The big news in the automotive industry last week was the introduction of General Motors’ all-new 2014 full-size pickup trucks. Now Ford Motor Co. is looking to make that old news.
Reuters reports that the automaker is planning a surprise reveal of a concept for its radically redesigned 2015 F-150, said by insiders to be a game-changer in the half-ton segment, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next January.
Where the new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are evolutionary designs, the new Ford is expected to be nothing short of revolutionary, with an extensive use of aluminum in its construction and re-engineered components like axles and brakes all aimed at cutting 700-750 pounds from the vehicles in order to improve fuel efficiency.
Reuters says Ford is aiming for a 3 mpg increase in fuel economy. That would represent a better than 15% improvement over the most fuel efficient F-150 available today, which is rated at 19 mpg combined. The trucks are expected to go into production in late 2014 as 2015 models.
Ford has not yet confirmed the plan to show the concept in Detroit, where it will be focusing its efforts on the launch of its E-Series full-size van replacement, the Transit.
The last time Ford brought a full-size truck concept to an auto show was in 2006 when it unveiled the F-250 Super Chief in Detroit. Inspired by the classic passenger trains of the same name, the heavy duty pickup featured an ultra-luxurious interior and a futuristic tri-fuel V10 engine that could run on gasoline, E85 or hydrogen.
This type of powerplant doesn’t appear to be in the works for the next generation F-150, but Reuters says a new line of turbocharged V6 engines is under development. Ford’s existing EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 is the top choice of F-150 buyers today.
Ford is also known to be working with Toyota to design a hybrid powertrain for full-size trucks, but has yet to commit to putting it into production. General Motors is discontinuing its hybrid pickups and SUVs next year citing low sales.
Ford Motor Co.’s all-new Transit full-size van, which goes on sale late next year, will be offered with a new clean-running 3.2-liter Power Stroke five-cylinder diesel, according to a news release.
The new diesel, Ford’s second in North America, already has established a proven record for reliability, durability and refinement in the global Ford Ranger truck sold in world markets. The new Power Stroke Diesel will be the only five-cylinder diesel engine available in a commercial van in North America.
“Commercial van drivers spend most of their working hours behind the wheel. We know they want a fuel-efficient diesel engine with smooth, responsive performance and low operating costs,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of powertrain engineering. “The 3.2-liter Power Stroke engine has been developed and proven globally to deliver a world-class combination of power, fuel economy and refinement.”
While power has not been certified for North America, the new diesel engine is rated in Europe at 197 horsepower and 347 lb.-ft. of torque.
Like the larger 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 offered in Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks, the fuel system has been carefully tailored and calibrated for combustion efficiency. It enables the newest Power Stroke to achieve exceptional fuel economy ratings without affecting power levels.
The 3.2-liter turbo diesel features state-of-the-art piezoelectric fuel injectors fed through a high-pressure common rail fuel system, and advanced emissions technologies.
Precise injection timing and calibration also ensures a smooth combustion process to reduce hard diesel combustion clatter, resulting in lower noise levels that are more like a gasoline engine. Each injector nozzle has eight spray holes and can deliver up to five injections per combustion cycle. A pilot injection controls noise levels and a main injection is used for power generation.
Detroit’s carmakers saw strong June U.S. car sales with Chrysler Group LLC, a subsidiary of Italian Fiat SpA (Milan: F), reporting 20% year-over-year sales growth, General Motors Co. reporting 16% sales growth and Ford Motor Co. reporting more modest 7% sales gains.
The news sent automakers’ shares up, with GM’s up about 6%, with more modest gains for its rivals, the International Business Times reported.
Chrysler was the first major automaker to report June car sales Tuesday and posted its strongest June in five years with 144,811 vehicles sold. However, industry analysts expect overall U.S. auto sales to be more or less flat from May with a seasonally adjusted average selling rate, or SAAR, of between 13.6 million and 14 million for June. June sales for U.S. automakers were strong in June, though, in part due to insulation from macroeconomic uncertainty for the industry.
“The combination of new products, available credit, lower fuel prices and modest economic growth was a stronger influence on consumer behavior than economic and political uncertainty,” General Motors Vice President for U.S. sales and operations Kurt McNeil said Tuesday.
The auto industry as a whole isn’t expected to demonstrate the strong sales growth of the first five months due to seasonality in car sales, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. Chrysler projected a SAAR of 14.4 million units, well above analyst projections.
Chrysler sales gained 20% in June, marking the 27th month of year-over-year sales growth. The Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and FIAT brands all posted gains. Chrysler brand sales rose 63%t, the best June sales since 2008.
“June was another solid month for the Chrysler Group with U.S. sales up 20% and second-quarter sales increasing 24% compared with the same period in 2011,” President and CEO of Dodge Brand and head of U.S. sales Reid Bigland said.
Chrysler has been the only profitable division of Fiat in recent quarters. Strong sales from the American unit could bolster weak European sales for the Italian automaker.
Ford reported June sales rose 7% from the year due to higher sales of trucks and SUVs.
“June was a good month for Ford and a particularly strong month for vehicles like Escape, Fusion, Explorer and F-Series,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.
Ford sales are up 7% for the year so far with 1.14 million vehicles sold, including 207,759 sold in June. The bulk of June sales gains came from SUV sales. SUV sales rose 24.8% while truck sales gained 1.2%. Car sales growth was more modest at just 0.3%.
Sales of Ford’s flagship F-series trucks rose 10.9% with 55,025 sold, the best June sales in five years, indicative of increasing demand for Ford trucks. Car sales were weaker, though, with both the Fiesta and Focus posting losses. However, Fusion sales gained 17.4%.
Ford’s Lincoln brand actually posted a 2.5 percent gain with 7,544 units sold, indicating positive movement.
GM, the No. 1 automaker reported 15.5% year-over-year U.S. sales growth in June and the best sales month for the company since September 2008.
All four of GM’s brands, Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac, reported double digit sales gains, with Cadillac leading the pack at 26.8%. Overall, GM sold 248,710 vehicles in June and projected a seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales of 14 million for June, in line with the high end of analyst expectations.
Toyota, Japan’s No. 1 company, said June U.S. sales rose 60.3% compared to the year before, the company announced Tuesday.
The exceptional growth in year-over-year sales likely reflects the company’s continued recovery from supply-chain, manufacturing and inventory disruptions caused by last year’s Japanese earthquake and Tsunami and floods in Thailand.
Ford Motor Co. is in talks with local partners to introduce indigenous brands in China as it plays catch-up in the world’s biggest auto market with the likes of General Motors Co. and Volkswagen International, its China chief said on Monday (June 4).
Such a move would see Ford join other foreign car makers in launching indigenous China-only brands, in part to comply with government rules that allow them to make cars on the mainland.
“We are always in discussions with our joint-venture partners,” David Schoch, chairman and CEO of Ford’s China operations, told Reuters in an interview in Taipei. “All I can tell you is we are studying indigenous brands, but our total focus in terms of brand enhancement is really on the Ford brand.”
China’s vehicles market, which includes cars, vans and trucks, will likely expand by around 5% this year and that pace of growth was likely to be sustained over the next few years, Schoch added. China’s 2011 vehicles sales stood at 18.5 million.
Ford, which makes its Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and other sedans in China in a three-way tie-up with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Ltd and Japan’s Mazda Motor Corp, is a relative latecomer in China, where General Motors and Germany’s Volkswagen have a sizeable lead. It also holds 30% of Jiangling Motors Corp.which makes Ford’s Transit vans.
Typically, China-only brands use older technology that foreign companies no longer use, enabling them to keep vehicle costs lower and at the same time help Chinese partners learn the ropes in developing and marketing modern cars.
In a once unthinkable turnabout, Ford Motor Co. is bragging about how it now makes some of the smallest car engines in the industry — a sign of evolution for a company that once made its money selling powerful trucks, SUVs and the Mustang muscle car.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Ford’s race to smaller engines represents an industry trend as automakers woo fuel-conscious consumers and work to meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar, an auto price information company.
“We believe that we are going to pay more for energy going forward and that fuel efficiency is the top reason to buy,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive.
Mulally said Ford’s strategy of making powerful but smaller engines is part of the automaker’s goal to “increase the fuel efficiency every year forever.”
Ford has focused on small turbocharged engines, which it calls its EcoBoost line. Although Ford vehicles with these engines carry a premium, they have among the quickest paybacks from gas savings in the industry, Toprak said.
A recent TrueCar analysis of the latest offerings of small but powerful engines found Ford excelled at big vehicles with small engines, such as its Edge sport utility vehicle with the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and its big F-150 pickup truck with a six-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Ford is promoting that, after new introductions later this year, it will have seven vehicles with the smallest engines in their respective segments.
To read the entire Los Angeles Times article click here.
Next week, Ford will launch the new Transit Custom cargo van at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle show in the U.K. MotorTrend reported that the Transit Custom is the hard-working cargo version of the Tourneo Custom passenger van shown earlier this year, and goes on sale across Europe later this year.
It’s important to note that this van is front-wheel drive and rides on what Ford considers a light-duty chassis. The new Ford Transit that will be introduced in the U.S. market by the end of 2012 will be rear-wheel drive, boasting a tougher platform, and may have bolder styling echoing that of the F-Series truck line. As a direct replacement for the aging E-Series/Econoline vans, Ford says the new Transit will be 300 pounds lighter and 25% more fuel-efficient than the E-Series.
About 40% of the body of the new European Ford Transit Custom is made from high-strength steels, which help make the vehicle both lighter and stronger. As a result, Ford says the new van is 37% stiffer than before, which will improve handling and reduce interior noise. There will be two different wheelbases, with overall vehicle length 195.7 inches or 210.2 inches.
Clever concessions to use as a cargo van begin with a pass-through in the bulkhead, allowing long pipes or ladders to be partially carried in the passenger compartment. Ford says the Transit’s sliding doors are larger than those of the competition, and that interior room between the fenders is wider than in other cargo vans. There also will be a folding roof rack, that can easily be stowed when not in use, more convenient cargo area tie-down hooks, and “easy clean” floor surfaces.
Improvements for driver comfort include a seat that can move farther back, a newly telescoping and tilting steering wheel, and the Sync voice recognition software. Also new to the Transit are features like a backup camera, Lane Keeping Alert, and a feature that warns if it detects the driver is tired.
Power comes from Ford’s turbocharged 2.2-liter DuraTorq diesel inline-four engine, with 98 hp, 123 hp, and 153 hp flavors available. It’s very likely one of these will become available in the American-market Ford Transit; the automaker has already confirmed that our rear-wheel-drive Ford Transit will feature both an EcoBoost V-6 and a diesel engine. The European model also gets engine stop-start as standard.
Azure Dynamics, the company that builds the electric version of the Ford Transit Connect van, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Truck Trend News reported that having failed to raise sufficient funds through a company stock offering, the electric drivetrain manufacturer laid off 120 employees, 55 of whom were employed at its Oak Park, Mich. facility.
Along with providing power for the electric version of the Ford Transit Connect, Azure Dynamics builds electric powertrains and battery systems for delivery vans, plug-in hybrid trucks, hybrid buses and similar vehicles. The company was founded in Canada in 1997. In 2007, the company moved its headquarters to Oak Park.
Azure Dynamics was reportedly forced into bankruptcy after failing to secure approval from the Ontario Securities Commission to sell stock. The company needed the cash as it lost $26.1 million dollars during the first three quarters of 2011. With the company in bankruptcy, production of vehicles has stopped, although Azure Dynamics will continue to supply parts for vehicles. There are currently only about 40 workers on the job.
“We fully intend to be back and moving forward, but we have to reorganize,” Azure Dynamics’ vice president of marketing Mike Ellwood told the Detroit Free Press. “We still believe that electric vehicles are a part of the solution going forward.”
In early February, Azure Dynamics reported that it had taken orders for another 45 electric Transit Connects — 20 in Europe and 25 in North America. The company has taken a claimed $32 million in orders for the electric Transit Connect.
This isn’t the first shakeup involving the Transit Connect and its conversion company. Ford originally partnered with English EV firm Smith Electric in 2009 to transform the Transit Connect into an electric van, but by the end of the year, both parties mutually dissolved the contract. Smith claimed it instead wanted to focus its capital and resources on its own vehicle development programs.
Ford Motor Co. said Monday (March 5) that it will include the fuel efficient EcoBoost V-6 engine as one of the power options in the full-size Transit van the company will begin selling in the United States in 2013.
Transport Topics reported that the Transit, versions of which have been sold in Europe since 1965, is scheduled to replace the venerable E-Series cargo van here as Ford shifts to focus on more global platforms – vehicles which use similar components and can be sold in international markets.
The E-Series vans will be available for some undetermined time after the Transit is introduced here, Rob Stevens, chief engineer, said during a press conference held prior to the opening of the National Truck Equipment Association’s (NTEA) annual Work Truck Show here.E-Series cutaways and strip chassis will “continue into the future,” Stevens said.
The EcoBoost may deliver up to 25% better fuel mileage compared with the current E-Series vans, thanks in part to a 300-pound weight savings due to the lighter engine, Stevens said. The EcoBoost won’t be the only engine option, but Ford officials declined to say which others would be used. The Transit will be built in Kansas City.
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. recently was awarded quality recognition from Ford Motor Co.’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) Program.
• Compliance with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
• Conformance with all Ford industry guidelines for vehicle conversions.
• Annual facility inspection and review of converter’s processes.
• A commitment to continuous improvement.
According to Ford, the purpose of this program is to assure vehicle modifier’s have the capability and processes in place to complete the vehicle in a repeatable manner – maintaining the integrity of the Ford chassis system while meeting federal and other compliance standards in place at the time of the build, and providing end-users with a quality built vehicle that meets their expectations.
“We believe we have achieved excellence in Ford’s Motor Home Quality Vehicle Modifier Program because of the investments we have made in engineering technology and lean manufacturing,” stated Fleetwood RV President and CEO John Draheim. “Our continued commitment to the quality and safety of our products is a driving force behind the products we deliver to our customers.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has negotiated an exclusive member benefit with Ford Motor Company that could save ARVC members thousands of dollars with vehicles they lease or purchase for their businesses or personal use.
The benefit, available immediately to ARVC members, includes a non-taxable rebate off the guaranteed dealer invoice worth thousands of dollars that they can use at any time, so long as they are ARVC members.
“We’ve never offered a benefit like this before,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO, adding that this benefit alone is worth 10 to 20 times’ the annual cost of ARVC membership for a typical 100-site park.
In most cases, net purchase prices with the ARVC member discount will be 15% to 20% below the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) and applies to nearly every car, truck, or van in the Ford product line for 2011-12.
The Ford Motor Company discounts are the latest in a series of exclusive discount programs that ARVC has obtained for its members.
Other new benefits include an exclusive discount program with Just In Time Communications, Inc., a national distributor for DIRECTV, to provide satellite television service to ARVC member parks at rates that can save park operators tens of thousands of dollars a year, depending on the size of their park.
ARVC has also secured a preferred provider agreement with Skyline Corp., which now provides ARVC member parks with significant savings on towable travel trailers as well as park models, which are custom designed for use as rental units. Combined with existing agreements with long time member benefit providers such as Evergreen Insurance, John Deere, Suburban/Ferralgas/Amerigas LP, Sherwin Williams, and many others, a member’s savings can be significant over the course of a year.
Based in Denver, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds is the national voice of the outdoor hospitality industry. More information is available at www.arvc.org.