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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.
We’ve been hearing about it for several years, but as for an actual on-sale date and pricing for Ford‘s Focus Electric, mum’s pretty much been the word. That is, until now.
On Wednesday, November 3rd, Ford Motor Company finally announced that the car will sticker for $39,995 in the U.S., which includes a $795 destination charge. That price puts it against the Chevy Volt but above other, all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i. However, the Focus Electric, like the others, is eligible for a $7500 rebate, which will somewhat help to alleviate sticker shock.
Nevertheless, considering that the conventional gas powered Focus retails from $17,295 to $23,495, even with rebates, the Electric model still represents a sizeable chunk of change.
Furthermore, Ford has yet to release any information concerning the car’s EPA mileage and range and until it does, it will be unable to sell the vehicle. Some estimates peg the Focus Electric as being able to travel up to 100 miles on a single charge, something Nissan boasts of its Leaf, though EPA testing of the latter revealed a maximum range of 73 miles.
The Volt, by comparison, can travel up 35-40 miles on pure electric power and up to approximately 300 miles with the range extending 1.4-liter Ecotec “generator.”
However Ford says that via it’s 240 volt station, full battery charge on the Focus EV can be reached in around half the time of the Nissan Leaf, which takes around 8 hours to fully top up.
Ford says it will deliver a few Focus Electrics before the end of the year (the car’s initial launch is targeted for California and New York/New Jersey) and indeed the company has already opened up a website for taking orders, though it says the vast majority won’t find owners until 2012, when it will target a total of 19 markets in the US (Atlanta, Austin and Houston, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Orlando, Fla., Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh Durham, N.C.; Richmond, Va., Seattle, and Washington, D.C.).
However, despite choosing the markets above based on such criteria as current EV and Hybrid useage, commuting patterns and the commitment to electrification both by local government and utilities, Ford hasn’t said just how many Focus EVs it plans to sell in 2012, stating that “market demand will decide.”
Given the modest numbers witnessed by the LEAF (8,048) and the Volt (5,003) in the first 10 months of this year, then despite government incentives, don’t expect any records when the Focus EV does finally show up at retailers.
As automakers seem intent in adding more and more easy operating gimmicks to the cars and trucks we buy, it raises the question, what could possibly come next? To its credit, however, the self-opening liftgate on the new 2013 Ford Escape, which can be activated by a gentle kick to the bumper instead of requiring the use of a key, is arguably one of the better ones.
Scheduled for an official introduction at the LA Auto Show later this month, the new Escape is the first SUV to utilize this “gesture-based” technology, similar to that found in motion activated video games.
It works by using two sensors located in the bumper to detect an individual’s kicking and shin motion and, according to Ford, is able to provide a safeguard against accidentally opening the liftgate because the software has been programmed to open with leg motions, so no worries about groceries spilling out of the back on bumpy roads.
The new Escape, built off Ford’s C-Class global architecture, promises to be more car-like than ever, with standard four-cylinder engines, including 1.6 and 2.0-liter EcoBoost variants, designed to provide a good blend of performance and fuel economy.
To see the kick-operated liftgate in action, watch the video after the jump:
Amid grand plans to turn the brand into a true Audi/BMW competitor Ford stated, that in addition to Lincoln being given greater autonomy, it had put in place plans to introduce a raft of new models, including a “premium” compact car, the MKC, designed to compete with the likes of the A3 and 1-Series.
Well now it appears those plans have been axed, Lincoln deciding that a better use of resources would be to introduce a compact crossover, since according to inside sources at Dearborn it was believed said small car (shown above in concept C form) could cannibalize sales of Lincoln’s bread and butter sedan, the MKZ, slated for a major redo.
However, it also appears, that the updated 2013 MKZ has now been delayed; with a launch date set for late next year instead of early summer 2012.
Getting back to Lincoln’s new compact crossover, rumored to be called the MkD, it will likely be spun off the new Ford Escape, and possibly feature standard EcoBoost power, in order to make it a worth contender against the likes of Audi’s Q3.
As for Lincoln’s other plans, rumors continue to persist about a rear-wheel drive flagship, though what architecture it will be based on remains to be seen, especially as Ford currently doesn’t have any large rear-drive cars, certainly in North America.
Nevertheless, a high-zoot flagship; using either modified Mustang or Australian Ford Falcon underpinnings could really pave the way for a Lincoln renaissance, reviving the brand as a true alternative to the likes of the popular German marques. And if a bit of that polish rubs off on said flagship’s smaller stablemates, so much the better.
[Source: Ford Inside News]
Among the buzz already surrounding the 2013 Mustang, Ford has announced that the specialized Cobra Jet drag version will be part of the lineup. However, like the more mainstream variants, it will feature a number of updates. The 5.4 quad cam V8 will return, in either naturally aspirated or supercharged forms, but joining it on the options list is a version of the 5.0 ‘Coyote’ engine, found in the current Mustang GT.
The reason for this, according to Ford Racing’s Jesse Kershaw, is that it will allow the ’13 CJ to compete in a wider variety of NHRA sanctioned events than previous versions of this car.
Other changes on the 2013 model include revisions to the CJ’s suspension, steering, even the roll cage design and seats in an effort to balance improved capability while minimizing mass. “We’re looking at ways to cost-effectively take weight out of the Cobra Jet,” said Kershaw “and are also paying close attention to the final price. Based on our research we know where the car needs to be performance and price wise.”
The 2013 Mustang Cobra Jet is slated to make it’s debut at this year’s Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show, which runs from December 1-3 at the Orange County Convention Center, in Orlando, Florida, with production likely to begin sometime next year.
[Source: Mustangs Daily]
After the big splash of new powertrain options for 2011, the folks in Dearborn are attempting to stay ahead of the curve by donning their sales champ with a number of upgrades for 2012.
Perhaps most noticeable, is the debut of a new, rather sinister looking FX appearance package (shown), which sports flat black accents, special 20-inch flat black finished alloy wheels with stylized exterior graphics and ID lettering. Inside, the FX incorporates black upholstery surfaces, including the seats, which sport contrasting red piping and perforation inserts.
Red stitching on the steering wheel and brushed metal accents round things off. An FX luxury package is also available which adds both heated and cooled front bucket seats.
On the greasy bit front, Ford has added electronic locking rear differentials on trucks equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter V8 engines, as well as an updated 4×4 system with a fully automatic selection mode. In addition all 4 x 4 F-150s now have the ability to be flat towed, while a new Hill Start assist feature has been added to prevent the truck from rolling back on inclines. In addition, EcoBoost powered rigs get a boost (pun intended) when it comes to operating range, thanks to a new 36 gallon fuel tank which now permits some 756 miles worth of driving between fill ups.
GALLERY: 2012 Ford F-150 FX Appearance Package
Although a major re-design of Ford‘s pony car is scheduled for 2014, possibly as a ’15 model, the Blue Oval isn’t letting weeds grow beneath the current car. For 2013, it’s promising a few changes, including styling updates and a bump in power on GT models.
Most rumors seem to agree that regular Mustangs, both base and GT will adopt some cues from the Shelby GT500, including a more aggressive front fascia with a larger upper grille and revised below bumper inlet. In addition, the trapezoidal taillight treatment will give way to something less angular, with lenses that run straight across the back panel instead of being angled.
As for mechanical improvements, although both the 3.7-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8s will remain, the latter is rumored to be receiving a boost in power, to around 425 hp, in order to help put it on equal footing with the Camaro SS.
Some sources also say that the supercharged Shelby will crank out as much as 620 horsepower. The 2013 Mustangs are slated to make their debut at this year’s LA Auto Show in November.
[Source: Mustangs Daily]
Given the short-tenure focus of most US corporations these days, it’s difficult to say at this point, but as one of the oldest nameplates in the business, Ford’s luxury brand definitely deserves a chance.
By installing a core group of executives to run Lincoln, many with international experience and declaring that it’s willing to spend real money on the tooling needed to provide the brand’s vehicles with signature styling outside and in, Ford appears to be moving in the right direction.
Other ideas on the table include eliminating gear levers in all Lincoln vehicles in favor of push buttons, as well as cutting the number of dealers nationwide, down to around 325, which rivals the number of Mercedes-Benz stores in the US.
Additionally, Ford is talking about courting new customers with Lincoln, a sub-set of younger, more affluent buyers than its traditional client base; the result could be a proliferation in product offerings, possibly GT cars and even convertibles.
This so-called sub-set of buyers represents around 25 percent of the luxury market in the US and, currently, the fastest growing in the segment. As a result, the opportunity is there for Lincoln to achieve great things, provided Ford sticks to its plan of creating a ‘proper’ luxury brand.
Look for the first idea of what the “new Lincoln” is all about with the debut of the 2013 MKZ at the Detroit Auto Show in January. One hint that’s slipped out is the MyLincoln Select Drive system, that allows for adjustable suspension, steering and throttle settings.
Despite some sources claiming that Lincoln could perhaps be headed the same way as Mercury, due to having too many badge engineered vehicles, a recent announcement by Ford Motor Company could prove the naysayers wrong.
In an effort to turn things around, Lincoln will get its own design operation, independent from Ford, which will work in conjunction with the brand’s product development team, a move seldom seen in today’s auto industry. The idea is that subsequent Lincoln products will look and feel far more unique than its current offerings (perhaps like the Mk 9 concept shown above) as well as being more fuel efficient; expect to see variations of the corporate EcoBoost technology employed on upcoming powertrains, along with a range of new transmissions.
Given current industry lead times, it’s likely the first of the new offerings could arrive within the next three years.
[Source: Autoline Daily]
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, certain models of Ford pickups and SUVs have a defective switch which can cause the brake, taillights and rear turn signals to fail, potentially resulting in accidents, specifically rear end collisions.
As a result, the automaker is recalling certain 2004-2011 Ford Ranger pickups, 2002-07 Super Duty pickups, including F-250 through F-550 models, as well as 2002-05 Excursion SUVs.
In total, some 20,450 trucks in the US are affected, in addition Ford is replacing some 6000 defective switches that were sent to dealers as replacement ‘in-service’ parts.
The company plans to notify owners of the recall, who will have the defective switches replaced, free of charge. It also says, that despite the number of trucks being recalled, so far no accidents resulting from brake or taillight failure on the affected vehicles have been recorded.
In response to falling ratings on the JD Power and Associates Initial Quality ratings, largely due to issues relating to unreliable voice commands on it’s much touted Sync system; Ford Motor Company is taking a leaf out of General Motors’ book by looking at adding live operators to the service.
During the course of this summer, Ford is testing what it calls ‘Operator Assist’ essentially a service that connects drivers with a real person if they’re having problems getting directions or asking commands after three attempts with the automated Sync system.
By the Fall, the company is expected to make a decision as to whether it will go ahead with Operator Assist on a full-time basis. If that proves to be the case, Ford says existing Sync Service customers won’t need any new software to access an operator and the additional service will be provided at no cost for a period of three years. After that customers would be billed an annual fee of $60, according to Ford spokesman Alan Hall.
This new strategy represents an almost about turn in Ford’s approach to Sync, when it was first launched in 2007. Originally it was designed to keep driver’s eyes on the road by using voice activated commands for features ranging from hands free calling, to vehicle functions, directions and even finding points of interest.
However the software, despite upgrades continues to have problems recognizing certain accents and commands, causing frustration among a number of motorists. Given how successful GM’s OnStar program has been since its introduction in 1996 (around half of all OnStar customers continue with subscription once their trial period is up), the idea of Ford adopting live agents, might prove a very good move.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
Well, there’s good indication that it will at least be heading for ‘South’ America, where automotive tastes tend to run more closely to those across the Atlantic.
The B-Max adopts much of the current Fiesta’s styling, albeit in a taller package. It’s also the first to receive Ford‘s new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. And with Ford recently announcing the EcoBoost 3 will be offered in North America, it’s not hard to speculate that this is the package it could come wrapped in.
Both engine and B-Max will be assembled at Ford’s plant in Craiova, Romania, though with Ford expected to wind down Fiesta production at its Brazilian plant in Cuantitalan (relying instead on models built in Mexico for that market), there’s a good chance B-Max production might be added there. That would make the idea of a B-Max ending up in our showrooms more feasible.
Further indications that this pint-size MPV could make it here, include the fact that Ford has trademarked the B-Max name with the U.S. Patent Office, along with ‘Easy Access Door System,’ marketing speak for a sliding door setup which, incidentily, was previewed on the B-MAX concept at the Geneva Motor Show back in March. All we can say for now is, watch this space.
[Source: Ford Inside News]
In an effort to try and stimulate falling sales of it’s North American luxury brand, Ford Motor Company has announced it will be spending $1 billion in a last-chance revitalization effort.
Lincoln has been struggling in the luxury sector, faced with stiff competition from German and Japanese brands with a product portfolio that essentially consists of badge-engineered Fords.
In 2010, the brand sold 85,828 cars in the US, by comparison, BMW sold more than that from just one of its product lines (the 3-Series sold more than 100,000 units during the same period).
And with the imminent demise of the highly-profitable Town Car, the brand’s fortunes are set to decline even further, especially in the short term.
Nevertheless, Ford has said that for the time being, it remains committed to revitalizing it’s premier marque, though today, $1 billion doesn’t go a long way in the automobile business, especially for an entire brand.
A good deal of the revitalization plan involves asking dealers to commit to Lincoln, by upgrading their stores to bring them more in-line with imported luxury brands, though Ford says it plans to reduce the total number of Lincoln franchises.
Nevertheless, that should give the remaining retailers are chance to boost their bottom line, especially if the automaker sticks to its promises of bringing to market seven new products within the next five years.
[Source: Left Lane News]
It seems that the news in Detroit today, at least as far as the Big Three automakers are concerned, is more positive than we’ve seen in some time. Earlier this week, General Motors announced a hiring spree, saying it planned to add more than 4,000 new jobs. Furthermore, some analysts are predicting that within the next two years, GM’s workforce could swell from 77,000 to some 85,000 employees, almost matching pre-recession numbers.
At Ford, hiring plans are also underway, the Blue Oval looking to fill up to 7000 new positions in the next two years, though the hiring process isn’t scheduled to begin until later this year.
At Fiat controlled Chrysler, things are also looking more optimistic. The automaker is looking increasingly profitable and has announced that it wants to hire an additional 1,000 employees, on top of the 4,300 it recruited last year.
However, analysts are saying that these announcements are far more than just PR spin, they’re actually looking to be realistic targets. “It’s a goal they can meet,” said Rebecca Lindland from IHS Automotive. Of course, new jobs greatly depend on the Big Three meeting projected sales targets, though there are encouraging signs on that front too. US light vehicle sales are projected to grow to around 13 million units this year and with Japanese automakers struggling due to ongoing supply problems, Domestic manufacturers have an opportunity to increase market share.
GM plans to ramp up Volt production in the next few years, from the current 10,000 cars per annum to 25,000 – CEO Dan Akerson says he’d ultimately like to see more than 100,000 Volts roll off the assembly line, though recognizes that any increases also hinge on battery production. As it stands, the company has about 1,350 laid-off workers who will get priority on any new related job postings and according to a statement from the UAW, those workers should be back on the job by September. The UAW is also pressuring the General to reopen assembly plants in Janesville, Wisconsin and Spring Hill, Tennessee, as well as prevent the Shreveport, Lousiana plant (which currently makes the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon) from closing.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
You read that correctly. Ford Motor Company, in conjunction with Ohio State University is looking at ways dandelions can be used to produce sustainable rubber and plastic parts for automotive applications, such as floormats, cupholders and other interior trim pieces.
In fact, a particular species of Dandelion, called Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS) which originates in Russia, is deemed the most suitable, due to a white, milky substance that seeps from its roots that forms the basis for a natural rubber material.
Currently, Ohio State’s Agricultural Research and Development Center is growing TKS (along with a US southwestern shrub called gauyule) as a source for natural rubber , but before the end product resulting from it can be used in automotive applications, Ford will assess the initial quality of the rubber to ensure it’s viable enough to meet required durability standards.
If it does, then don’t be surprised to see it popping up more frequently in interiors – how about a green cup holder to go with that green tea?
It’s almost a perfect storm. The aftermath of the deadly earthquake in Japan, combined with a dramatic increase in oil prices fueled by the ongoing crisis in Libya and the reduction in domestic stockpiles is pushing up the price of new automobiles in a manner not seen in years.
Already Toyota, Ford and GM have announced price increases for their vehicles, with others set to follow suit. But an interesting trend is the price of small cars. Compared with a year ago, the average price for these vehicles has increased by some 4.2 percent, in the subcompact segment it’s even more – 6.3 percent – according to website TrueCar.com.
Although, given the global nature of the auto business today, companies across the world are facing disruptions, those that are most affected remain Japanese brands. So far, Nippon based companies have delayed the introduction of some 500,000 vehicles because of supply issues resulting from last month’s quake and one industry analyst predicts that amount will grow to some 3.6 million vehicles worldwide by August.
However, this current set of circumstances might provide an opportunity, particularly for Detroit car makers, who’ve been struggling in recent years. In particular, demand for such models as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze, both of which have been well received, could result in some buyers shifting their allegiance from Japanese brands, which have dominated the market for small cars for so long. The situation is likely to exacerbated by the fact that some models, particularly those imported from Japan such as the Toyota Prius, are currently in short supply, a scenario that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Nevertheless, although many automakers are rethinking their supply chains as a result of the issues in Japan, it’s unlikely there will be a major realignment in the way parts distribution and production are configured, at least in the short term.
However, given the current economic environment, the auto sector is becoming less of a buyer’s market by the day, particularly for small cars. As a result those consumers in the market for a new vehicle, are likely better off to take the plunge now, while there’s still good deals to be had, rather than sitting on the fence and waiting.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
It’s not really a surprise. With the price of food and commodities going up, manufactured goods are following suit. In the automotive arena, car stereo prices have been increasingly steadily and now the automakers themselves are doing it.
Toyota has already said it’s raising prices by around 1.7 percent on North American market vehicles; also blaming the increase on a rising Japanese Yen. Now Ford Motor Company is also doing the same, though in this case, the hike is a little less dramatic; the automaker saying the increase will only be around 0.4 percent.
George Pipas; Ford’s Chief Sales Analyst; says that in the Blue Oval’s the case the rise is purely as a result of higher commodity prices, largely fueled by the ongoing crisis in Libya. The increase comes on the back of a growth in sales last month; the automaker posting gains of some 16 percent in the US.
[Source: Automotive News]
In stock form, the 412 hp Ford Mustang 5.0 GT is indeed a quick car, but now thanks to the efforts of NASCAR driver Dave Ragan and Ford Racing Performance Parts, it has now set the world record for production cars.
During an instrumented test at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, as part of the World’s Fastest Half Mile Speed Trials; Ragan was able to coax his Mustang GT (modified only with a Ford Racing/Whipple Supercharger and FR3 performance handling pack) around 1 lap of the track in just 19.5 seconds. By contrast, a fully prepped NASCAR racer will do the same circuit in 15.5 seconds!
But the most interesting part about all this? Well, for about $45,000 the average guy or gal can basically replicate the car which Raglan drove – a 2011 Mustang GT starts around $30,000, give or take, while the supercharger package, which adds around 212 more hp, costs $7500.
The suspension upgrades, which include lowering springs, adjustable shocks, anti-roll bars, jounce stoppers and a strut tower brace, retails for $1800. So, even adding in labor charges, you’re still going to be in the low 40k range by the time all’s said and done.
Of course, driver skill also plays a part too. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that good ol’ American muscle is still alive, well and setting records like this. The World’s Fastest Half Mile Speed Trials, in which you can see Ragan drive the Mustang to it’s record setting finish, will air on Speed Channel April 2 (check local listings for start times).
It seems that we’re bent on information overload; there’s virtually an app for everything when it comes to our smart phones and even in our vehicles, there seems to be a race to see which manufacturer can place the most amount of data and programming info at our finger tips.
Ford, thanks to features like MyTouch is aggressively pedaling down this avenue and now it’s gone and given F-150 owners their very own ‘Truck App.’
Essentially, it’s a more in-depth version of the truck’s standard information touch screen, adding towing and off-road specific features. For the towing screen the App gives drivers a checklist of questions to see if the trailer is properly connected, it will also record and accumulate data and mileage for a particular trailer – it can store specific information on up to 10 individual trailers, in order to help those operators with larger vehicle fleets.
In the off-road setting, the App, allows the driver to monitor steering angle, pitch and roll, ascent or descent angle, high or low range when 4WD is engaged, along with the E-locker differential and on the SVT Raptor, Hill Descent Control. The F-150 productivity screen is standard on FX/FX4; Lariat; King Ranch and Platinum F-150s, as well as XLT models equipped with the convenience package. Click on the link below to see how it works.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]
There are those that have voiced concern over the durability of Ford‘s next generation Police vehicles, based on the current Taurus and Explorer.
To help silence the critics, the Blue Oval put together a test at its Arizona Proving Grounds and invited a select number of law enforcement officers from across the US and Canada to put the new sedan and sport utility through their paces in a variety of challenging scenarios and against rival competitors on the market, including Ford’s own Crown Victoria, which the new Interceptor vehicles will replace later this year.
These tests follow on from ‘traditional’ evaluations conducted by the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which have, for decades annually tested every new police vehicle available to law enforcement agencies in North America and rated each of them based on overall performance, safety and suitability.
Unlike the old Crown Vic, Ford’s new police vehicles employ unibody construction and a choice of front and all-wheel drive, with standard V-6 engines, a 3.5-liter unit in the sedan and a 3.7-liter unit in the SUV. Six-speed automatic transaxles are also standard equipment. To see how these new police machines performed in Arizona and what the officers thought of them, click on the link below.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]
However, the technology is so new and apparently so baffling that Consumer Reports went as far to put strikes against the new Edge and MKX, saying that MyFord Touch was so complicated and distracting that it could not recommend either of these vehicles to consumers on that basis alone.
Now Ford dealers are fighting back, taking the initiative by setting up workshops to show customers how to use the new technology; some are even going as far as hiring ‘technology’ specialists.
Like with any new technology, there is obviously a learning curve with how that new technology works,” declared Collin Sewell, Chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council. “We have a responsibility to help customers learn how to fully utilize the great new products that they are buying.”
MyFord Touch essentially groups the vehicle’s communication, entertainment and temperature controls into a central interface, with all functions activated by either touching the screen, steering wheel controls or voice commands. However unlike Sync, it must be used to operate key features in the vehicle, instead of allowing customers to learn at their own pace, likely the main reason for Consumer Reports’ damming remarks.
Furthermore, Ford is also pushing ahead with plans to install it in approximately 80 percent of its vehicles by the year 2015, so many dealers see it as being in their best interests to show customers how it works.
Although Ford Motor Company itself hasn’t yet officially endorsed the workshops dealers are offering, some are hoping they will receive some kind of compensation for putting such programs in place.
I think that there’s a discussion that needs to happen,” remarked Brian Godfrey, general sales manager Pat Milliken Ford in Redford, Michigan.
[Source: The Detroit Free Press]
Among Mustang and modern muscle car fans, the 2012 Boss 302 is one of the most highly anticipated cars of the year, however diehard enthusiasts are bemoaning the fact that you won’t be able to get one in perhaps the Mustang’s most signature color – Grabber Blue. OR can you?
Ford has decided to paint one of it’s hot new 444-horsepower 2012 Boss 302s in the famed hue, and auction the car at Barrett-Jackson’s Westworld event. The car features the same 5.0-liter V8 as other Boss 302s, but along with the unique paint it will sport some special features, including black accents on the roof, mirror housings and spoiler, plus a Grabber blue interior X-brace and embroidery on the seats.
All proceeds from the sale of the car (above it’s MSRP) will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research foundation. Between them, Barrett-Jackson and Ford Motor Company have so far raised almost $2.5 million for the charity over the last four years.
GALLERY: Grabber Blue Boss 302 Mustang
[Source Edmunds Inside Line]
It’s official, the very last Mercury has now left the building. On Tuesday, January 4th at 8:00 am, said vehicle, a 2011 Grand Marquis, finally rolled off the line at the St. Thomas plant, which has been building these body-on-frame behemoths for 25 years.
Originally the car was slated to be completed before the new year, but delays in parts shipments, caused by severe weather in Southwestern Ontario, pushed production into the first days of the new year.
Even until the very end, the Grand Marquis remained a highly profitable vehicle for Lincoln-Mercury dealers as well as the best selling car in the lineup. As was probably expected, there was little fanfare or celebration, as the car was rolled on to the transporter, to be delivered as part of a fleet order.
Although the Merc represented the last Grand Marquis built at St Thomas, it isn’t quite the end of Panther chassis production. Ford Crown Victorias will continue to be assembled there, primarily for police and taxi fleets, until September, when the plant is scheduled to close.
Ford Motor Company’s Louisville, Kentucky assembly plant has long been recognized as the center of Blue Oval light truck production, everything from the original compact Ranger to the Ford Explorer has been built there.
However, when production of the body-on-the-frame 2010 Explorer ends on December 16 2010, the plant will undergo a drastic transformation, to emerge as one of the most advanced auto manufacturing facilities in North America.
Although the upcoming Ford Escape is planned as the first, ‘primary’ vehicle to be manufactured at Louisville, the plant will be configured to handle flexible production, everything from small cars, to larger crossover SUVs (rumor has it that the new 2010 Focus and an upcoming small Lincoln SUV will join Escape at some point in the near future).
“Manufacturing flexibility is a key to competitiveness, and we are continually exploring ways to raise the bar in this critical area of the business,” said Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North America manufacturing, in a recent statement.
When it re-opens next year, the Louisville plant will feature new, upgraded and reprogrammable tooling, particularly in the final assembly and body shop areas, in order to handle multiple vehicle lines when required, plus 1800 new workers will be hired as Escape production gets under way. As part of the project, the state of Kentucky and the city of Louisville awarded Ford a total of up to $240 million in tax incentives over the next 10 years.
In addition, as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentives Program launched by Congress, the Louisville plant is one of 11 Ford facilities receiving a total of $5.9 billion in loans to re-tool existing plants to produce more fuel efficient vehicles.
[Source: Automotive News]
The Ann Arbor, Michigan based Center for Automotive Research (CAR), recently complied a study that illustrated that the orderly, structured bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, conducted with financial assistance from the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments, helped result in the saving of more than 1 million jobs during 2009.
The study also estimated that a further 314,000 jobs were saved in 2010, while government intervention helped save approximately $96.5 billion in potential personal income losses, while allowing some $28.6 billion to be paid to the feds in the form of social security and personal income taxes.
“To date, $13.4 billion in principal has been repaid on the government’s $80 billion U.S. investment in the automotive industry,” declared Sean McAlinden, chief economist at CAR. ”This study shows that $28.6 billion in net losses to the U.S. Treasury were averted by the policy to provide federal assistance to General Motors and Chrysler. With this in mind, CAR’s analysis shows the government need only recover $38 billion of the remaining $66.6 billion outstanding investment in this industry to achieve a two-year break-even.”
Overall, most industry analysts agree that the US economy has performed better over the last 18 months than expected and although auto sales were down, the market share of Detroit’s big three held up better than anticipated. Furthermore, based on data compiled from the last couple of months, sales appear to have grown by as much as 20 percent in some segments.
“The federal decision to invest in the auto industry in 2008 and 2009 deployed critical resources to one of the country’s most productive industries with the highest economic multipliers of any industry,” said CAR researcher Kristin Dziczek, “it was clearly a very successful policy intervention at a critical time.”
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]