Friday, March 31, 2006

Will Charger replace Crown VIc as Police Cruiser of choice?

AutoBlog has a great piece on the pilot program where 15 Dodge Chargers will be tested by the New York Police Department, with a link to a Police forum, where they discuss the car and the likelyhood that they will ever see them. Of the 15 cars, 5 will have 5.7L Hemi 340 hp V8's and the remaining 10 will have the 3.5L V6 with 250 hp. One commentor on the linked forum points out that even the V6 Chargers have more power than the 4.6 L V8 Crown Vics, which have 239 hp. But all question the size of the rear seat. There were also comments about the fact that each of these cars costs more than a new NYPD recruit ( I think they mean the Hemi R/T models.)
So does the Crown Vic have to worry? Well not in New York really, the Charger shouldn't have much of an impact on the NYPD's fleet of Crown Vics. Why? You may ask is this?
Because Chevy beat Chrysler to the punch long ago with the new Impala. Now I don't live in New York City itself, but I did grow up there, and live in the suburbs. Most Police vehicles I see when I'm in the city are either the Chevy Impala or this....

The Ford Explorer with V6. These two are suplimented by Ford Econoline vans and Various Ford Super Duty trucks with utility bodies. The Charger may see some use in unmarked duty, but unless Chrysler bring the stretch version of the 300 over the Charger seems too expensive and no larger than the Impala. If Ford were really interested in tapping this market, the 500 would be the vehicle to do it. Just as I've said about Taxi fleets, the 500 would be the correct choice for Municipal Police Departments like New York, Boston, Washington DC and many others. The only Police forces that need the larger V8 sedans seem to be buying Crown Victorias still, but with lawsuits over gas tank fires, Ford needs a new Rear Wheel Drive sedan soon. A simple facelift won't do for the Crown Victoria, and the Charger would be more appropriate for these Highway Patrols.

All Wheel Crazy at Ford, article at AutoBlog

Remember in the 80's when the craze was the switch to Front Wheel Drive? Now Ford thinks the shift will be to All Wheel Drive. Well, this isn't really news, Ford had been planning an AWD version of the Fusion/Milan/MkZ (Zephyr) from the begining. But with sales of AWD versions of the 500/FreeStyles outpacing FWD versions, Ford now anticipates selling 500,000 AWD models in coming years. AWD isn't new to the market or Ford, there was the AWD Ford Tempo in the late 80's early 90's, and of course Subaru and Audi have been the pilars in the segment for decades. In recent years AWD has become a necesary option for near luxury offerings from Lexus and Infinity and even luxury makers like BMW and Mercedes. Chrysler has AWD versions of their 300/Magnum based on last generation Mercedes E Class mechanicals.

So it's no surprise that AWD would be in the product mix, it's very popular in the northern states. But the added price and complexity of AWD is just something that doesn't appeal to me. Will we see an AWD Focus?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What I want from Ford

What do I want from Ford? I think I want what most people want, quality vehicles that give me decent performance while still achieving reasonalbe fuel economy. I'd also like a little style and practical packaging. I look at Ford products today and there's not a lot of excitment. I see models that are becoming old and dated, and new models that are just limp. With the exception of the Mustang and trucks, Ford's line up is just boring. The Focus is a capable car with decent performance and economy, that can be had for a fair price, it just seems dated and unexciting. Now my opinion of the Focus is no doubt influenced by the fact I know Ford has a newer Focus and Focus based models in Europe and around the world. The Fusion is nice, a great value with good performance and economy with either the I-4 or V-6 engines. Styling on the front and sides is distinctive, clean and crips, but not exciting and the rear end is bland. It's an important car for Ford, but just needs a little something. It woudln't hurt to have a new rear end, something that's not quite like a 94 Honda. The 500/Freestyle are great vehicles, but dull as white toast and tea. The overall design of the 500 seems like an Audi on steroids, or VW Passat, just a bubble. The FreeStyle fairs marginally better, but I guess for their segment that's fine. The Crown Victoria? Oh come on, it's a dinosaur, it has no soul, no character and a chassis that's 27 years old. The Crown Vic has only 239 hp, 50-100 less than major V8 competitors and bested by some V6 models. So what do I want from Ford?
I want a little excitement. Some nice body lines, and a nice capable chassis. What about a Reflex? This looks quick sitting still. It has some life to it.
With many competitors coming to market with small SUVs and Crossovers, what about the Faction? I've mentioned recently that I'm seriously considering buying a Dodge Caliber. Why would a true blue Ford fan not bye a new Ford? Because there's nothing that really excites me. Now if a Focus or Fiesta based Crossover like this were on the market and I could get it with the same equipment and for the same price as the Caliber, I'd jump all over it. Especially if it was a 3 door like this, or even only half door in the rear. This is a muscular looking little vehicle. It doesn't need to have huge power to be hit.
How about the Iosis concept, that is the face of future European Fords? It's Kinetic design is sleek and sexy, not like "Dave" the bland guy next door look that Ford has in mind for the US. If Ford is looking for a brand identity, this should be it. If Ford sold this Iosis based on the Fusion or 500 chassi, they would be selling like hot cakes.
And some niche models are good, like this Bronco concept. Ford needs to take some chances like Chrysler has over the last few years. Build a new production facility with flexible platform capability. Take the European Ford Fiesta platform, build the mass market 3 and 5 door models, but also build the Reflex, Bronco and Fraction all in the same plant.

Can Ford afford to loose long term customers like myself? They have the concepts and overseas models to draw from. It's about time for a bit of a revival at Ford. It can't all be about full size trucks and SUVs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ford needs a Caliber fighter

I've been looking at my options for a new car, and right now, I'm thinking of a Dodge Caliber. The first time I would have purchased a Chrysler product in 16 years, and that was a used Police car I bought for shits and giggles. And as much as I love Ford, there is no head to head competitor for the new Caliber. Prices start at $13,500 and raise into the mid $20k range. But for just over $19,000 I can get every option that I consider essential and some unique features I wouldn't have looked for. So what could Ford do to steal thunder from Chrysler's Dodge Caliber?
The Faction, the 2003 concept shown here. Smaller than an Escape or Edge, based on Fiesta chassis, could be available with front or all wheel drive, with either a 1.4 or 1.6 petrol or Diesel engines. Ford desperately needs something in the lower end of the range besides the Focus. The current Focus, which I won't buy for several reasons ( it's boring and I know there's a better Focus Ford is keeping from me) is just barely price competative and not as usefull.

Ford needs to have some new more interesting models. The "Way Forward" should not kill innovative thinking.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Reuters UK says Ford has Fiesta based SUV coming for Europe

Reuters seems a little late on this one if I read it right. The EcoSport should be the Fiesta based SUV they're speaking of. And it's one of two possible mini SUVs that may be hitting US shores.

The Bronco being the second. Both built on Fiesta mechanicals and not likely to steal Land Rover Freelander sales at all. Many purists in the US hope the Bronco will be a real trail machine, but I just hope it sells. Ford needs a couple of hits to make up for the boring US lineup it has now.

James Treece of Automotive News thinks Mark Fields needs to Forzda FoMoCo

James Treece of Automotive News, thinks Mark Fields needs his advice. So he's suggesting that Fields use the same strategies to cure Ford North America as he did Mazda. I'm not sure I agree. Read the article linked above and let me know what you think. Below are some excerpts;

At Mazda, Fields began an employee-education course. It started with the white-collar crowd but eventually involved everyone. They learned about the impact of exchange rates, capacity utilization and so on. It was Business 101.

The author states that at Mazda, the employees weren't aware of how bad the situation was. I tend not to believe that in this case. What with all the press hounding FoMoCo and Employee forums and other internet chatter, I think only employees that have been living in a box could be oblivious to the situation. The author also says that employees once appraised of the situaion, accepted the realities and did not squalk when plant closings were necessary. Now I think it's the reporter that's living in a box, if he thinks the UAW and employees will give silent ascent and take one for the team.

Define the brandFields insisted that Mazda's product planners and the whole company know what the Mazda brand stood for.

Easier said than done, especially if you compare Ford to Mazda. Mazda is a smaller company, with fewere expectations from the market. Ford is expected as the "#2" domestic automaker to have a broader market presence, especially when you consider multiple brands such as Mercury and Lincoln. But the point is somewhat valid, in that Ford needs to have a clearer identity for each of it's brands.

Ford needs the same treatment. What does Ford stand for? Lincoln? Mercury?

Ford stands for value and performance, Lincoln for luxury and Mercury for... Well hell Mercury stands for Ford but a little pimped out.

Here's an idea. Cull the work force for the most skilled workers, set them up in a low-investment factory and have them hand-build or customize limited-edition cars. Replace them on the line with folks who have been playing cards at the Jobs Bank.

Nice idea, but what vehicles is the reporter talking about? The GT is dead, and Ford doesn't stand for "Hand Built." This doesn't seem like an answer for Ford, it sounds more like Jaguar.

Mark Fields better be one hell of a "Wonder Boy" if he's going to do all of this in a few short years.

A real threat to Lincoln Town Car

Chrysler's 300 has been a hit from day one, and with it's lower price and horsepower advantage it's no surprise that it's more popular that competing Cadilac and Lincoln models. And now there's word that Chrysler will debut a long wheelbase version at the upcoming New York Auto Show. This is going to cut the legs out from under Lincoln's Town Car. With the longer wheelbase and 6 inches of longer interior space, the 300 will now be better suited for livery service.

The Lincoln's only powertrain choice is the 4.6 V8 and it's power falls between the 2 Chrysler powerplants. The Lincoln is on a chassis that dates back to 1979, and is less sophisticated than the 300's fully independant suspension.

Ford has let the Panther platform slowly age and become nearly obsolete. Even with a very nice ride, the Lincoln fails to compete with optional powertrains and more modern chassis. How long until the Dodge Charger gets a stretch like this for Taxi and Police service? And even if it's just the 300, the price of the 300 and it's base V6 could make it feasable for Police and Taxi service. I had already seen Chrysler 300 taxis in Las Vegas, Ford needs to update the Panther siblings with a modern rear wheel drive chassis. I've said it before, why can't the Australian designed Falcon chassis be made in the US?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good luck with the new Ranger Phil !

Phil a reader from Europe, sent me photos of his new Ford Ranger. He hasn't actually taken delivery yet, but will in April. Good luck with it Phil, it looks sharp. I wish I could buy this same Ranger in the US. It's a crew cab or double cab, with the 2.5 Diesel.
Now phil has the bed bar and is getting a soft bed cover fitted like the one pictured. I prefer an open bed, having tried both tonneau covers and fiberglass shells in the past. I would add a flip down bed extender cage also if I were Phil. I have one and it's great for hauling long loads like couches or lumber.

Good luck with the new Truck, and if there are any other readers who want me to post pics of their Ford or partner vehicle, send then to

Fiesta 30th ? Ford marks milestone with charity drive in UK

Wow, I feel old today. Has it really been 30 years that the Fiesta has been around? Yeah it has, and I remember the first time I saw one here in the US in 1977 at the New York Auto Show. It was such an alien thing for me to see wearing the Ford name, small front wheel drive and square. But even then it had an appeal for me. Not the appeal of a Mustang or Thunderbird, but I thought it was a neat little car. They sold them here in the US for 3 model years and not with much success. But around the world the Fiesta was a big hit. And why not, it was is a decent car at a reasonable price.
And it's grown up well, this is the latest version the 2006 Fiesta. The basic formula is even more relevant today than it was 30 years ago. And the car has spawned a family of cars and mini utes/trucks. Happy Birthday Fiesta.

Ford marked the milestone by participating in a Charity drive around the coast of Britain. Click the link above.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

New "Hurricane" V8 for Ford trucks?

The Detroit News has an article on a new "Hurricane" V8 from Ford, for the full size truck line. And they wonder if Ford will revert to overhead valves and abandon the overhead cams. GM and Chrysler V8s make more power than the 4.6 and 5.4 Fords and they are overhead valve pushrod motors. I'm curious, can't Ford get more power from the Modular motors? Isn't a return to pushrods a step back?

I'm betting that Jeff Fisher will have more detailed information and a better handle on the situation eventually. I'll have to check his page (link on sidebar) to see what he has.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Panoz, Ford powered sports cars, for Kevin

Now with a name like Panoz Esperante, you may think this is some European Exotic, but it's an American specialty product. And it's Ford powered! It's expensive, ranging from $100-140k depending on version and options, but it's an impressive machine.
But it's not just a prety face, they compete in various forms of racing and use that experience to further develop the road car. Sort of like Carol Shelby did in the 60's
And the heart of the beast is a SVT Mustang Cobra 32v 4.6L V8 in either 320 hp normally aspirated or 420 hp supercharged versions.
And the racing development leads to a very capable chassis for the road going version, as it should.
Last weekend, we went to dinner with a friend and certifiable car nut, who to my surprise hadn't known much about this Ford powered exotic sports car. And of course I was proud to inform him that it's got that Mustang V8, just like so many past exotics.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New GT350H ??

Now I've seen this one on several websites, but Edmunds Inside Line claims the exclusive, and I'll give the hat top to AutoBlog, because that's where I saw it first. It looks like Ford is going to introduce a 2006 Mustang GT350H at the New York Auto Show in April. I'm planning on going, so I'll try and get a decent digital photo. The original GT350H was a specially prepared Shelby GT350 Mustang in special black and gold livery sold to Hertz and rented through a special program. So in this year the 40th aniversary of that special model it sort of makes sense to pay tribute.

Now I had mentioned a while back that this 06 Pony Package V6 Mustang bears a striking resemblance to the 66 GT350H. It's got the stripes and that retro styling, including the fog lights on the grill bar. Now the new GT350H won't have the GT500's supercharged 450 hp engine, but will instead be a slightly modified Mustang GT with an extra 20 hp. Still a fitting tribute. Edmunds says there will be 200 available for rental at select Hertz outlets.

May have to move MyFordDreams over

I'm having major problems posting to my original blog, so I may have to start over. The archives and pages seem intact, but posting new material is very problematic