Thursday, April 27, 2006
I would suggest that you click the links on the sidebar, especially CarsCarsCars! ViewThroughTheWindshield and don't forget TapScottBehindTheWheel. Jalopnik and AutoBlog get you the news, but these guys are fun too. And tomorrow is Friday, so don't forget to check out the Carnival of Cars.
One quick interesting site I found at AutoBlog;
I found this interesting article at WhatCar, a UK web site, about the CX-7 and the differences for the UK/European market. While initially it will have the same detuned MazdaSpeed 2.3 L Direct Injection Turbo 4, although probably making slightly more power than the US version's 244 hp, in 2008 it's expected to be joined by a Turbo Diesel. Another interesting point was that while in the US there will only be a 6 speed automatic transmission, for Europe there will also be a 6 speed manual. But they won't get the front wheel drive option, all UK/European CX-7s will come standard with the all wheel drive. With a target price around 25k pounds, it's expected to come with most options standard.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
It looks like I'm getting the closest thing possible in my price range.
And since I'm almost a Mazda owner, I figured I'd check out the Mazda 3 forums. Igor a frequent commentor here, has mentioned them in his comments. I linked in the title if you want to see for yourself.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
It's a fresh design, that hilights new technologies, and you hope new ways of thinking from Ford. A small coupe with seating for 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children with a Diesel/Electric drive system that could achieve 65 mpg, there's a lot I like about the Reflex. There are some things that I could do without also. But what stuck me hardest was the styling, like a scaled down GR-1, it's sleak and muscular. I was less than 6 feet from it as it rotated on the stand in the Javitz center, and couldn't find a line I didn't like. Of course I'd loose the "butterfly" doors, but I'm old fashioned.
The Reflex could be a real neat little car, but when you read print and online articles about it, there are some goofy ideas. For instance, I've read several times, that the Reflex was designed with small urban families in mind. What horse shit, excuse my language. But what family is going to buy this, only to grow out of it quickly? No, this isn't for families, this is for single people or couple without children. I wouldn't even put my dog in the back. Small families will get more out of the Mazda5 or a Focus. But now I'd love the Reflex. And I could see some college age person or recent grad liking the small coupe. It's a hatchback, so there would be enough utility for a couple of suitcases or such, but not enough for diaper bag and baby buggy.
And as for the interior on the conept, leave out the recycled Nike materials and "Slimline Suspended-Mesh Front Seats" they're not going to cut it. Real people have to sit in the car, and they need to have seats that will be comfortable and safe for a 4 hour drive. And solar panels in the roof? I'm not sure, maybe for the tree huggers, but I want a sunroof that opens, so I'd pass.
I see this as a practical sport coupe, doesn't matter to me if it's front or rear wheel drive, it's not a race car. But as I've said before, if it's built on the upcoming B-Segment platform, with it's front wheel drive and sub 2 liter 4 cylinder engine, that would make it more likely to be built. Like the Ford Puma from Europe, it could be built off the Fiesta platform, have 150 hp and still get nearly 40 mpg. Hell with a Diesel or the concepts Hybrid drive it could be sporty, quick and economical. And it's one of the few cars that I wouldn't hate in Silver. And anyone who knows me knows I hate silver and white cars.
So if I keep writing about the Reflex, do you think it could create enough buzz for FoMoCo to build it? I hope so.
Candice's recent e-mail got me thinking about Ford's performance on a global scale;
While all the news about Ford has been how poorly they're doing in US market, it's also true that around the world Ford is doing very well. In fact, it's Ford's sales around the world that keep them afloat. While market share shrinks in the US, it's growing in places like China, Russia and India, and stable or increasing marginally in places like Europe, Africa, Latin American and Asia. And why is that? Well it's simple, Ford has been in many of these markets for decades, and produces cars that are flexible and competative. Take the Fiesta pictured above, it's available in most of the markets Ford does business in.
And Ford doesn't shy away from Niche vehicles either, take the Ka, a sub-sub-compact, based on Fiesta mechanicals that's poplular in Europe and available in other markets like Latin America (including Mexico.)
The Ford Focus is a "World Car", the staple of Ford's business world wide. Despite the US version, the Euro version is actually the Focus for the majority of the globe, available anywhere Ford does business (except North America) in 3/5 door hatchback, 4 door sedan and station wagon models, with several gasoline and diesel power plants. There are even Flex Fuel and Hydrogen Fuel Cell test fleets. Besides the F-Series truck, this would be the next most recognizable vehicle from Ford on the world market.
But it's not just small cars that Ford does well, in Europe they have several MPVs, what we call Min Vans. From the Focus based C-Max, to the S-Max and Galaxy, Ford has MPVs that are stylish, practical and bottom line sell well. One big part of Ford's sucess in world markets is the common platforms and powertrains used to share the costs of production.
The Ford Mondeo is better known around the world, than the Taurus ever would be. The mid-size sedan and wagon see duty from Europe and Asia to Latin America and Africa. Ford tried to bring this to the US as the Contour, but it's size was too small to compete well, and Ford didn't manage the model well here.
Some markets closer to the US model, like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa get special models available nowhere else. The Falcon range includes sedans, wagons, utes and crossovers. And they're compitent powerful vehicles with an apeal that would make them good sellers in the US.
But the real point of mentioning the Aussie Fords, is to illustrate that Ford can and will adapt to each market, with vehicles tailored to them.
And the F-Series isn't the only winner on a global scale for Ford. The Ranger/Courier is among the worlds most popular compact trucks. And for good reason, with the available petrol V6 and Diesel I4, now joined by a new Diesel V6, they have the power and economy the world needs. While Ford has let the Ranger grow stale here in the US, they know better than to neglect it on the world scene.
That's why this new Ranger concept was shown in Thailand instead of New York or Detroit. Ford knows how important it will be for them in world markets, emerging or established. Too bad they don't recognize how viable this could be for the US. Especially with gas over $3 a gallon, it would be great to see the new Ranger here.
Overall Ford knows what it takes to compete on a global scale and responds quickly to changes and trends in these markets. They design vehicles and plarforms that are adaptive and competative. It seems that Ford gets the idea globally, but in the US the message gets lost in translation. Or maybe it's consumers, I'm not sure who to blame now.
Monday, April 24, 2006
The first adjustment to my goal was the switch from the GT to the Pony Mustang with V6 power, making about 210 hp, only 15 ponies less than my previous 5.0 Mustang. And the V6 Pony Mustang would have plenty of power, evident by the test drive I took last year. But there were other issues that popped up. For instance, the price of gas topped $3 last fall after Hurricane Katrina. And upon further research, it became obvious that a Mustang would not be the best choice for my intended uses. I had decided that if I get a new car, it's got to be practicle to take on vacations, so fuel economy would be a major factor. Not that the V6 Mustang is a gas guzzler, but it doesn't fair much better than my Ranger's 17/24 rating, nor for that matter much better than the GT Mustang. And a couple of minor issues were the possible availability of a manual transmission, and the absolute lack of a moonroof. It seemed counter productive to me to buy a Mustang that couldn't be equipped the way I wanted, and that would become a liability in daily life.
So how did I end up with a psuedo station wagon? Ok, not a station wagon, a 5 door hatch. Well, let's see, it could be the practicality of that 5 door configuration, but it's more likely the 26 city 32 highway fuel economy rating, and it doesn't hurt that I can get every option I want. Leather Interior, Moonroof and 6 disc CD stereo system. Add to that 4 wheel disc brakes, and 17" wheels all for less than the Mustang, and then it's clear. So a Mazda3 may not be my dream car, but it will satisfy my needs and offer a measure of driving enjoyment.
And some may call me a traitor for not buying a vehicle with a Blue Oval badge, but in reality it's Ford that failed me. And I can sleep at night with no guilt because at least Mazda is a partner company, that Ford owns a controlling interest in. Besides if Ford had brought the C1 Euro Focus to the US, they would have had the sale. I in the end can compromise my principals in order to get the best value and comfort in a vehicle, and pocket the difference in fuel/insurance/purchase costs.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
my group and I are doing a project on Ford and emerging markets. Since you are an avid Ford fan, we thought to seek your expert opinion. My group and I decided to do Brazil and leverage Ford's tetra-fuel's technology, what do you think? What do you think Ford should be doing to enhance its competitiveness overseas? Your opinion is greatly appreciated.
So I sent a rambling e-mail to Candice, trying to give her some input and my opinion. Then as I rambled on incoherently, I realized most of my thoughts on the issue are available in my blog already. Not that I'm not willing to give further input, but this gave me an opportunity to collect relevant posts and put links here for Candice's easier access.
So, into the archives I went.
I've tried to link to relevant posts from the last 12 months here, in order to organize what little input I may have;
South American Enthusiast site
And now that I've linked to all of these articles, I realize that I'm nuts. Who the heck would want my opinion on Ford? But since they were nice enough to ask, here goes a short summary;
Candice, Ford was one of the first and most sucessful companies to produce a "World Car" and I'm not talking about the Escort or Fiesta, I'm talking about the Model T. What we call emerging markets today, were markets for Ford years ago. And while the history of Ford in some of these markets has been a little rocky, with being forced out of China by the communist, having the plants nationalized by the Soviets and Nazis, there has also been governmental interference in places like Brazil and Argentina. Some of the books I've mentioned since Christmas are great sources for information. Also Ford's work with Alternative Energy, especially Renewable Bio Fuels such as Ethanol go back to the earliest days of FoMoCo. Henry Ford was no genius, but he was a forward thinking man, and saw the possible use of Ethanol and Soy based Plastics to replace petrolium products.
Now I've linked above to articles discussing Brazil, Argentina, Alternative Energy Technologies from Ford and some history of the company and man.
Ford's positioned very well in overseas markets on every continent, in my humble opinion, it's only the North American continent where they need to redouble their efforts.
But I will say again, I'm just a guy, what do I know?
Friday, April 21, 2006
I'm among a small percentage of the population that likes station wagons, having fond memories of family vacations and realizing their inherent usefullness. But station wagons have fallen out of fashion, replaced by first mini-vans, then SUVs and now crossover wagons. Wagons had almost disappeared from the market. But they're there if you look beyond the camo.
Take the Freestyle Crossover, it's nothing more than a Ford 500 station wagon. I've said it before they should have played up that fact by naming it the 500 Country Squire or Ranch Wagon. The Freestyle name was too close to the Freestar name, and that vehicles poor reputation infected the initial rollout in my opinion. But Baby Boomers have some hang up with Station Wagon, some repressed memories of being beaten with one hand while Dad drove with the other. To some, the wood paneling seemed less macho I think. Ok, so don't put wood paneling on the Country Squire, or make it optional. But back to my point.
Among the few Wagons still on the market under that label, is the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon. It's handsome styling and good utility and performance are quite the package. And the "Sport" label saves it from being an imasculating "station" wagon.
And since the Milan, like it's Fusion and MKz siblings are Mazda6 based, it shouldn't be technically too difficult to produce a Milan Colony Park or Villager. But if it's the image that you don't like, make it more like a Euro wagon. All of the German manufacturers make wagons and sell them here. Drive to your local country club and you'll see that in that market wagons never really left.
Market it more like Audi's A6 Avant. The Milan's styling lends itself to this treatment more than the Colony Park anyway. And by using the Milan, Mercury could have a unique vehicle that it doesn't share with Ford or Lincoln. And since no Mercury version of the Edge/MKx has been anounced it may be a differntiation for Mercury's image.
I really think that people need to get over the station wagon phobia. Myself, I fear mini vans, packs of soccer moms in mini vans talking on cell phones while yelling at the kids and drinking Evian at 50 mph past a school zone. Nothing scary about a little wood paneling.
I'm going surprise myself and say that I don't hate this look. I do like the new headlights, and the grille is similar to the new Explorer. The new "Dave" loook is fine for trucks, SUVs and Crossovers, but I'm waiting to see how it translates beyong the Fusion to the car range.
It looks like the Escape is going a litte upmarket so that it doesn't so closely compete with the Edge. I'd be interested to see how the Mariner looks. Its not secret that I'm not a big fan of the Mercury grille treatment. Although the Mariner and Milan are not too offensive.
Click the link, and expand your knowledge base, I've found several interesting blogs by checking Mark's roundup. It's not all about the big blogs either, many of the more interesting blogs are smaller one person sites.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I'd much rather be buying this Focus. I prefer 3 doors over 5 and it's built on the same platform as the Mazda3. Ford sells this worldwide, except in the US and Canada. It's even sold in China and Russia. I won't buy the current generation US Focus on principal, because I know there's a better Focus out there, just beyond my reach. And as for the rest of Ford's US lineup, well there's not much to get excited about. Well, yes there is the Mustang and the Fusion is a fine car. But what about this segment? What about small cars? Ford has shown so many promissing concepts and offers some really class leading compact and sub-compact vehicle around the world. But in the US, almost 50% of their business, and the source of most of their profit is large trucks and SUVs.
And I can't wait for Ford to get off the dime and start building great little cars, like I know they can. If the Reflex was on the market today, or even coming soon, I'd buy one. Of course I don't want the butterfly doors or solar panels in the roof, but I love the styling.
And while the rest of the industry is gearing up for little CUVs and mini utes, Ford teases us with concepts, but where are they? This Bronco could be built on the Fiesta underpinnings and with it's retro looks and the right packaging, would be a real boost to Ford sales.
We see Chrysler taking chances with the Caliber/Compass/Patriot, and a crop of little CUVs and wagons coming from everywhere around the globe, how about the Faction? What about using the new CX7 platform to bulid this?
I've seen a lot of promissing concepts and technologies mentioned at Ford, but right now the product on dealer's floors isn't doing it for me. I don't care that I could get a Focus for thousands less, because it's like leftovers compared to fine cuisine.
So, I'm very close to actually buying a new car, and while it doesn't wear a Blue Oval, it's at least in the Ford family of cars. As you know if you read on a regular basis, I had been lured by the Dodge Caliber, but after a test drive I was not impressed. Now on same day, I test drove a Mazda3 that many people had suggested to me, and I know is built on the C1 platform shared with the Euro Focus. And as expected the test drive left a very good impression on me. But the Mazda3 is just a little more expensive than the Dodge. And of course I'm cheap, but I want all the options I've mentioned before.
Well, I had almost forgotten about my Ford X-Plan enrollment, that was sponsored by a reader who works in Dearborn. A very kind reader who has been reading my page since almost day one, and offered me this great opportunity. And of course Ford owns a controlling interest in Mazda, so it can be translated easilly into an S-Plan pin.
I've contacted the salesman, informed him of the S-Plan situation and am waiting for him to get back to me. They don't have the exact car I want, but I was able to locate it in an area dealership and forward that information as well. I've never been very loyal to any salesperson or dealership over the years, but this salesman has put in the effort so I'll see if we can do this.
The picture above is like the car I'm interested in a Mazda3 s Grand Touring in Black Mica. I have a back up dealer closer to my house, in case this dealer isn't interested, but my brother has confidence in them, seeing that he's bought multiple cars from them, including his recent purchase of the MazdaSpeed6.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
And to help pay for this, I'm working a ton of overtime. I'll be working 12 hour days for a while.
And my older brother is getting married, so there will be a lot going on in my life.
And if we can make the time, we're going to try and get away for a weekend.
So be patient, I'm just one guy obsessed with fixing Ford and having a life at the same time. The stairs to my office will be done Thursday and hopefully completed by Monday. I'll post when and where I can.
And of course there will be Hybrid versions of the Fusion/Milan coming, maybe not soon enough. But when I read today's New York Daily News story about a gas station in Brooklyn charging $4.50 for a gallon of Premim, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. And while Hybrids are a stop gap, this nation needs to embrace the world veiw of smaller more economical vehicles.
Small does not need to be dull, as this European Ford Fiesta ST proves. It's sporty and quick and gets great gas milage. But what's amazing is that the base Fiesta Petrol gets 40 mpg and a DuraTorq Diesel equipped Fiesta can get closer to 60 mpg.
And small doesn't mean just city cars, Ford has this B-segment mini SUV, the EcoSport just waiting in the wings. Tough enough for South American roads, or the lack of them, it should be tough enough to handle the boroughs of NYC and the hills and valleys of Los Angeles county.
And there's more, several interesting concepts are designed around the Fiesta/EcoSport platform, including this rugged re-invention of the Bronco.
How about this nearly forgotten Ford Faction concept? It's perfect for fighting Scion and Honda in the Urban hipster/youth market.
And of course for the ultimate in economy, there's the Reflex concept and it's Diesel/Electric Hybrid that will get 65mpg and is so cool, it looks fast standing still.
Now I know that this one station charging $4.50 per gallon is not typical, but gas prices have topped $3 again, and it's only April, with fears about Iran, and Hugo Chavez down in Venezuela promissing to turn Latin America against the United States, you can bet that $4 will spread across the land, and sales of large trucks and SUVs will dry up.
I'm not blaming Ford, in fact I'm pointing out that Ford has the assets to meet customer needs in this possibly changing market.
I've asked this question before, but comments from "ThatDudeMike" have me asking again. What about Station Wagons? And more specifically, why can't Ford make a Mercury Milan wagon based on the Mazda6 Sport Wagon? Mercury isn't getting a version of the Edge/MKx/CX9 crossover, and really has no new or interesting models except the Milan. The Mazda6 wagon could be translated in Milan sheetmetal and give Mercury a unique model. And with the upcoming all wheel drive option and stronger 3.5L DOHC V6 may Mercury could have a distinct opportunity. Even though CUVs make sense for a lot of people, wagons still have a place in the market, and besides the Focus wagon, Ford doesn't offer one.
What do you think? It seems like an easy job and you can't injure Mercury's reputation. At this point any buzz on Mercury would be good. But if it's done right, it could be a great chance for Mercury dealers to increase traffic and hopefully sales.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
And I thought I had been lured by the Siren's song of the Dodge Caliber SXT. On paper it seems to be quite a car, roomy and versatile, with good economy and muscular looks. But it only took one test drive to just suck the wind out of it's sails. I had an opportunity, thanks to my brother the Mazda guy, to visit a dealership that sells both Mazda and Dodge. That way I could test drive both the Caliber and the Mazda3 back to back and compare them side by side litterally.
And even if I was willing to overlook the cheaper interior materials on the Caliber, which I was, what killed it was the drive. The Caliber was an SXT with the 2.0l I4 and a CVT auto trans. Power was close on both cars 158 hp for Caliber and 160 hp for Mazda. Now I had never driven a car with a CVT trans, so I was expecting it to be very near a conventional automatic transmission. Boy was I wrong. Pulling into traffic on the 2 lane road was fine, but getting onto the parkway was a real education. As I accelerated on the ramp, I was assaulted with a buzzy engine and a total lack of power. I mean we did get to 50 mph, but the revs never dropped below 4 grand and the lack of shift feel had me nervous. Once up to speed with traffic the engine stayed up at 4 grand and stabbing the go pedal didn't seem to make much of a difference. Now I had intended to buy a manual transmission model anyway, but after driving the Mazda3, even that couldn't sway me. Besides after talking to several local dealers, I don't believe it will be possible to test drive a manual trans Caliber for some time.
Now the Mazda3 was a real breath of fresh air. The 160 hp 2.3 I4 and 4 spd Auto trans worked in unison to bring me up to highway speeds with confidence and obviously power to spare. The car pulled with a good amount of low end grunt and I don't think the tach went over 3500 rpm. The engine hummed up to speed without the raspy clatter of the Dodge. And the slush box shifted firmly and without and hesitation. As for utility, the 3 can handle it, the rear leg room is similar to the slightly larger Caliber and the slightly smaller hatch is not really a penalty, because with the rear seats folded, they are very close. Add to that the higher quality materials everywhere in the Mazda and it's a clear decision. Well, as fickle as I am, nothing is clear, but the Mazda3 just feels better anyway you compare. It's about $1500 more than the Caliber when equiped similarilly, with Leather, Moonroof and 6 disc stereo, but the value is there because of the quality.
Now if Ford would bring the C1 Focus here, I wouldn't have had to look at either of these.