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Ford's China blitz: 50 new vehicles by 2025

Reuters  /  December 5, 2017

SHANGHAI -- Ford Motor Co. will launch 50 new vehicles in China by 2025, including 15 electrified vehicles, the automaker said at an event in Shanghai on Tuesday, as it looks to rev up sales growth in the market and shift towards cleaner electric cars.

Ford's sales in China have been weak in recent months, and the company is scrambling to come up with electric and hybrid vehicles to comply with strict Chinese quotas over production and sales for new energy vehicles, or NEVs.

The U.S. automaker is undergoing a broad review of its China operations, part of a strategic re-think under new CEO Jim Hackett, which will likely see the company focus on electric commercial vans as well as electric cars.

"Between now and 2025, we will launch 50 new vehicles in China, and of those 50 new vehicles, 15 of them will be all-new electrified vehicles," said Peter Fleet, Ford's head of Asia Pacific, pointing to big growth in the "utility" segment.

Fleet also said Ford's China revenue would grow by 50 percent over the same period.

China is pushing automakers toward electric and hybrid petrol-electric vehicles, setting tough quotas for NEVs that come into play in 2019, and has signaled a longer-term shift away from traditional internal combustion engine cars.

The major shift in the world's largest auto market has jolted some automakers, sparking a spate of recent electric vehicle joint ventures in the market. Ford has announced an EV tie-up with China's Anhui Zotye Automobile Co Ltd.

"We've never seen change like we do today," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. "Everything is being disrupted" by the development of autonomous vehicles, trends such as ride-sharing and electric vehicles, he added.

"It's clearly the case that China will lead the world in EV development, and so we at Ford are investing enormous amounts of money both here in China and globally to bring electrification into fruition."

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Ford Super Duty trucks get a bit more super for 2018

Autoblog  / December 5, 2017

More power, more torque, more payload, more towing capacity.

Ford released specifications overnight for its 2018 F-Series Super Duty trucks, claiming best-in-class bragging rights in five areas: horsepower, torque, towing, gooseneck towing, and payload.

Output of its 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel has increased to 450 horsepower, up 10 from 2017, and it now makes peak torque of 935 pound-feet, which is also 10 more in the torque wars as truck manufacturers keep inching toward 1,000.

Upgrades to the 6.7-liter diesel include cylinder heads redesigned for greater strength under higher loads, and optimized fuel and turbo boost calibrations.

(Ford offered no word on specs for the 6.2-liter gasoline engine option or the 6.8-liter V10, which presumably continue on as options for 2018.)

Ford also lays claim to best in class for conventional hitch towing capacity of 21,000 pounds and 7,360 pounds of payload.

And an F-450 Crew Cab 4x2 dualie has been added to the Super Duty lineup for 2018. (The F-450 was previously only offered as a dual-rear-wheel 4x4 with the Power Stroke.) The truck has integrated gooseneck hitch mounts, and its ability to tow a gooseneck trailer has been upped to 34,000 pounds. That's up 1,500 pounds from last year's class-leading number.

The 2018 Super Duty F-450 4x2 dual-rear-wheel pickup will be released this winter in XL, XLT, Lariat and Platinum trim. Base MSRP is $52,830.

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Ford unveils new 2018 Super Duty

Trailer-Body Builders  /  December 5, 2017

Ford on Tuesday introduced the 2018 Super Duty, which it says is America’s most powerful, most capable heavy-duty pickup truck ever, with five best-in-class claims, and a new F-450 4x2 model.

Ford says it has best-in-class horsepower and torque from a newly upgraded 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel engine.

“Super Duty customers expect the best, and for 2018 we’re giving our customers even more power and torque from our 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel – delivering the most horsepower and torque available among all heavy-duty pickups,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Plus, our new F-450 pickup now includes a 4X2 model, enabling our customers to get more done with the segment’s best payload and towing.”

The 2018 Super Duty makes five key best-in-class heavy-duty truck segment claims:

• Best-in-class 450 horsepower (a 10 horsepower improvement over 2017)

• Best-in-class 935 lb.-ft. of torque (a 10 lb.-ft. improvement over 2017)

•Best-in-class 34,000 pounds of gooseneck towing, when properly equipped (a 1,500-pound improvement for the new F-450 4x2 model)

•Best-in-class 21,000-pound conventional hitch towing

•Best-in-class 7,360-pound payload capacity

Upgrades to the 2018 Ford 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine include redesigned cylinder heads for added strength under higher loads, plus optimized fuel and turbo boost calibrations to take advantage of the increased cylinder head capacity for increased horsepower and torque.

Ford is the only heavy-duty truck manufacturer that designs and builds its own diesel engine and transmission combination – ensuring the powertrain works seamlessly with all chassis components and vehicle calibrations. This approach enables Ford engineers to optimize vehicle performance across the entire lineup and to further refine the powertrain to the specific needs of the customer.

For those who rely on their pickups to haul big trailers to get the job done, the new F-450 Super Duty 4x2 dual-rear-wheel truck is now available for both retail and fleet customers – offering greater strength, efficiency and durability.

Leveraging the benefits of a high-strength steel box frame, integrated gooseneck hitch mounts, and added load capacity thanks to Ford’s proprietary high-strength, military-grade, aluminum-alloy body, the 2018 F-450 4x2 tows even more with its lighter, more efficient driveline. The result is the most capable, robust and efficient Super Duty tow machine ever, delivering a best-in-class 34,000 pounds of gooseneck towing capacity.

The 2018 Super Duty F-450 4x2 dual-rear-wheel pickup will be available this winter in XL, XLT, Lariat and Platinum series offerings. Base MSRP is $52,830, which includes $1,295 destination and delivery charges. 

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Ford moving electric vehicle production to Mexico

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  December 6, 2017

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is moving planned production of an electric crossover with a 300-mile range to Mexico from Michigan to make way for additional investment on autonomous vehicles in its home state.

Ford still plans to begin to build the battery-electric crossover in summer 2020, but it will be assembled at its plant in Cuautitlan instead of Flat Rock, Mich., according to an internal memo obtained by Automotive News.

“This allows us to bring this exciting new vehicle to global customers in a more effective way to support our overreaching business goals,” Ford said in the memo.

The move comes as Ford and other automakers place increasingly large bets on electrification and self-driving technology. New CEO Jim Hackett is attempting to balance Ford’s competitiveness with other automakers and Silicon Valley tech companies while controlling costs and improving what he calls the company’s “fitness.”

Ford believes this move allows it to do both, by transforming Flat Rock into an “AV center of excellence” while moving an expected low-margin electric vehicle to a country with lower labor costs.

Ford originally said the battery electric crossover would be built in Flat Rock alongside an unnamed autonomous vehicle due out in 2021. The vehicles were announced earlier this year as part of a $700 million investment that would bring the plant 700 jobs.

'Bigger opportunity'

Ford now plans to devote more volume to its autonomous vehicle development. With the move, confirmed Wednesday by Ford, Ford said it will invest an additional $200 million and add another 150 jobs.

“We see a bigger opportunity now than we originally saw,” spokesman Alan Hall told Automotive News.

Ford also said Wednesday the autonomous vehicle will be a commercial-grade hybrid with an all-new nameplate.

It had previously been mum on details about the vehicle, only saying it would not be a Fusion sedan, which Ford has been testing the technology on.

Autonomous, at-scale

Ford believes it can launch its autonomous vehicle at-scale in 2021, Hall said. It plans to use the self-driving vehicle for commercial purposes like ride-hailing and package delivery, and is designing the vehicle for those specific purposes.

Hackett previously said the automaker would begin testing out the technology and business case in a yet-to-be-named city next year.

The automaker is battling the perception that it’s lagging behind crosstown rival General Motors, which recently announced plans to deploy autonomous vehicles in 2019, two years ahead of Ford.

Focusing on autonomous vehicles in Flat Rock also allows Ford to build its long-range electric crossover in a low-cost country.

Despite government mandates, the public has largely shunned EVs and automakers have yet to turn a profit building them.

Said Hall: "It’s a business decision that allows us to be more fit as a company."

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Ford Performance boss moves to new role at Ford

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  December 7, 2017

Dave Pericak, the head of Ford Performance who was instrumental in developing the GT supercar and Raptor performance pickup, has moved to a new role within Ford Motor Co. overseeing engineering of more mainstream products.

Pericak, 46, this month became engineering director of Ford's North American unibody applications, according to a Ford spokesman. His LinkedIn profile also says he'll work on Lincoln programs.

His previous role at Ford Performance will be split between two people. Mark Rushbrook will handle racing efforts while Hermann Salenbauch will lead production-vehicle development.

Pericak led Ford Performance from its creation as a stand-alone entity in 2014. Over the last three years, he helped launch the GT, F-150 Raptor, Mustang Shelby GT350, Focus RS, Focus ST and Fiesta ST. He also played a key role in Ford's motorsports efforts as the GT returned to racing and ultimately placed first in its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2016.

Before his role at Ford Performance, Pericak was the chief engineer of the 50th anniversary Mustang.

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Returning to Our Roots to Look Toward the Future

Ford Motor Company  /  December 15, 2017

As a revolutionary company whose start in Detroit lead to innovations in the industry, Ford plans to return to its roots in Corktown, a crossroads of connectivity in the Motor City. Talent and technology will intersect, and Ford will look toward the future in the pursuit of making it easier and cleaner to move in the cities of tomorrow.

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Ford's downshift defect recall could expand, NHTSA says

Jackie Charniga, Automotive News  /  January 2, 2018

Federal safety regulators are investigating whether to reopen and expand a previous Ford recall by more than a million vehicles for unexpected downshifting.

The initial 2016 recall affected more than 153,000 Ford F-150, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator and Ford Mustang vehicles from the 2011-12 model years. A second recall would increase that number to an estimated 1,375,577 vehicles affected, and expand into the 2013 model year.

Since the initial recall, NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigations received 123 complaints of select Ford vehicles with automatic transmission slipping unexpectedly into first gear, "causing the vehicle to slow down suddenly without warning," according to documents published Dec. 25.

The unexpected downshift can also lock up the rear tires, or cause them to skid. The defect investigations office said it has received reports of two crashes and no injuries.

Several complaints allege their vehicles were not included in the initial recall despite having the same defect. Other reports to the office say that attempts to fix the problem in recalled vehicles have been unsuccessful.

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FORD: A strong finish, thanks to trucks

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 3, 2018

Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 1.3 percent in December, driven by strong light-truck sales. But those gains couldn't overcome a rough year for car sales, as Ford's full-year volume fell 0.9 percent from 2016. Still, the Ford brand retained the title of best-selling U.S. brand for the eighth year in a row, and the F series was America's best-selling truck for the 41st straight year.

Brands: Ford rose 2.4% in December and declined 0.9% on the year; Lincoln declined 17% in December and 0.5% on the year

Notable nameplates: F series up 2.1% in December to finish the year at 896,764; Mustang up 9.2% in the first full month for the freshened 2018 model; Fusion down 8.8%; Explorer up 31%; Edge up 7.6%; Escape up 1.8%; Focus up 9.7%; Lincoln Continental down 34%; Lincoln Navigator up 30%.

Incentives: $4,662 per vehicle, up 9.9% from a year earlier, according to ALG.

Average transaction price: $37,958 per vehicle, up 4.6% from a year earlier, ALG said.

Fleet mix: 27.2%, 3.7 percentage points higher than a year ago. 29% year-to-date, down 0.1 percentage points.

Inventory: 630,435 vehicles, representing a 68-day supply. That's down from 659,977 vehicles, a 78-day supply, a month ago.

Quote: "We're really well positioned from an inventory standpoint heading into 2018,"said Mark LaNeve, Ford's head of U.S. marketing, sales and service.

Did you know? Ford's fleet sales to rental-car companies ended the year at 11.1 percent of total sales, in line with Ford guidance. Daily rental sales had been at 11 percent each of the past three years, Ford said.

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Ford to reveal 2018 Mustang Bullitt at Detroit auto show

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 10, 2018

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is planning a surprise reveal of a special edition, high-performance Mustang Bullitt GT at next week's Detroit auto show.

The Bullitt will be unveiled as a 2018 model, a source said, timed for the 50th anniversary of the eponymous Steve McQueen movie that made the car an icon among enthusiasts.

Ford spokesman Mike Levine on Wednesday said, "We don’t have any Mustang news to share today but we love the interest in America’s favorite muscle car."

A Mustang Bullitt was not among the vehicles that Ford previewed for media earlier this month.

The 1968 movie Bullitt features an iconic car chase starring McQueen's Highland Green Mustang GT 390 fastback.

The 2018 pony car likely will get similar dark green paint, as well as the five-spoke black wheels with a chrome lip that appeared in the movie, in addition to other unique cosmetic features. It's unclear what the car's performance numbers will be or how many Ford plans to produce in what is sure to be a limited production run.

Ford first sold a Mustang Bullitt in 2001. The car returned in 2008 and 2009.

Rumors of a 2018 Mustang Bullitt have been swirling for months.

Spy photographers caught what appeared to be a dark green 2018 Mustang filming a commercial in Chicago late last year. And earlier this week, a Mustang forum unearthed an auction-site listing for a "special new Ford Mustang" to be sold on Jan. 19. The listing says all proceeds will go to Boy's Republic, an all-boys school in California that boasts a notable alumnus: Steve McQueen.

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Ford to hatch most powerful street-legal Mustang under Shelby badge

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 15, 2018

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. next year will launch its most powerful street-legal Mustang ever: a 700+ hp Shelby GT500.

Joe Hinrichs, head of Ford's global operations, teased the high-performance pony car at the 2018 Detroit auto show on Monday.

Ford showed a short teaser video showing brief glimpses of a red Mustang accompanied by the Shelby's signature Cobra badging.

No other details were released.

The Shelby GT500 will mark one of 12 new performance vehicles that Ford has vowed to bring to market by the end of the decade.

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Hackett urging Ford to think, act in new ways

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  January 21, 2018

DETROIT — You'd be forgiven for having a tough time keeping up with some of Jim Hackett's musings.

Ford Motor Co.'s cerebral CEO says he likes to think in the abstract and often considers problems along three time dimensions simultaneously.

Hackett views issues in the "now," "near" and "far," likening the view to a bull's-eye with those words in concentric circles. His job, he says, is to manage Ford in each of those circles to ensure success.

That might explain why most of Hackett's public appearances since becoming CEO in May take the tone of a college-level philosophy or physics lecture. He invited a Harvard philosopher onstage this month at CES in Las Vegas to lead the audience through a thought exercise about data privacy, and delved into a discussion of deep learning last week during a fireside chat-style appearance at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

The 62-year-old Hackett, a newcomer to the auto industry after two decades running the office furniture maker Steelcase in western Michigan, often recorded Charlie Rose's self-titled TV show for its interviews with leading intellectuals and starts most mornings by scanning Science Daily's newsletter of top headlines. He lists former President Gerald Ford, former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler and former Steelcase Chairman Robert Pew as heroes for their integrity.

He drives a Mustang Shelby GT350, although he's the first to admit he's not a car guy. But Ford's board of directors, including Executive Chairman Bill Ford, think he's exactly the kind of leader the 115-year-old automaker needs as it charts a course for the future.

"There's great people with great minds that can't get people to follow them, and then there's people who have followership that don't know where they're going. I'm humbled by how difficult that is," Hackett told Automotive News Publisher Jason Stein during the World Congress appearance. "The clarity of what this future is, is undeniable to me. I'm humble about that, but I think I have a pretty good handle on what that is."

Unexpected job

Hackett wasn't so clear about his own future. He almost declined the Ford CEO role when the board decided to part ways with Mark Fields. The offer came three years after he retired from Steelcase, a role into which he poured his heart and soul.

He was so focused on the furniture business, he said, that he would read Architectural Digest in the bathtub.

Did he really want to devote himself to another company?

An 18-month stint as interim athletic director at Michigan, which he accepted out of a sense of duty to and love for his alma mater, cleansed his palate and reignited a desire to do something, he said. Then his friend Bill Ford persuaded him to become chairman of the automaker's new Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary.

But when he was offered the CEO job in May, he initially suggested someone else within the company would be a better fit. Then he asked for a weekend to think it over.

He turned to his family, which has long been his anchor. He rarely finishes a public speaking event without mentioning his wife and high-school sweetheart, Kathy, or his two beagles, Ozzy and Rudy.

Ultimately, Hackett's family persuaded him to say yes. Kathy said he'd regret saying no by the time he turned 75. His two sons each wrote him a letter: one about great leaders in history who made their mark after age 62, and the other about what the automotive industry could become.

"They both got me and Kathy pushed," he said. "I'm so happy about saying yes. Everything that was hesitant has gone. I'm so excited about what we can do in this business."

He said his moment of clarity about what Ford can do came in September when he joined his family in Los Angeles for his son's wedding.

"It hit me when I was out there because I was with family who hadn't seen me since I got the job," he said. "I said, 'I know what we need to do.' "

A few weeks later, on Oct. 3, he met with investors and laid out a sweeping plan to cut $14 billion in costs, shift $7 billion from cars to light trucks and speed product development and technology implementation. He summed up his vision for the company in six words: "smart vehicles for a smart world."

‘Aim ahead'

If Ford wants to compete — and win, Hackett says, it must improve its competitive "fitness" and think more like Apple and Tesla than General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

"I have to compete with Apple in a warehouse, and you can't tell me what they're working on," he said. "Not to dismiss GM or Daimler or any of those guys, because they're all really good, too. But they're not defining that fitness."

What Apple and others get right, Hackett said, is that they think about the future of transportation in new ways that legacy automakers haven't grasped.

"What if I said you have to travel the speed of light to be fast?" Hackett said. "Well, you can't. So how would you beat it? You need to aim ahead, where it's going to be."

As Ford faces challenges from Google, Apple and other nonauto companies, Hackett said he is preparing Ford so it doesn't get caught off guard.

"Apple is not going to bring the Apple car to the Detroit auto show," he said. "They're going to come at us in a way we didn't expect, and I think I know how they're going to do that, too."

Ford, he said, will aim ahead of where it has to be, betting on technology and propulsion systems that may make better business sense in the future than they do now. Consider that the "far" part of his bull's-eye.

"It has to be ahead," Hackett said, "in order for people to believe our strategy isn't about catching up to someone else's old view."

Hackett said he admires Tesla CEO Elon Musk for getting employees to think hundreds of years in the future and realize that many problems will be solved by time.

Speed is important to Hackett, partly because of the intense competition among Ford and its rivals, but also because of his age.

"I had 20 years to get Steelcase right," he said. "I don't have that time here."

Smart cities

What does Hackett see when he looks to the future? He gave some hints at CES.

It includes highly connected cities, in which cars talk with streetlights and phones talk with bikes, in which people and goods move freely, without congestion.

Hackett is adamant that vehicles will need to be integrated into cities in new ways.

"Everywhere in history, when transportation was invented, there was a delegation of the design between two forces," he said.

"A horse had a trail, a car had a road, an airplane had an air-traffic control system. Autonomous vehicles have to have something more than the road."

Hackett says vehicle propulsion systems will change too.

Applying his "aim ahead" strategy, he expects electric vehicle costs to drop and the public to see EVs' benefit.

"The cost of the battery is going to go through a step-function improvement," he said. "Moore's law [which generally holds that computers' processing power doubles every two years] is also going to make the cities smarter. Therefore, five to seven years from now we have to be careful about declaring that the population will only buy 5 percent electrification."

The automaker is so sure that it has vowed to invest $11 billion in electrification by 2022 so it can introduce 40 new vehicles, including 16 that are fully electric.

As Ford imagines the "city of tomorrow," it announced a partnership with Postmates to test the viability of moving goods autonomously. It also is experimenting with Domino's on driverless pizza delivery.

"The promise of it is so magical," Hackett said. "The Amazon problem of small businesses closing could be reversed. The logistics power in these instruments could change the scale advantage a small company needs to move goods."

His future

The most passionate member of the Jim Hackett fan club might be Bill Ford. And vice versa.

"He is a treasure of the highest order in this world," Hackett said of his boss.

He said the two talk at least 10 times a day, echoing a similar sentiment expressed by former CEO Alan Mulally, who said he and Bill Ford wore a path between their offices on the top floor of Ford's headquarters.

Hackett wouldn't say how much the two talk about succession planning but said he has "zero concerns about the executive bench."

There are three or four people who could be CEO today, he said, and five other behind-the-scenes candidates who are capable, too.

He doesn't know how long he'll last at Ford, but his acute awareness about time and speed apply to himself, too.

"Every month on the Ford job is a marble in a jar," he said. "Imagine there's 84 marbles in that jar. I've now taken nine out. The wisdom in that is how fast they go."

How many more will be taken out? Even he and Ford don't know.

"We just talk about a lot of marbles in the jar," Hackett said. "We haven't counted."

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How Ford plans to use its new digs in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood

Crain’s Detroit Business  /  January 21, 2018

DETROIT -- The business strategy of Ford Motor Co.'s big bet on a future of selling electric and autonomous vehicles will be devised inside a former hosiery factory in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood -- a move that was driven both by the automaker's ambitions to transform urban mobility and its employees' desire to work in an urban setting.

Inside the multi-section building at 1907 and 1927 Michigan Ave. called The Factory, Ford plans to embed its "Team Edison" group of employees who are charged with developing the business and strategy for rolling out 16 fully electric vehicles by 2022, said Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification for Ford.

"From a mindset standpoint, it was a really nice fit with how we're thinking … about the future of battery electrics and autonomy," Marakby said in an interview last week with Crain's Detroit Business at the Detroit auto show. Crain's is an affiliate of Automotive News.

Ford's purchase of The Factory building marks the biggest re-engagement with the city where Henry Ford invented the assembly line a century ago since the last Ford workers left the Renaissance Center nearly 20 years ago.

Marakby, who will be based at the new Corktown office, was a college trainee in the early 1990s when Ford still occupied office space in the RenCen -- now the headquarters of General Motors.

The 111-year-old Factory building, once the home to the Chicago Hosiery and Detroit-Alaska Knitting Mills factories, sits in the middle of a section of Michigan Avenue in Corktown that seems poised for more development spreading west from downtown and the redevelopment of the former Tiger Stadium site a block away.

"The reason I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw it is it really gives you that vibe of the heritage and the new coming together -- and it really brings it to life," Marakby said of the building along Michigan Avenue, where early 20th-century streetcar rail still peeks out from between cobblestone and asphalt.

Building Team Edison

In building Team Edison, which Marakby describes as "a tech company within the company," Ford executives wanted to be in a location where employees developing the business case for electric and autonomous vehicles could contemplate and experience the real-world application.

"We see being in Corktown as a big advantage," Marakby said. "And it has actually, in many ways, increased the interest in working on the team -- internally and externally."

Ford plans to start moving employees into the building in the second quarter.

In the Southeast Michigan-based auto industry's race with Silicon Valley to put autonomous vehicles on the road, workspaces matter, said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto, the Detroit Regional Chamber's automotive mobility accelerator programs.

"For Ford, Detroit and Michigan, it all boils down to culture and talent," Stevens said. "And that enables you to build the F-150s of the day today. And it enables you to have the vision of what the city of tomorrow will be with operating systems and data analytics and software systems and the connected car."

AV strategy

In addition to Team Edison, Ford also will have employees working on the business and strategy of autonomous vehicles based in Corktown, including software developers writing the programs that business clients will use to connect their applications to future autonomous vehicles, Marakby said.

"We're going to fill the building," he said. "It's going to be exciting."

The office in Corktown gives the EV and autonomous vehicle employees the ability to work in an urban setting, while not too far from home base, Marakby said.

The Factory, a 45,000-square-foot recently renovated space, is a 20-minute drive from Ford's headquarters, engineering labs and manufacturing facilities in Dearborn.

The building is about a mile from the central business district of Detroit -- and within walking distance of new housing that's being built or redeveloped in and around Corktown.

"Our young people love ... living and working in urban areas," said Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of the company and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford. "For me, it was a no-brainer. And also, it's still a pretty good deal to be in downtown Detroit."

Ford Land Development Co., the real estate arm of the automaker, purchased The Factory at Corktown building from former IndyCar driver Robbie Buhl and his brother, Tom, for an undisclosed price.

The company has secured parking for employees in a vacant lot across Michigan Avenue that will accommodate the 200-plus employees, Marakby said.

Staying close to home

Marakby said "a good portion" of the employees who will work in Corktown already live in the greater downtown area.

The owner of a wine bar next door to The Factory is hoping that's the case.

"My only hope is that they're not the type of people who get in their car and go right back home to the suburbs," said David Armin-Parcells, owner of MotorCity Wine, which has operated a wine bar and shop at 1949 Michigan Ave. since 2013.

The Buhl brothers' race team and motorsports marketing company, Buhl Sport Detroit, will remain headquartered in a smaller two-story annex building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard.

"Obviously, we're excited that Ford's coming back to Detroit and Corktown," Robbie Buhl said in an interview. "It just made more sense, with what their interest was, to sell them the building."

The Buhls, who bought the building in 2015 for $1.8 million through an entity called Riverfront Partnership I LLC, also will continue to share rented space with Brothers Tuning Detroit, which produces after-market gear shift knobs for the Ford Focus and Fiesta cars.

The Buhls rehabilitated the building over the past three years and were using the third floor for special events until Ford executives expressed interest in the building a few months ago.

"Everything just came together, and it happened very fast -- it happened in weeks," Marakby said.

Ford announced its acquisition in mid-December.

"Three years ago, would I ever have thought this was something that would have transpired?" Robbie Buhl said. "No way."

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For those waiting for a Diesel Ranger and the 2019 F-850, here is your answer. 

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New pickups leave Ford on aluminum island

Michael Martinez & Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  January 22, 2018

F-150 led the way, but no one followed

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.'s switch to an aluminum body on the 2015 F-150 was revolutionary. The change, although costly, helped the automaker boost its share of the hugely profitable segment, post record transaction prices and increase its margin as America's full-size pickup leader over Chevrolet and Ram.

Ford looked to be leading the way toward making aluminum the industry standard for automakers to shed weight and improve fuel economy to meet government targets.

But nobody followed.

When Chevrolet and Ram unveiled their next-generation pickups at the Detroit auto show, the mostly steel bodies and beds underscored the starkly different paths the Detroit 3 are taking for their most important vehicles.

"We don't believe in it. We fundamentally don't believe in it," Alan Batey, General Motors' North America president, told Automotive News about an all-aluminum pickup. He said the company analyzed the possibility of such a truck but decided against it.

"We look at everything," Batey said. "Did we ever seriously consider it? No."

The divergent strategies of the Detroit automakers, which account for 83 percent of U.S. light-duty pickup sales, go against the norm for the extremely competitive segment, in which big innovations by one company tend to quickly get adopted by the others.

"It's not just different strategies," said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit. "It's about strategies that play to your strengths."

Ford, she said, needed to put its largest vehicles on a strict diet, and aluminum was the right choice for its needs at that time, helping the F-150 drop about 700 pounds.

The different paths were made possible by breakthroughs in materials by organizations such as the Steel Market Development Institute, which has worked with automakers, including the Detroit 3, for decades. The steel industry fought back hard after Ford decided to use aluminum on the F-150 and other automakers began talking up other alternative materials, such as carbon fiber and magnesium.

"Their focus the last several years has been on lightweighting," said Jody Hall, vice president of the automotive market for the association of North American steel producers. "That's when we've seen the most innovation from the steel industry."

Hall argues that the most advanced steels for the auto industry are two to three times stronger than the highest-grade aluminum, which is why automakers continue to use steel for their pickup frames. In addition, lower gasoline prices have made fuel economy less of a concern for many pickup buyers than when Ford was working on the F-150's redesign.

Ford says it has no regrets about switching to aluminum. In 2017, the F series logged its 41st consecutive year as the nation's best-selling pickup. It outsold the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado by more than 300,000 vehicles, the largest gap ever between the two pickups, despite Chevrolet's attack ads that tried to portray aluminum as weak.

"It's been fantastic," Brian Bell, Ford's marketing manager for the F-150 and Ranger, said in an interview. "Everybody's got a different strategy. They all look at their own programs in different ways. We think what we did has been the perfect choice for us."

Sticking with steel

Chevrolet has aggressively criticized Ford's use of aluminum — particularly in the bed of the F series — for several years. It continued needling its rival when unveiling the 2019 Silverado, which is up to 450 pounds lighter than the current version.

"Work comes first for truck buyers, and the working end of every pickup is the bed," GM's product chief, Mark Reuss, said at the Silverado's Jan. 13 debut. "It's like the head of a good hammer. It's the end that does all the work and gets all of the abuse. I don't think you'd get much work done with an aluminum hammer."

The bed of the fourth-generation Silverado features a roll-formed, high-strength steel floor as part of the company's "mixed materials strategy," which included optimizing "every component for mass, durability, safety and function," Reuss said. It's an approach GM plans to apply across much of its lineup, not just on pickups.

Much of the weight savings came from the pickup's frame and body. All exterior swing panels (the doors, hood and tailgate) are made of aluminum, while fixed panels (the fenders, roof and bed) are steel.

The underlying safety cage uses seven grades of steel, each tailored for the specific application, while 80 percent of the frame is made of high-strength steel, 2 to 5 millimeters thick.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, meanwhile, used mainly steel, with a "selective" mix of aluminum and composites on the 2019 Ram 1500.

The company said it used aluminum "not just where possible but where practical." It also made greater use of composites, which helped shed hundreds of pounds compared with the current generation.

Ram, according to brand chief Mike Manley, used 54 percent high-strength steel in the cab and bed and 98 percent in the frame.

"That results in a Ram truck that is stronger than ever, yet still 255 pounds lighter," Manley said after revealing the pickup Monday, Jan. 15.

Chevrolet's public assault on Ford's use of aluminum started two years ago, with a marketing campaign that included commercials showing the F-150's bed being easily punctured by a metal toolbox and concrete blocks.

"We just don't believe an aluminum bed is the right way to achieve reliability and durability," Batey said last week. He added, when Ford announced the aluminum truck, "the bottom line is you didn't see the fuel economy benefits that a lot of people were speculating you would see."

GM expects its next-gen pickups, which go on sale this year, to be "more profitable" than the current generation, which the company said has contributed to an 80 percent increase in the profitability of the current truck platform since its 2013 introduction.

All in on aluminum

Ford has plenty of numbers to validate its path with aluminum.

Since 2014, the F series' share of the full-size pickup market has grown 1.3 percentage points to 37.8 percent. Its average transaction price has risen in each of the past four years, including a $3,200 jump in 2017 to a record $46,000.

And this month, Ford said the F-150 will be the first full-size pickup to crack the 30-mpg barrier with a diesel engine debuting this year.

"Whatever you see in the advertising, aluminum's working," CEO Jim Hackett said last week at the Automotive News World Congress. "People love driving this vehicle. They have no problem with the performance of the material."

Ford has been so happy with the choice that it expanded its use of aluminum to the Super Duty, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

But the strategy is limited to the automaker's largest vehicles. The midsize Ranger that debuted last week has a mostly steel body. Ford said the weight savings wouldn't have been enough on a vehicle that size to offset the costs.

Ford also didn't need the Ranger to be as powerful as the F-150 and wanted to keep the Ranger's price down and help create separation between the two nameplates. As part of the F-150's 2014 redesign, engineers used the 700-pound weight savings to beef up performance and capability.

"Aluminum for us was about more than weight," said Bell, the truck's marketing manager. "It handles better, brakes faster, hauls more, tows more. We were able to put that weight savings into more capability for the customer. We thought it was the perfect material for what customers do with their vehicles."

Pickup Market Share

Ford's share of the U.S. full-size pickup segment has grown for 2 straight years but hasn't returned to the level of 5 years ago.
  Ford GM FCA
2013 39.9% 34.8% 18.6%
2014 36.5% 35.9% 21.3%
2015 35.7% 37.7% 20.6%
2016 36.6% 35.5% 21.8%
2017 37.8% 33.9% 21.1%
Source: Automotive News Data Center

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What we're seeing here is mass insanity in the automaker's executive suites... While trucks are top sellers and electric cars struggle to get a 1% market share, these executives are betting everything on electrification. And self driving vehicles? They need a whole next generation of 5G infrastructure that's barely ventured out of the labs and connected everything that won't be everywhere for decades if ever.

Meanwhile, other automakers are concentrating on simply building better cars and trucks... They will survive and outlast Tesla, Ford, GM, and the rest of the purveyors of "bleeding edge" self driving electric disasters on wheels.

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2 hours ago, Maxidyne said:

What we're seeing here is mass insanity in the automaker's executive suites... While trucks are top sellers and electric cars struggle to get a 1% market share, these executives are betting everything on electrification. And self driving vehicles? They need a whole next generation of 5G infrastructure that's barely ventured out of the labs and connected everything that won't be everywhere for decades if ever.

Meanwhile, other automakers are concentrating on simply building better cars and trucks... They will survive and outlast Tesla, Ford, GM, and the rest of the purveyors of "bleeding edge" self driving electric disasters on wheels.

 Agree 100%.  While reading all that info on Hackett's views of the industry, I could not help but think of Jac Nasser.  He was visiting Boston and the Boston Globe interviewed him.  A more memorable quote from Jac.."I want to find out what the consumers's tastes are in his kitchen"..or words to that effect.  Then when he spent all kinds of money buying junkyards....."buy analyzing parts we find in these yards, we will be better able to improve our products"..again words to that effect.   guess he had no clue that looking at their warranty claims could do the same thing!

I think we have jumped from the fire to the you know what!

No doubt electrification will arrive.  But at a measured pace.  Hackett says they are going to come out with 40 electric vehicles in 4 years?   and he wants to cut engineering staff?  And cut component costs?   

Sounds to me like conflicting objectives.

Oh and he is looking to Apple and Tesla for forward thinking?  I suggest he look to Toyota, Honda and the Koreans for some better ideas.  They are the ones that are eating Ford's lunch

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