem to agree, and an internal study shows that buyers are very satisfied with the performance of the EcoBoost engine. While the survey was probably not the most scientific, real-world experience with a Taurus SHO was enough to prove that the technology is sound, and the rumored four-cylinder Ecoboost should be a treat.
Press Release After The Jump
The Ford Ranger has been on the market for 12 years in its current incarnation, and while the Ford F-Series might be America’s favorite truck, the Ranger doesn’t look like its slowing down any time soon either.
With the April sales numbers released yesterday, Pickuptrucks.com made the startling discovery that in April of 2010, the Ranger outsold some pretty good cars like the Ford Mustang, Ford Flex, Honda Fit, Chevrolet Suburban and the Mercedes C-Class. The Ranger is also beating the Flex, Fit and Suburban in Year-To-Date sales.
We’re not exactly sure what would compel anybody to buy a Ford Ranger, but the low price-tag and durable construction must be appealing for a certain section of consumers. Then again, everyone loves a good underdog story, and a 12 year old pickup beating the entry level Mercedes in the sales race? You couldn’t make that up.
Ford posted a $2.1 billion profit for this quarter, beating market expectations by a full year despite a lull in the new vehicle market. Ford has undergone a series of cost-cutting measures, including plant closures and layoffs, but has also introduced a torrent of new product in nearly every segment.
Ford hasn’t earned $2 billion profit since 2004, when the company sold 17 million vehicles. Expectations for this year include sales of fewer than 12 million cars and trucks. Ford’s strong performance has been attributed to a number of factors. New products like the Fiesta, Mustang, Edge and Fusion have been extremely well received by the automotive press and well as consumers. Sales of the full-size Taurus are up 96 percent from the previous generation. Ford’s image has also remained strong, as it avoided taking government loans (unlike rivals GM and Chrysler), and avoided the quality problems that have plagued Toyota.
However, Ford’s executive chairman told the New York Times that the success of the company was attributable to its own strengths, not the weaknesses of its competitors.
“I don’t know how much it really helped because it’s all about the product,” Mr. Ford told reporters after a speech in Detroit this month. “People will come into our showrooms but if they don’t see anything they like, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Want to know where a car is made? Look at the VIN.
The All-American Impala: Made in Canada
During President Obama’s press conference last week when he announced that Chrylser would file for Chapter 11, he asked Americans that if they were looking to buy a car, to look at American cars. The “buy American” philosophy drew harsh criticism from the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA), which pointed out that buying American doesn’t necessarily mean buying a car from an American brand.
“AIADA objects to President Obama’s ‘buy American’ solution for the auto sector,” AIADA President Cody Lusk said in a statement. “In today’s globalized economy ‘buying American’ can mean anything from buying a Chevy Avalanche built by Mexican workers in Silao, Mexico to buying a Toyota Camry built by Americans in Georgetown, Kentucky.”
On that note, there is one way to tell exactly which country a car is manufactured in – the VIN number. That’s right, that odd 17-digit sequence of numbers and letters found on the dash under the windshield (and in numerous other places on a vehicle) holds the key to a vehicle’s country of origin.
Many VIN numbers, actually start with a letter. Those that start with a “J” are built in Japan and those with a “K” are from Korea. Most of the rest, however, aren’t so intuitive. VINs that start with a “W” are from Germany, while an “S” signifies England. Swedish cars get a “Y.”
The United States, Canada and Mexico all use a number system, with American-made cars using a VIN that starts with the number 1, while Canadian-made cars use a 2 and Mexican made cars use a 3.
The number of American vehicles made outside the U.S. is actually quite significant, while many “foreign” cars are built in American. In fact, one of America’s best-selling vehicles (and one that is also typically American) is actually built in Canada – the Chevy Impala.
Other made-in-Canada cars include the Buick Lacrosse, Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX, Lincoln Town Car, Mercury Grand Marquis and the new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.
Made-in Mexico cars include the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Chevrolet HHR. And as for the the Chevy Aveo sub-compact, it comes from Korea.
On the flip-side, there are plenty of Japanese (and even some German) vehicles built in the U.S. of A. Some of the most significant include the high volume Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, while the Honda Element and Toyota Avalon are also U.S. products. Nissan builds several models in the United States while BMW manufactures the Z4 as well as the X5 and X6 in South Carolina.
… The more you know…
[Source: La Times]