Ford unveils 2015 Focus

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Ford is giving an advance look at the 2015 Focus, which will make its official debut at the New York International Auto Show, which opens April 17 at the Jacob Javits Center.

According to data compiled by R.L. Polk/IHS Automotive, the Focus is the best-selling car model in the world with 1,097,618 sales in 2013 , an 8.1% increase from 2012. The key to the Focus’ success is China where over a third of all Focus sales were made.

In the U.S., the Focus was the third best-selling American-badged car and No. 15 out of all vehicles offered in America. 2013 Focus sales were down 4.6% so the time is ripe for a refresh.

The renewed Focus was first shown in Geneva in March with the introduction of the three-door and five-door hatchbacks for Europe. For the U.S. market, the three-door hatch is replaced with the four-door sedan body style preferred over here.

The new Focus features a restyled hood and grille in line with Ford’s current design language, LED lighting for headlamps and taillamps, new rear lamp clusters and a restyled trunk lid.

“It is remarkable to see Focus again lead the industry as the No. 1-selling vehicle nameplate on the planet,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president. “With the new car, we’ve raised the bar again, showcasing Ford’s commitment to continuous improvement – adding better technology for drivers and a sleeker, more modern exterior across the entire Focus family.”

One of the key changes for American 2015 Focus is the addition of the three-cylinder, 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine that was named as one of the International Engines of the Year in 2012 and 2013. Paired with a six-speed manual transmission, Ford expects fuel efficiency to be competitive with any non-hybrid vehicle.

A handy upgrade is the rearview camera that will be standard equipment on all 2015 Focuses (Foci?). Ford’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and lane keeping system are optional.

Ford’s BLIS uses two multiple-beam radar modules in the rear quarter panels that identify vehicles entering the defined blind spot zone and illuminates an indicator light on the sideview mirror to warn the driver that a vehicle is approaching. The lane-keeping system warns of lane drift caused by driver inattention. If it detects a drift without a turn signal being activated, it vibrates the steering wheel much in the way a rumble strip would. If the driver persists, the system actively steers the car back into the current lane.

This might also remind Focus drivers to signal lane changes, an unintentional but useful side effect.

Other options include a heated steering wheel and a new SE Sport Package featuring body treatments, paddle shifters (with automatic transmission), a revised touring suspension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels and P215/50 HR-17 tires.

A bit of a downer for would-be-wayward teens is the fact that Ford’s MyKey will be standard on all Focus trim levels. MyKey is Ford’s system that allows parents to help their children be better drivers by reminding them to buckle up as well as preventing the sound system fro being operated at eardrum-splitting levels. MyKey also chimes at preset speeds to remind young drivers to watch their speed and can be set to limit the top speed to 80 miles per hour. Best of all (or worst of all, depending on one’s point of view), MyKey blocks incoming phone calls and text messages on phones paired with the car.

Ford has not yet announced pricing or availability for the new Focus. The current version starts at $17,635, including destination charges.

 

Houston Auto Show notes

HAS-Corvette-ACPThe 2014 Houston Auto Show is open now through Sunday, offering visitors a chance to see not only what’s on dealer lots now but some of what will be coming to showrooms throughout the year.

Whether you make the Houston Show or not, 2014 is a good year to visit an auto show. Not only is it a way to check out all the new cars and trucks currently available, it’s your opportunity to check out some potential game-changers coming out this year.

One must-see for any car fan is the new Corvette Stingray, the 2014 North American Car of the Year. It’s not really a game changer but it is the latest generation of a tradition stretching back six decades. The sleek blue coupe on display in Houston is a far cry from the small white roadster with its six-cylinder engine that took its first bows in 1953.

Chevrolet sold 17,291 Corvettes in 2013, 22.4% more than in 2012. Over the years, the ‘Vette has become an American icon: quite a change from the early days when Chevy almost axed the car because it kept getting throughly trounced by the Ford Thunderbird.
HAS-Mustang-ACPAnother American icon with a major makeover is the Mustang, which celebrates its 50th birthday in April. The styling that melds traditional Mustang cues with the current Ford design language derived from the 2011 Ford Evos concept is striking and modern. One major change for the new Mustang is the independent rear suspension that hasn’t been standard on Ford’s pony car since the Falcon-based original took the stage at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. There’s also a new EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that begs the question of why Ford thinks Mustang buyers would want it.

Ford was also showing the next-generation F-150 pickup, one of the real game-changers coming this year. It’s a good-looking truck with several innovative features including an aluminum alloy body that lightens the truck, increases fuel economy and improves handling by lowering the center of gravity. However, the fact that pickup owners tend to be more conservative in their buying habits means the new aluminum alloy body could have a major impact on early sales. It also means that businesses that use magnetic vehicle signage are going to have to make other arrangements. See more about the new F-150 here.

Chrysler had two big shows: the first was the national reveal of the new “Altitude” models from Jeep. Allpar has a really good write-up on the Altitudes, so we’re not going to reinvent the wheel.
HAS-C200-ACPChrysler Group’s second introduction and the real news was the 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan. The new mid-size sedan has shed the last vestiges of the DaimlerChrysler/Cerberus era to become a very good-looking, sleek automobile that’s impressive inside and out. This one is a must-see at any auto show as it could well be Chrysler’s best mid-size car in years and should give the company a bigger slice of the retail family car pie. The 200 is one of the industry’s game-changers for 2014 as it looks to be a serious contender in a very competitive segment.
HAS-Canyon-ACPGMC was showing off the new Canyon and Colorado pickups. While a lot of industry watchers have questioned GM’s decision to stay in what is seen as a sement that is stagnant at best, the company sees potential. The goal is not just to capture sales from the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma but to regain buyers lost to full-size pickups and to other vehicle types. To that end, GM is not only going to make a clear differentiation between the new junior pickups and the new full-size line, it is going to offer a wide array of vocational and sporting cargo management accessories designed specifically for the Canyon and Colorado. Though the Colorado kitted out as a lifeguard truck was a bit much, the Canyon is a good-looking truck: if GM can deliver on its promises of class-leading capability, the compact pickup segment could have a new lease on life.

Toyota was touting the new Highlander SUV but the new Corolla is worth a close look; we had a chance to experience one recently and it’s a sweet package.

Volkswagen had the next-generation GTI on the stand; it’s the first version of the seventh-generation Golf that will go on sale in the U.S.and the new 1.8-liter turbo four is a worthy successor to the previous two-liter engine.

After three years of double-digit growth, 2013 saw sales gains slow significantly. Manufacturers want to hit the 16-million-unit mark in 2014 so there’s going to be some serious pushing to move the metal. This could be a good year to get a good deal and a visit to an auto show is a great way to do the things you can’t do on the Internet, such as getting up close to the actual vehicle and trying it on for size with a few minutes of seat time. And if you just want to window shop and dream, that’s okay, too. I’ve been a car nut for more than sixty years and rose-tinted nostalgia notwithstanding, the cars and trucks coming out this year are worth dreaming about.

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European losses are sinking U.S. profits for Ford, GM

Ford Motor Company reported second-quarter earnings that were down nearly 57 percent and warned full-year results would be lower than 2011.

Ford’s North American operations delivered positive news: operating profit rose 5.3 percent to a near-record $2.01 billion with operating margin rose from 9.8 percent to 10.2 percent. However, worldwide automotive sector results were weighed down by Ford’s European operations. Consolidated results show revenue down 6.3 percent to $31.4 billion, pre-tax operating profits down 39.3 percent to 1.382 billion and a drop in operating margin from 7.0 percent to 4.9 percent.

Ford’s Q2 U.S. light vehicle market share fell from 17.3 percent in Q2/2011 to 15.6 percent, while its retail share fell from 14.1 percent to 13.0 percent. Rather than an actual decline in results, the share declines are primarily due to resurgent Japanese sales following the recovery from the disaster-distorted results of the second quarter of 2011.

Ford European sales dropped 17.4 percent in June and market share fell from 8.1 percent to 6.8 percent. For the first six months of 2012, Ford Europe results are down 9.9 percent and losses totaled $404 million in the quarter. Ford, and other automakers operating in the EU are facing a number of challenges due not only to the continuing economic crisis but from very strong, and well-funded, competition for sales from Volkswagen.

Higher costs, lower sales and other factors combined to hurt Ford’s results in every market except North America. In addition to the European deficit, Ford lost $66 million in its Asia-Pacific operations and $163 million in what the company calls “Other;” primarily Ford’s investments in financially troubled Mazda.

Ford’s South America operations were in the black, but only by $5 million.

Growth in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) has been tempered in recent months with Chinese trends uncertain and growing volatility in South America.

“The Ford team delivered another solid quarter driven by the strength of Ford North America and Ford Credit,” said Alan Mulally, Ford president and chief executive officer. “We remain absolutely committed to continuing to make progress on our One Ford plan, including dealing decisively with near-term challenges, investing for future growth, and developing outstanding products with segment-leading quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value.”

The company’s outlook for full year North America 2012 profits remains unchanged. Ford expects significantly higher pre-tax operating profit and margin compared with 2011, with significant sales expected for the the new Fusion launching in the second half of this year.

Ford South America is expected to show a profit in 2012, but it will be “substantially” lower than 2011′s results due to increased competition pressures, weakening currencies, and changes in government policies.

Higher incentives and reduced margins added to Ford Europe’s problems. The company is already dealing with a very unfavorable economic environment that has chopped the available market. Ford now believes it will lose more than a billion dollars in Europe this year.

In Asia Pacific and Africa, strong market factors were pulled down by higher costs associated with new products and investments to support higher volumes and future growth, among other reasons. Ford expects things will improve in the second half of 2012 as the investments begin to produce returns and new products, like the new Focus and Ranger are introduced.

Ford is not the only U.S. automaker having trouble in Europe: After a 61 percent hit to corporate profits due to a loss of more than $250 million in the first quarter, General Motors is playing “musical managers” in hopes of finding someone who can make a go of its money-losing Opel/Vauxhall operation. So far this year, Opel sales are down 15 percent and its market share is down to 6.9 percent, just slightly ahead of Fiat.

Some of the problems are of General Motors’ own devising. It’s still trying to decide in which segments Opel should play: mass market or upscale. In addition, GM has introduced the Chevrolet brand, a move that has been largely successful, but that success has likely come at the cost of Opel sales. Chevrolet sells the Spark, Aveo (our Sonic) Cruze, Camaro, Corvette, Malibu, Captiva, Orlando and Volt in Europe. A number of the Chevy models compete directly with Opel vehicles and some are actually clones. Others are rebadged vehicles from manufacturers like Suzuki.

In addition to too many models, a traditional GM problem, the company has had an overcapacity problem in Europe for several years and has, so far, been unable to arrive at a solution. It was widely expected the General would sell Opel and focus on expanding the Chevrolet and Cadillac franchises, which are already a part of its worldwide strategy. Some analysts still believe GM will ultimately dump the brand it has owned for nearly 90 years.

More bad news for Ford and GM is likely to come from Volkswagen, Europe’s dominant automaker and one of the few to still be making money and reporting growth in European sales. VW, which still has its eyes fixed on becoming the world’s largest automaker, just reported first-half profits of nearly $8 billion on revenues of nearly $117 billion and Volkswagen had a 23.8 percent share of June European sale. VW has its own troubles, most notably Spanish subsidiary SEAT and Swedish truckmaker Scania, but its other brands are churning out profits quite nicely.

With financial troubles even affecting Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, there are currently no signs of improvement for the vehicle market. U.S. sales volumes now exceed those of the entire 27-nation European Union and it looks like American profits will be covering European losses for some time to come.

Ford ups the ante with new Raptor, Limited pickups

Ford is introducing the 2013 SVT Raptor and the F-150 Limited, the latest versions of the world’s best-selling pickup.

2013 SVT Raptor: The latest from Dearborn’s Special Vehicle Team features an industry first: forged aluminum conventional wheels that owners can upgrade to beadlocks that mechanically clamp the tire’s bead to the wheel rim for extra security when operating in an off-road environment where low tire pressure is an advantage.

Raptor’s new wheels represent a true innovation because converting from conventional rim to beadlock only requires unbolting the standard outer decorative ring, dismounting the tire from its regular position and then remounting the tire in the lock-enabled position with Ford Racing’s available beadlock ring kit.

It’s the first OEM wheel with both conventional and beadlock-mounting abilities and Ford has filed for a patent on the system.

“Raptor’s exclusive beadlock wheels give the customer the best of both on- and off-road worlds,” said Adam Wirth, SVT chassis engineer. “Tire inflation can be dropped to a very low threshold for maximum traction under extreme conditions, yet holds tight – and stays tight – when returning to the road.”

Raptor buyers also can opt for high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps that are brighter and whiter than standard lamps and a new earth-tone exterior finish called Terrain. A rear view camera is now available, as well.

The 2013 SVT Raptor is equipped with unique leather and cloth-trimmed seats featuring Raptor-specific bolsters to keep the driver and first-row passenger firmly in place, regardless of terrain conditions. There’s also Ford’s SYNC infotainment system with a new 4.2-inch multifunction LCD screen in the instrument cluster for the MyFord driver connect technology. Customers can upgrade to MyFord Touch with an eight-inch center stack touch screen with five-way controls mounted on the steering wheel.

Ford says year-to-date Raptor sales are up 20 percent compared to the first five months of 2011.

“Ford F-150 SVT Raptor’s popularity continues to grow based on its proven reputation,” said Ford SVT Chief Engineer Jamal Hameedi. “It’s the ultimate high-performance off-road pickup, so it’s critical that we continue to push the boundaries of off-road capability. New available beadlock wheels help to improve Raptor’s performance in soft sand and other challenging conditions, enabling our customers to go further.”

F-150 Limited: This is Ford’s new statement on pickup luxury for 2013. The Limited fulfills the desires of the customers and dealers interested in exclusivity and fine craftsmanship. The new premium model surpasses the Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum.

“The F-150 Limited signifies the highest levels of design refinement, luxury and technology that we’ve ever offered in a Built Ford Tough pickup truck,” said Ford Group Vice President for Product Development, Raj Nair. “The F-150 Limited reflects a growing trend – more and more customers today have high expectations for luxury and convenience, yet their needs call for a truly capable truck.”

Today, more than 30 percent of F-150 sales are from high-end trim levels, with MSRPs reaching almost $50,000.

The 2013 Ford F-150 Limited is offered only in the SuperCrew four-door cab configuration with a monochromatic exterior in Ruby Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Tuxedo Black Metallic or White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat. The monochromatic theme extends to body-color front and rear bumpers, front bumper valance, sideview mirror caps, wheel-lip molding, upper fascia and grille surround. Contrasting chrome highlights the bold three-bar grille, tie-down hooks lining the cargo box, the single tip of the tuned exhaust and the tow hooks on 4×4 variants. “LIMITED” dimensional lettering accents the box sides.

In addition, the Limited has exclusive 22-inch polished aluminum wheels and center caps and segment-first standard HID headlamps with F-150 insignias.

The interior features red and black full-grain leather-trimmed seats with cooling and heating and memory for the seating preferences for two different drivers. Head restraints are four-way-adjustable and second-row seats are heated, too.

There is aluminum trim on the center panel and console and ambient lighting in five colors to set the mood. A moonroof is standard as is a rear view camera. A power-sliding rear window features privacy tint and defrost functionality.

The Limited package includes MyFord Touch and SYNC and a Sony audio system.

The F-150 Limited has one engine choice: the 3.5-liter Ti-VCT EcoBoost that makes 365 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. Ford says as much as 90 percent of the torque is available from 1,700 rpm to 5,000 rpm. The engine is mated to an electronic six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode. Otehr standard features include a trailer tow package, trailer brake controller, Reverse Sensing System, power-deployable running boards and a 110-volt power inverter.

Deliveries of the new Limited are scheduled for this fall.

Ford honors vets on D-Day anniversary

Today is the 68th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed 160,000 troops on the beaches of northwest France, near Caen. On the day alone, there were 9,000 casualties, the first installment of the price of victory in the Battle of Normandy. By the end of the battle, more than 209,000 soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other countries had been killed or wounded, along with uncounted thousands of their German foes. It was the beginning of the long journey to Berlin and the end for the Adolf Hitler and his Nazi empire.

In honor of the anniversary, the Ford Motor Company Fund sponsored two Honor Flights for about 75 World War II veterans from Michigan and Kentucky, flying them to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial.

The veterans, all in their late 80s and 90s, and their guardians received a festive airport send-off from Ford employees and others. After arriving in Washington, the vets were greeted by members of Congress and Ford employees at the Memorial, and received letters of appreciation from Ford employees, family members and others.

Among the veterans was 88-year-old Frank Kurtycz of Canton, Michigan, shown above talking with Ford Motor Credit Chairman and CEO Mike Bannister shortly before boarding the Ford Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. After his service in the military, Kurtjcz spent 52 years with Ford.

“The sacrifice and bravery of these soldiers serve as a lesson for all of us,” said Bannister. “It is particularly fitting to acknowledge their service on the anniversary of D-Day, a crucial point in the war that took such a high toll on our troops.”

The Fund also announced a $200,000 grant to the Disabled American Veterans Transportation Network for the purchase of eight vehicles. A total of 164 Ford vehicles are now in the DAV fleet for transporting disabled veterans. This is in addition to $50,000 in grants for DAV’s Winter Sports Clinic and the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program. The No. 21 Ford Fusion driven by Trevor Bayne at a NASCAR Memorial Day weekend race sported the DAV logo in honor of Ford’s longstanding partnership with DAV, which includes more than $6.5 million in donations since 1996.

“Ford is one of our nation’s great institutions, and for 90 years they’ve honored the brave heroes who have sacrificed for our nation,” said DAV National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. “There is something uniquely American about the commitment and loyalty they’ve shown our cause and we’re grateful for our partnership which has made a difference for generations of veterans and their families.”