Archive for December, 2010


Preview: 2012 Ford C-MAX

December 28, 2010

Wayne, Michigan – Built in Europe since 2003, and until now, not available in North America, the versatile Ford C-MAX has finally arrived.

The 2012 C-MAX will be introduced to North American media at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, but Ford gave invited journalists an early look last week at its assembly facility in Wayne, Michigan.

While European models were built at Ford’s Saarlouis assembly plant in Germany, the C-MAX for North America will be built at Ford’s revamped Michigan assembly plant in Wayne.

The new C-MAX is part of Ford Motor Company’s global small vehicle strategy that will deliver at least 10 new vehicles, including the 2012 Ford Focus, from a single C-vehicle platform by 2012.

The C-MAX is a compact family vehicle that combines the attributes of a minivan and a compact car. Similar to the Mazda5, the C-MAX introduces a host of unique features including an industry-exclusive hands-free power-operated rear liftgate, versatile 5+2 seating configuration with five seats in the main cabin and two smaller seats in the third row, twin sliding doors and active park assist, an advanced new system that automatically steers the vehicle into parallel parking spaces.

The C-MAX will be powered in base form by the 2.5-litre inline four cylinder engine, but Ford’s new 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine with direct injection, low-inertia turbocharging and twin independent variable camshaft timing will be optionally available. The 1.6-litre will produce as much power as the 2.5-litre but with 20 per cent less fuel consumption. Both engines will be combined with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The C-MAX will ride on a 2,786 mm (107.9 in.) wheelbase, with an overall length of 4,521 mm (179 in.), about the same length as the original 1984 Dodge Caravan (2,847 mm/4,468 mm).

With twin sliding rear side doors, the C-MAX features a clever new seat folding concept for second-row seats. The second-row centre seat can be folded quickly and easily under the right-hand seat, creating a walk-through space between the two outboard seats so passengers can access the third row. As well, outboard second-row bucket seats also have a tip-and-slide forward function to access to the third-row.

Second-row seats will also slide and recline, allowing for multiple combinations of passenger seat positions and cargo capacity. The third-row seats can be omitted as a delete option, for those buyers electing to forgo the 5+2 seating arrangement.

Buyers will be able to optionally outfit their C-MAX with a host of advanced technology including:

  • Hands-free rear liftgate, an industry first, that is activated by passing a leg motion under the rear bumper when the driver’s key fob is in his or her pocket
  • Active park assist that calculates the trajectory and steers to properly position the vehicle. All the driver need do is operate the accelerator and brake pedals
  • Speed limiter which prevents a driver from exceeding a preset speed
  • Panoramic roof
  • Rear-view camera and parking aid sensors
  • Intelligent Access with push-button start
  • Heated side-view mirrors with integrated puddle lamps
  • HD Radio, Sony audio system and Satellite radio
  • Ambient Lighting
  • Dual-zone electronic climate control, and
  • Navigation system

Standard safety features will include stability control with curve control, dual front and side airbags, first, second and third row safety canopy side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system and blind-spot mirrors.

The 2012 Ford C-MAX is expected to go on sale early in 2011 as a 2012 model. Pricing will be announced closer to its release date.


(from Canadian Driver)


The Ford Transit Connect Electric Delivery Van Starts Shipping

December 16, 2010

DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 7, 2010 – Ford Motor Company and Azure Dynamics have begun shipping the first Ford Transit Connect Electrics to early customers in North America and to the United Kingdom for a demonstration project.

The all-electric commercial vans, built on the Ford Transit Connect vehicle body, equipped with Azure Dynamics’ patented Force Drive™ battery electric powertrain, and assembled by AM General at its facility in Livonia, Mich., are reaching the market 13 months after the collaboration to develop the zero-emission vehicle was first announced.

To date, all initial units have designated customers. Azure Dynamics’ LEAD customer program includes seven companies that are taking delivery of their first units in 2010, with the remainder of their orders to be filled in 2011. Customers that have been previously announced include AT&T, Southern California Edison, Xcel Energy, Johnson Controls Inc., New York Power Authority, Canada Post and Toronto Atmospheric Fund EV300. Additional LEAD customers will be identified by the end of the year.

Ford first announced the collaboration in October 2009, with an agreement for Azure Dynamics to upfit the Transit Connect van with Azure’s Force Drive battery electric drivetrain technology including Johnson Controls-Saft’s advanced lithium-ion battery, and a commitment to deliver the initial vehicles by the end of 2010 to the North American market. Initial production began in the fourth quarter of 2010 with full production of the Transit Connect Electric slated to ramp up in April 2011.

“Supplier collaboration is important on all Ford product programs, but it was especially key in this effort, which went from contract signing to vehicle production in 13 months,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford director, Electrification Programs and Engineering. “A strong teamwork environment established by Azure and Ford was critical to delivering this vehicle.”

“The Transit Connect Electric program is a great representation of our product development approach,” said Scott Harrison, CEO, Azure Dynamics. “We have been able to focus on integration of our Force Drive powertrain solution and benefit from Ford’s expertise in building ground-up global vehicle platforms. Meanwhile, capital costs are kept in check by contracting AM General for labor and assembly services – an area where the company excels. Transit Connect Electric is a revolutionary technology and achieving our aggressive time line is a testament to the professionalism and spirit of cooperation among all the project partners.”

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation provided incentive funding for Azure Dynamics to encourage selection of a Michigan-based partner for final assembly. Azure chose AM General LLC, to produce the Transit Connect Electric in its facility in Livonia, Mich.

AM General, a long-established contract vehicle assembler and services provider, is responsible for final upfit of the Transit Connect Electric.

Transit Connect Electric is the first product in Ford’s accelerated electrified vehicle plan, and will be followed by the Focus Electric passenger car in 2011, along with a plug-in hybrid electric and two next-generation lithium-ion battery-powered hybrid vehicles in 2012.




Ford Canada CEO sees bigger role for cars

December 15, 2010

In the tug of war between car and truck sales, Ford Canada chief executive David Mondragon is betting on cars.  The head of the U.S. auto maker’s Canadian operations said Ford’s car business is up 20 per cent for the year, about the same rate as its truck sales.

“We feel good about our growth, but again we’re not growing just with trucks,” Mr. Mondragon said in an interview.  “We’re growing with a balanced approach with cars, CUVs and trucks, and that speaks volumes in terms of our growth potential in the future.”

The push for cars includes a new version of Ford’s popular Explorer that will be based on a car platform. “It will be state-of-the-art technology; it will also get 30-per-cent better fuel economy than the old Explorer,” he said.

Ford car sales to the end of November totalled 57,197, while truck sales were 191,300. That compared with 47,718 cars sold in the first 11 months of 2009 and 159,568 trucks.

The increase in Ford car sales has come as the broader industry has seen car sales dip in Canada compared with 2009. Car sales for the first 11 months of the year are down nearly 5 per cent compared with a year ago.

Light truck sales for Canada are up about 20 per cent through the end of November.

U.S. auto makers have done well with drivers’ love of the SUV and pickup trucks, which typically carry bigger margins than cars.

“It doesn’t mean that we can’t make money on cars and we are making money on small cars again, and the reason . is we are leveraging global production and we’re getting greater economies of scale,” Mr. Mondragon said.

A report by the Conference Board of Canada on Tuesday said a restructuring of the auto industry during the economic downturn is paying off with a return to profitability. “The market outlook for Canadian motor vehicle assemblers remains bright thanks to growing U.S. and Canadian demand,” the think-tank said.

“Canadian consumers were not hit as hard by the recession, suffering only a relatively modest decline in employment followed by a rapid recovery,” the report said.

Mr. Mondragon predicted auto sales in Canada will grow about 2 per cent in 2011 after a strong 2010. “It will be somewhat moderate compared with the growth we experienced this year,” he said, adding that overall sales will still likely be a little short of where they were before the 2008 financial crisis.

In the United States, General Motors and Chrysler both filed for bankruptcy and shed billions in debt and costs with the help of billions from the U.S., Ontario and Canadian governments. GM recently returned to life as a public company in North America’s largest initial public offering.

Ford avoided the need for government cash and bankruptcy, but it too undertook a major restructuring of its operations.

Ford Canada has assembly plants in Oakville and St. Thomas, Ont., two engine plants in Windsor, Ont., and parts distribution centres in Brampton, Ont., and Edmonton.


(from The Globe and Mail)


New Car Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Ford Focus

December 14, 2010

NEW FOR 2012:

– All-new model

For 2012, the Ford Focus is an all-new model. While the 2011 Focus was specific to North America and a different model from that sold in Europe, the 2012 Focus is a “global” car, with the same basic vehicle sold worldwide and built locally for each market.

The Focus comes as a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback. Both models use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic.

The sedan comes in S, SE, SEL and Titanium trim, while the hatchback comes in SE, SEL and Titanium. The top-line Titanium comes with the six-speed automatic only.

Features on the S sedan include 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, auto-down power windows, power locks with keyless entry, black door handles, power mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, cloth seats, CD/MP3 stereo, and tire pressure monitoring system.

The SEL models add 16-inch steel wheels, body-colour door handles, illuminated entry, seatback storage pockets, front centre armrest with storage, floor mats, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, automatic headlamps, fog lights, compass, MyKey, outside temperature display, and trip computer. The hatchback model also includes a rear spoiler, removable package tray, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and rear wiper.

The SEL models add 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, four-wheel disc brakes, MyFord Touch, SYNC, USB port, cruise control, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, puddle lamps, chrome side window mouldings, auto up/down windows, illuminated vanity mirrors, overhead console, heated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and security system. The sedan adds a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

The Titanium models add 17-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, MyFord Touch with eight-inch screen, Sony ten-speaker sound system with subwoofer, Sirius satellite radio, and rear spoiler.


(from Canadian Driver)


First Drive: 2011 Ford Explorer

December 13, 2010

San Diego, California – It’s been a long time since an all-new Ford Explorer was launched — nine years actually, which is an epoch for the automotive industry — and during the intervening years, much has happened with Ford’s SUV/CUV range. The Edge and seven-passenger Flex were introduced; the Freestyle and Taurus X appeared and disappeared; the Windstar minivan became the Freestar and was retired, and an all-new Escape and Escape Hybrid hit the roads.

Except for a mild refresh a couple of years ago, you might think the Explorer — once perhaps the most aspirational of SUVs — was quietly being put out to pasture, its days of exploration behind it. Not so. In fact, the 2011 model is something of a re-invention of the Explorer.

Starting at $29,999 for the base front-wheel drive (FWD) version, and featuring unibody construction that replaces the Explorer’s (formerly) signature body-on-frame truck heritage, the 2011 Explorer is a clean-sheet re-think that both affirms the nameplate and modernizes the concept as it relates to an SUV target-market that wants better fuel economy, less truck-like hardware and ride.

Sharing its unibody platform with the Flex crossover and Taurus sedan, the Explorer is now a seven-passenger FWD or 4WD vehicle powered by a standard 3.5-litre V6 engine or, available later in 2011, an all-new 2.0-litre inline-four cylinder “Ecoboost” engine with turbocharging and direct fuel injection.

Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the V6 engine with twin independent variable valve timing delivers 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet torque. In comparison, the four-cylinder engine makes 237 hp at 5,500 r.p.m. and 250 lb-ft torque at a low 1,700 through 4,000 r.p.m. A V8 engine is no longer offered in the Explorer, although (with the V6) it is still rated to tow a 5,000 pound trailer. The Ecoboost engine is not regarded as a towing engine; focusing more on fuel economy.

Fuel economy, which was not a strength of the outgoing Explorer, is improved by a claimed 20 per cent with the new V6 engine, which is estimated to return 11.9 L/100 km in the city and 8.0 L/100 km on the highway. The Ecoboost engine is expected to improve fuel economy by 30 per cent over the previous V6 model, but will be sold at a premium price compared with the 2011 model’s V6.

Other technologies that reduce fuel consumption include electric power assisted steering (EPAS), a variable displacement air conditioning compressor and a transmission that provides lower initial gears for improved acceleration from a standstill, and lower engine speeds when cruising.

Dimensionally, the 2011 Explorer is longer and wider than the previous generation, but it is 45 kilograms lighter. Ford reports that vehicle aerodynamics have improved by 12 per cent, and indeed the new Explorer does look sleeker than earlier generations, eschewing their boxy, but arguably distinctive, shape. Comparatively, the Explorer is notably larger than vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda Pilot, Dodge Journey and Toyota Highlander, but still smaller than the Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia.

Several new features are available as standard or optional equipment, including Curve Control, a standard feature that intervenes when the vehicle is travelling too fast in a corner, and Terrain Management, a standard component of the 4WD system that adjusts engine, transmission and braking operation through a console-mounted knob that enables the driver to select between Normal, Mud, Snow and Sand driving surfaces.

Other notable standard features include a capless fuel filler, tilt and telescoping steering column; vehicle stability control with Roll Stability Control; four-wheel disc brakes; MyKey owner control; four 12-volt power points, and power driver’s window with one-touch down.

Optional features, depending on trim level selected, include a Blind Spot Intervention System (BLIS) with Cross-Traffic Alert; Hill Descent Control; automatic park assist; adaptive cruise control with accident warning and brake support; DVD entertainment system; Technology Package; MyFord Touch driver interface; dual panel sunroof; rear outboard inflatable seatbelts (an industry first); 20-inch polished aluminum wheels and power liftgate.

On the road the 2011 Explorer impresses with its quiet, smooth ride and nimble handling. It is a substantial vehicle but drives smaller than its size. That said, one is aware of its generous dimensions when manoeuvring in tight spaces, and the optional rear-backup camera will be a must-have for some drivers.

The optional MyFord Touch interface, with its 20-cm touch-screen display is easy to operate and very modern in conception and appearance. The switches, controls and customizable instrument panel are likewise precise in operation and reminiscent of the touch-screen displays on smartphones, digital cameras and tablets. There is quite an array of options and functionality, however (entertainment, navigation, climate, vehicle functions, internet, communications), that some may find engages them more than they would like (and more than may be safe). This is, or it can be, the vehicle as mobile office, entertainment and communications centre.

Power from the V6 engine is sufficient for most normal driving conditions, but doesn’t supply quite the vigour expected under hard acceleration. One would think Ford’s new Ecoboost V6 as found in the Flex, Taurus and F-150 would be a more suitable powerplant, although the supplied engine is capable and quiet in operation. Fuel consumption achieved during the day’s mostly highway drive averaged 14.7 L/100 km, which fell short of expectations.

Although classed as a midsize vehicle, the 2011 Explorer is exceedingly roomy. The Explorer offers abundant space for all occupants, even those in the third-row seat where headroom, shoulder room and knee room is entirely sufficient even for adults. Accessing those rear seats is made easy by folding the second row seats forward, enabling passengers to enter and exit the vehicle while maintaining dignity. Both rows of rear seats fold flat, opening up considerable cargo space.

Front seat occupants will find a wide centre console separating them (with cupholders that will see a large Tim Horton’s cup severely overmatched). In the Canadian market, most drivers would describe the 2011 Explorer as a large SUV; perhaps larger than they require. Indeed, it does arguably replace some functionality of a minivan, a vehicle type that Ford no longer offers.

But the Explorer will also handle some very rough terrain, as demonstrated at an off-road event organized by Ford at the Lions, Tigers and Bears rescue facility in Alpine, California ( ). Severe hills were ascended and descended without difficulty by the Explorer; its Hill Descent system maintaining control while travelling down very steep trails that would be treacherous for most family vehicles. Mud, water, sand and deep ruts were all dispatched by the Explorer without drama, and although this vehicle isn’t designed as an extreme rock crawler, the Explorer will meet and exceed most owners’ off-road requirements.

Styling, as mentioned above, is all-new. Longer, wider, sleeker than the outgoing model, and featuring a “floating” roof and distinctive C-pillars that angle from front to rear, the Explorer is eye-catching and less upright and square than previous generations.

The 2011 Ford Explorer should appeal to those looking for a large, capable SUV with seating for seven. Technologies like MyFord Touch and Sync enable drivers and passengers to personalize the vehicle interface and control their in-vehicle communications to a high degree. Voice activated functionality of vehicle systems is becoming more widely applied, and Ford is moving ahead of its competition with the wide array of mobile partnerships – Sony, Gracenote, Flextronics, Nuance, b-square, Microsoft, Sirius, and many more — that it now supports. Described by Ford as an SUV for the 21st Century, the Explorer truly is a “mobile device.”


(from Canadian Driver)


Recycled clothing part of new Focus – Green creativity from Ford

December 9, 2010

Our old clothes have a tendency to turn up in forgotten or in unlikely places – sometimes on the floor under the bed or behind the washing machine; other times, they end up in the corner of a closet or in the next-generation Ford Focus.

Ford offers an interesting twist on its commitment to “reduce, reuse and recycle” – in this case, using cottons from recycled clothing as carpet backings and sound absorption materials for its 2012 Focus. One of the eco-friendly materials is derived from jeans – a mixture of cotton and denim.

“One of our key goals is to use more recycled or renewable materials without compromising performance or durability,” says Ford’s product sustainability manager Carrie Majeske. “Recycled content is a way to divert waste from landfills and reduce the impact of mining virgin material.”

A result of Ford’s global product development program, the 2012 Focus will be available early in 2011 in North America and Europe.




2012 Ford Focus to start at $15,999 in Canada

December 8, 2010

The all-new 2012 Focus, which will be on sale in the beginning of 2011, will carry a base price of $15,999 before tax, freight and delivery charges.

For under 16 grand, you’ll get the base S sedan. The SE sedan will cost $18,999 while the hatchback SE will be priced at $19,899. The better equipped SEL versions will retail at $21,499 for the sedan and $22,399 for the hatchback. Finally, the top-shelf Focus Titanium will sell for $24,499 and $25,099 in respective sedan and hatchback variations.

Options will include a 6-speed, dual-clutch automated transmission that will cost $1,250, or $1,450 with an included manual mode, a $1,300 SE Sport Appearance Package, a $1,200 power sunroof and, in SEL and Titanium trims, a $700 navigation system and a $1,200 Leather Package.