AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Lincoln may show an updated version of its Concept C small car at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, as automakers of all stripes begin rolling out their new smaller, fuel efficient cars that feature much of the same equipment as more upscale models.
The first Concept C, which debuted in 2009, was attractive but had very little chance of making it to production in its existing form. While the 1.6L Ecoboost powertrain is a shoo-in for a premium, fuel-efficient compact, with its 180 horsepower and 180 lb-ft, but the pseudo-hatchback body style will likely undergo substantial revisions for its Los Angeles deubt, not to mention any sort of production run. Fortunately, the Focus underpinnings used for any future Concept C will afford Lincoln a wide berth to engineer a desirable compact that will also have superb driving dynamics and build quality.
Lincoln has previously stated that a compact luxury car will appear within three years, and with Mercedes, BMW and Audi all preparing (or selling, in Audi’s case) a compact model, the timing is just right for an American competitor.
[Source: Automotive News]
Ford has released a list of 25 cities in the United States that it labeled “electric vehicle-ready”, with the 20 initial roll-0ut markets for the Ford Focus E.V. listed, as well as 5 other cities, Baltimore, Dallas, Hartford, Honolulu and Charlotte.
Ford declined to rank the cities, instead listing them in alphabetical order, but said that cities on the list were working to help make it easier to install charging systems and offering incentives for charging your car during off-peak hours. Ford expects about 20 plug-in vehicles to be on the market by 2012, and believes it will sell “thousands” of Focus EVs.
The cities listed by Ford include Atlanta; Austin, Dallas and Houston in Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Hartford; Honolulu; Indianapolis; Los Angeles, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento in California; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Seattle; and Washington.
[Source: New York Times]
Ford is planning a product-lineup bonanza in China, with plans to introduce 15 new vehicles there as part of its Asian expansion plans.
The announcement was made at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show, where Ford also outlined plans to more than double the number of dealerships currently open: from 340 to over 700. Ford will also add 1,200 jobs and a brand-new, $490 million plant at Chongqing next year, which will be able to handle 150,000 cars annually. The first car to launch will be the all-new Focus, entering production in China in 2012.
Like many other companies, Ford has seen booming success in the Chinese market: sales were up 19% in the first quarter, with over 140,000 cars sold. The company expects 70% growth across Asia and Africa within the next 10 years.
Determined to make sure the launch of their new 2012 Focus is flawless, Ford is road testing the first examples of the new Focus for 30 miles, an unprecedented length for a mainstream car.
Ford will take a Focus from its Wayne assembly plant to a Dearborn test track for evaluation, and then a further inspection once back at the factory. While some industry analysts have raised questions about whether the elaborate procedures are a cover for significant problems with the Focus, Ford is claiming that the launch is crucial for the company, especially in light of the Focus’ 40-mpg capability and rising gas prices.
Ford spokesman Said Deep said that Focus models being built right now would not get the same 30 mile test drive, but will get a thorough inspection nonetheless.
[Source: Automotive News]
Taking shots at your competitors is nothing new in the advertising world, but North Americans generally see the kind of gentle ribbing that comes from restrictive libel laws and the preference for subtlety over braggadocio.
Not so in Brazil, where Nissan ran a campaign for their Tiida small car (aka the Versa on our shores) that featured actors imitating rappers and dancing with bikini-clad video girls in front of a Ford Focus. The message of the ad was that Ford was overcharging customers (due to the $1,800 delta in price between the Focus and Tiida) and their lavish lifestyles were funded by the extra cash.
Ford took issue with the gratuitous nature of the commercial and has decided to sue. We don’t know whether their argument will hold up in a Brazilian court of law, but we sure appreciate the video!
Hit the jump to see the video
Ford is asking dealers to curtail orders of three shades of red paint, and one hue called “Tuxedo Black” due to difficulties sourcing metallic elements needed for the paint. The element, which is produced by a Japanese supplier, is unable to be produced to due damage resulting from the natural disasters that occurred in the country.
So far, full-size pickups and SUVs are unable to be ordered in Tuxedo Black, while vehicles like the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS will have their supplies of the color restricted. The shades of red will be scaled back on cars like the F-Series Super Duty and Ranger pickups, Focus, Econoline and Lincoln Navigator.
Ford says it is looking to find a replacement for the substance, called Xirallic, which is used to give the paint a metallic finish.
[Source: CNN Money]
Ford‘s strategy involving smaller cars priced at a premium will become even more important if gasoline rises beyond $4 gallon, said Ford of the Americans President Mark Fields.
“There is a natural kind of water level that if a gallon of gas goes over, that may shift the market mentality,” Fields told Automotive News. ”When it starts getting over $4 a gallon or gets to triple digits when you fill up your tank, that catches people’s attention.” Gasoline prices are currently at a national average of $3.55 per gallon, and global unrest means that they are likely to keep rising.
The Focus in particular represents Ford’s new premium small car strategy, with high end models costing as much as $29,000, while still achieving 40 mpg on the highway. But with more than 80 percent of its parts shared in common with global variants (and expected worldwide sales of 2 million per year in 2012), the Focus could prove to be an extremely profitable car for the company.
[Source: Automotive News]
The success of the Ford Fiesta brings with it another trend—the revival of the hatchback, long-derided in America as being cheap without the cheerfulness.
The Fiesta has dominated the small car segment below the Focus. Consumers are trading in their larger vehicles, even including the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, in response to increased gas prices. Ford claimed 19 percent of the C-class segment in December; January sales have put it in second place with Hyundai, against Nissan’s Versa.
And at the core of this success is the Fiesta 5-door, which is riding the surge of popularity in hatchbacks reports Ward’s Auto. “We’re now selling 5-door (SE trim levels) in volume now,” said Jim Farley, vice president of global marketing. “The price is more in the low end of the C-segment.”
Hatchbacks have traditionally been shunned in America because of their perceived cheapness and lack of security compared to a trunk; perhaps too many bad memories of tinny Hyundai Excels and blue-smoking Ford Aspires from high school are fueling the prejudice. Even Volkswagen, whose Jetta consistently outpaces sales of the Golf in America (and nowhere else) could have told Ford that.
Likewise, Ford had initially predicted that the Fiesta sedan would be the volume seller; yet demand was 50/50 once production started. And as of this week, sales of the hatchback trumped those of the sedan, at 55%. “The research didn’t tell us that,” said Farley.
If sales of the hatchback continue outperforming those of the sedan, this will give Ford valuable insight into consumer preferences in the small car segment—just in time for the new Focus to roll out, later this season.
[Source: Wards Auto]
Along with China, India’s economy has experienced rapid expansion in the last decade, helping fuel the creation of a new middle class, which of course wants all the trappings most middle class folks do, their own house, car and plenty of creature comforts.
By 2015, India is expected to be the fourth largest single auto market in the world and already, some manufacturers, even US ones, are taking a serious look at peddling their offerings there. One of them is Ford, which plans to offer a version of its flashy third generation Focus.
According to a study by Boozy & Company, the average car buyer in India wants to spend less than $8000 on a vehicle. That really isn’t very much and helps partly explain why Tata believed it’s pint sized Nano could do so well on the sub-continent.
This price point will also make it difficult for Ford and others to sell current versions of their world cars there in many cases. But when it comes to cheap, practical cars, perhaps there’s another angle, here, something which could ultimately prove far more cost effective and beneficial.
India’s most popular car for many years has been the Hindustan Ambassador, essentially a brand new, Isuzu powered 1948 Morris Oxford. In fact they’re still making the blasted things and in sizable numbers too.
There’s many reasons why the Ambassador has proved such a success. It’s capacious by Indian standards, has proper doors, a trunk and prosaic, tough mechanicals, which make it easy to operate and easy to service in tough, harsh conditions, like those typically found in India. Because it’s been in production forever it’s also highly profitable. In fact it’s regarded in many quarters as India’s national car and the king of the road down there.
If car makers like Ford, GM and others are to really have a fighting chance and selling practical, low priced cars in India, perhaps the success of the Ambassador is something they need to consider at least in the short term.
Getting back to the study, Booz says it’s not just about the cars, it’s also about the fact that China and India will become the pillars of the global economy in the future? Really, that’s a bit like saying the sun will rise and set tomorrow. If you ever wondered what happened to all the money in the world in the last couple of years, now you know; it’s been used to pay hefty consulting fees to people who do nothing more than simply state the obvious.
[Source: USA Today]
One of the big advantages of an electric car is the lack of routine servicing they require. With only the battery and electric motor present, consumables like fluids, filters, belts and the like are obsolete.
Ford is making this a big selling point for their upcoming Focus Electric, as it released a list of 25 items that will never require replacement or repair for the first 150,000 miles. Of course, we normally shy away from blatantly running press releases, but the document gives a cool insight into one of the big differences between EVs and gasoline powered cars.
Of course, that’s assuming that the battery technology is all sorted, and it lasts through the 150,000 mile mark…
Hit the jump to take a look
Speaking to Autocar Magazine, Ford‘s European design chief Martin Smith said “Our marketing people are telling us there’s demand for an affordable family saloon,” and Ford appears to be moving in that direction for the Chinese market.
The Blue Oval will prepare a concept for the Beijing Auto Show, but rather than target the wealthy coastal areas of China, this car will go after the poorer, inland markets where basic transportation would be a big purchase for the average family. Using either a Focus or Fiesta platform, the car would still meet strict crash standards, but would be decontented with less sophisticated features in order to reduce costs. “We’d never engineer out safety,” Smith said, “but you could give it single-piece headlights and tail lights, and reduce the glass panels in the side from three to two.”
The previous generation Focus, known as the C1 (a different car than our previous compact Ford) would likely underpin the car, as Chinese buyers are thought to be more receptive to a larger vehicle.
The Fiat 500 just missed the now coveted 40 mpg mark, returning 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg highway with the 5-speed manual, while automatic versions will net 27 mpg in town and 34 mpg while cruising. While the numbers are nothing to frown about, expectations were higher considering the car’s 1.4L four-cylinder engine and compact packaging.
The Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus will all offer 40 mpg capability with more practicality, but we doubt they’ll be as fun to drive. With that said, the $15,995 price point is fairly close to the three compacts, and we expect the lines to be drawn according to those who desire an all-purpose, efficient car versus something stylish and sporty.
Ford will sell an all-electric version of its Focus compact in 14 states, including Washington, D.C. when the vehicle goes on sale at the end of 2011.
Among the locations where the Focus EV will be offered are Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Richmond, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
With a 100 mile range, the Focus EV won’t be cut out for much beyond the usual urban commuting, and owners will be able to attend seminars that educate participants on topics such as charging the car’s batteries.
Hit the jump to view the official press release
We all know Ken Block is a cool guy and a self-made millionaire, but what nobody seems willing to admit is that the guy can’t drive. Well, maybe he has some talent, but not nearly as much as Ford and Monster Energy Drink’s PR machine would have us believe.
Although he has some of the most successful viral videos to his credit, Block has only scored a total of two points in WRC over three whole seasons. It seems like without a purpose built, hydraulic-handbrake equipped car and some quality video editing, Block can’t pull it together. Hit the jump and decide for yourself.
Video after the jump
As if we needed another reason to be jealous of Ken Block. The millionaire entrepreneur and rally driver has a full sponsorship package with both Ford and Monster Energy Drinks just got a brand spanking new Ford Focus RS thanks to The Blue Oval’s generosity.
Wearing Michigan manufacturer plates, the Focus RS is painted in the car’s signature green color, with black Volks Racing wheels added in to make the car look a bit different from the other Focus RS that resides in the U.S.A, also painted the same shade of green. The car is fairly stock for now, with a KW Variant suspension being the other major modification, but a host of power upgrades and a skull and crossbones motif on the headrests of the Recaro seats are expected to appear on the RS post-SEMA.
Gallery: Ford Focus RS
Ford has announced pricing for the 2012 Focus, and the car is set to start in the upper end of the price bracket, with a base price of $16,995.
The base S model in sedan with the 6-speed automatic will cost likely $17,995, as the 5-speed manual is standard. The upper end Titanium trim starts at $22,995 while a fully loaded example costs $24,295. Hatchback models will start at $18,790 and top out at $24,785.
The sticker may seem high, but pricing reflects Ford’s desire to position the car as a “premium” compact, much like General Motors and Volkswagen are doing. Chevrolet’s Cruze retails for the exact same amount, while the new Volkswagen Jetta undercuts it by $1,000.
[Source: Ford via Edmunds]
While many North American enthusiasts lust after European hot hatches, we were privy to one somewhat ignored car in years past. The Ford Focus ST170, better known as the Ford Focus SVT, was sold here earlier in the decade, and it’s back after an prolonged absence.
The previous generation Focus ST, not sold in North America, used a 2.5L 5-cylinder turbo, but the new car downsizes the cylinder count with a 2.0L Ecoboost 4-banger, making 247 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission with a special torque vectoring system helps the front-drive hot hatch behave properly on the road.
Our favorite part? Bucket seats and big brakes courtesy of well known specialist ATE. Not only will this car go, but it will stop and hold you in your seat properly.
Gallery: Ford Focus ST
Ford‘s 2012 Focus has kept a low profile since it’s debut at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. While we heard endless stories about the Chevrolet Cruze in the run up to its launch, the only news coming out from the Ford camp is the admittedly big announcement about the Focus ST.
Now comes another nugget of information leaking out from Dearborn, this time in video form. A pre-production 2012 Focus is seen lapping the track, and while it’s hard to decode much from the video, The Truth About Cars seems to be enthusiastic about the car’s handling prowess. Judge for yourself after the jump.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
The Vauxhall Astra is one of Britain’s most popular cars, and is also known as the spectacular flop that was the Saturn Astra in North America. While North Americans didn’t take too kindly to the compact, Belgian-built hatch, Europeans adore the Astra, but the next generation will face some stiff competition from the upcoming Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf.
The Vauxhall GTC concept should give us a glimpse of what the next Astra looks like, and while GM certainly has the styling part down, the guts of the car make us even more optimistic. A 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, 6 speed manual gearbox and big wheels feature prominently, as does a start-stop system. We’d wager that this particular car will pave the way for some kind of sporty hatch. After all, most Astras are sold to families and police departments, where diesel engines and steel wheels are the equipment of choice.
Gallery: Vauxhall GTC Concept
Hit the jump to see the official press release
The Ford Focus RS can be accurately described as belligerent, with its crackling exhaust, electric green paint and bulldog-esque stance. But there will inevitably be a segment that isn’t satisfied with its outrageous appearance.
For 5 lucky members of that demographic, Ford has whipped up a few Focus RS hatchbacks painted in historic liveries used by the Ford GT40 and Ford Capri RS 2600 race cars. In case you’re wondering, yes, the Gulf Oil paint scheme will be
Inside, custom Alcantara suede that matches the exterior paintwork, leather shift and handbrake boots and a numbered plaque help augment the car’s exterior changes.
The only downside is that Ford is only making five cars, and all will be available in France. If you’re well heeled and an EU Citizen, you know what to do.
Mikko Hirvonen has done an admirable job in WRC. Despite never winning a championship, Hirvonen has stepped into the shoes of legendary driver Marcus Gronholm as Ford’s new factory driver, regularly battling the reigning champion, Sebastian Loeb.
When Hirvonen isn’t flinging the Ford Focus WRC car through various rally stages, he can be found driving the new Focus RS500 special edition on the Nurburgring, as shown in these two Ford promotional videos. The first clip shows Hirvonen driving the RS500 at a relaxed pace through some German B-roads, and giving his driving impressions of the car. The second clip shows the car being driven by Hirvonen on the Nurburgring.
Both videos show off the car’s incredible 5-cylinder soundtrack, and the RS500 looks especially mean in its all black livery. We really wish there was some way to help us understand how the car handles, because 350-horsepower through the front wheels is likely something that must be experienced rather than explained.
[Source: Ford of Europe]
Ford is looking to inject some lift into the middling Mercury brand with a new compact car, based on the Ford Focus. While it’s not clear if the model will be a version of the Focus, after all, Ford is planning a total of 10 Focus-based models for the U.S., it is the most likely.
“Certainly, one [variant] will be a Mercury,” said Lincoln-Mercury spokesman Mark Schirmer. “It’ll give us something to put into showrooms, and help energize the Mercury brand.”
Ford recently showed two of the 10 models at the Detroit Auto Show, with the Focus hatchback and sedan. A Focus-based Grand C-Max MPV is also expected later this year.
According to Automobile Magazine, the car is likely to be a Mercury-badged Focus, which makes considerable sense, as this one model could almost double Mercury sales. We can’t imagine a hatchback Mercury, but a version of the Focus sedan is most certainly a possibility.
We expect the model could arrive as early as the LA Auto Show at the end of this year.
With the Cash-for-Clunkers program officially ending last night, the U.S. Department of Transportation has now released its top 10 list of the most purchased vehicles under the program, with the most popular car purchased being the Toyota Corolla.
Toyotas actually took three of the top 10 spots, with the Camry placing third and the new Prius ranking seventh. Honda did equally well, taking three of the top 10 spots, with the Civic coming in second, the Accord 8th and the Fit 9th.
Nissan and Hyundai each had one spot on the list with the Versa in 6th and the Elantra in 5th. Ford was the only U.S. automaker to break into the top 10, with the front-wheel drive Focus in 4th and the FWD Escape in 10th.
The “Top 10″ list doesn’t tell the whole story, however. While no General Motors products are listed in the top 10, collectively, GM products accounted for 17.6% of the total of new cars purchased under the program, second only to Toyota with 19.4%.
In total, the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) generated 690,114 transactions worth a total of $2.8 billion.
“American consumers and workers were the clear winners thanks to the cash for clunkers program,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Manufacturing plants have added shifts and recalled workers. Moribund showrooms were brought back to life and consumers bought fuel efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment. This is one of the best economic news stories we’ve seen and I’m proud we were able to give consumers a helping hand.”
In total, 84 percent of consumers traded in trucks, while 59 percent purchased cars. The average fuel economy of a car traded in was 15.8 mpg, whereas the average fuel economy of a car purchased was 24.9 mpg – an improvement of 9.2 mpg or 58 percent.