Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Even the faithful aren't impressed, Ford allows Focus enthusiasts access........

So Ford let a group of Focus enthusiasts from Focaljet.com and Focus Fanatics tour the plant and drive the upcoming 2008 Focus. Not a bad idea, let guys who already love your brand and the model have a peak and get feedback right? But what's the quote I read in the article (linked in title) oh yeah it was "not bad." Wow praise for the faithful! Some of the comments were predicatable like why no SVT version and why kill the hatchback. As one of the young enthusiasts put it "hatchbacks are the minivan" of their generation. Sure they tried to distract the group with the new whiz bang Sync system, but they just weren't buying it. Sure they like the car, it's nice, but it's not exactly what they or I wanted is it. One comment that confused me was "Ford needs to have an SVT and 2.3-liter engine in its plans right now," then I remembered that the 2.3 was only offered in the 4 door ST model recently.

I'm sure the new Focus is a fine car, but really it's not enough. Ford eliminated the 3 and 5 door hatchbacks as well as the station wagon to "simplify the production and lineup" stupid move if you ask these guys and me. While the Focus is a benchmark car around the globe, here in the US it's an also ran. While the rest of the world gets a totally new Focus chassis (including Communist China, Russia and Latin America) we get a refreshed and cropped lineup devoid of what a Focus really was, a great all around useful car which lent itself to easy modification and personalizaion. I wonder if Igor, a regular commentor here, was among this group? Igor who I nearly gave MyFordDreams to, is a sharp character and very active on Foculjet and other enthusiast sites. I've always been impressed with his feedback, he's a real true blue Ford guy. I'd like to hear his take on this... Igor you reading this?
Ask me again why I bought a Mazda 3? Look at the pictures above and you can see why.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Commentor asks why I'm bitter about Hybrids and what is my answer to high fuel costs, so here we go...

Hybrids, they're great for some folks. Mostly people living in or around major urban centers. But I've never really been convinced that they're a long term answer. In my last post on the Volvo ReCharge Plug In Hybrid Concept, one commentor says that I seemed bitter. Well I wouldn't go that far, let's just say I'm not a fan. I'm actually one of the few people I know that could benefit from a Hybrid, as the majority of my driving is "City" traffic at lower speeds, and that's where Hybrids shine. Although Al Gore's kid did recently prove that a Prius can top the century mark on the highway. But let's think about Hybrids seriously. For people that do long commutes they don't make as much sense. The Highway MPG is good, but not stellar for the added cost of a Hybrid. Hybrids cost more than comperable vehicles to build, purchase and maintane. And then there's the question about life of the vehicle and what happens at the end. Hybrids are new technology, they have more computer controls than a conevetional Internal Combustion Engine vehicle. So over the useful life of a Hybrid can we expect more service problems? And where will you have it service? And what about when the car is wrecked or just met it's end, then needs to go bye bye? Will there be environmental issues with the batteries? Who covers that expense if there are?
Hybrids are nice and they make us feel good, but what's a better solution? Diesels! I've said it before and I'll say it again. Ask yourself why in Europe and the UK Diesels acount for about 50% of the market. It's because they get 15-20 % better fuel economy. But Diesel emissions smell right? Well yes and no, but we'll come back to that. Diesels make more sense for rural/suburban drivers than Hybrids and don't have those nagging service/end of life issues. Diesels do cost more than gasoline versions, so there is a price penalty to get into one, but they last longer too. Stricly speaking money spent on a Diesel vehicle is money well spent. We've all hear of those Volvos/Mercedes that the town doctor or banker has been driving for the last 20 years, well more than likely a Diesel.

But the comment also asked what I would do about the rising fuel costs. Well Diesels give us several oportunities here. First because they use less fuel they save there, but here's the kicker they can burn Bio Diesel with little or no modifications and burn cleaner and eventually cheaper.
Anyone who's read my blogs over the last 2 years knows that I love the idea of Bio Diesel for several reasons. It doesn't come from OPEC, it burns cleaner than any petrolium based fuel, it's renewable and we can make it here in the United States. Bio Diesel also makes more power than Petro Diesel. It's a no brainer folks! Why pay more for a Hybrid when you can pay more for a Diesel?
I'll take the Focus Turbo Diesel pictured above!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Volvo plug in Hybrid??

I've always been a fence sitter on Hybrids, convinced they're really only useful for Urban residents. And as for Plug-In Hybrids, I'm not a fan. But Environmentalists and Hybrid fans have been clamoring for them. And Volvo wants to make them happy with their latest concept the ReCharge. Linked in the title is the story over at Jalopnik.

Here you have it, Combustion Engine (this one a Flex Fuel version) Electric Motors and Batteries. And for those unhappy Prius/Escape owners who want a plug, there's one of those as well. The idea being that for the first 100 kilometers you don't need to rely on anything but Electric. A neat idea if you're not Al Gore's kid or living outside any city, but how practical would it be in the real world?

The ReCharge has the advantage of being based on the C30 (Mazda3/Ford Focus) chassis, so development costs could be lower than something built from scrap. And since the Ford Escape Hybrid has technology that's already being developed for Fusion/Milan/Mazda6 chassis, I'm sure some things could translate easily enough. Transmission, Batteries and charging system I would guess, as well as computer controls.
While I'm happy to see any inovation from FoMoCo and their partners, I'm sceptical about Plug-In Hybrids. I just see it as placating the lunatic fringe. It's great PR and that can't hurt. But will it play in Peoria? I doubt it.
Hybrids are great for city folks, but Diesels are the answer for the rest of us.

New Mazda6 from Jalopnik...

I cam across the pics of the new Mazda 6 at Jalopnik (link in title) and they're close to CGIs that had been online in the past. The Mazda 6 had always been a nice looking car, despite the criticism from Jeremy Clarkson on BBC's Top Gear. But the new 6 is a real improvement on an already nice car. I'd read and heard from Igor that the new Mazda6 would share DNA with Ford or Europe's Mondeo.

And I can see the family resemblance. Here is the 5 door Mondeo. You can see roofline and beltline similarities as well as the rear wheel arch. Word is that the next Fusion, which is Mazda 6 based will also benefit from the Mondeo's styling/chassis. For my ears that's good news.
Not that the Fusion isn't a great car, but I for one prefer the new Mondeo.

The Mazda 6 like the Mondeo comes in 4 and 5 door as well as a handsome wagon. Right now the Fusion only comes in a 4 door version. No word on whether we can ever expect a 5 door or wagon. With Ford's push of CUV and SUV it seems unlikely to me. Toyota long ago dropped their Camry wagon, as did Honda the Accord wagon, so unlike Europe, a wagon variant isn't as important. It's a shame, but I think I'm in the minority there.
Could this be a silver lining in those storm clouds hovering over Dearborn?
Since Mazda and Ford share so much DNA and that commonality is only going to increase, it's reasonable to expect a FoMoCo version of many Mazda concepts and that's not a bad thing.
Common Ford/Mazda platform and models;
Fusion/Milan/Mazda6/Lincoln MKZ possibly to include Volvo S60 and Euro Mondeo
Edge/CX9/MKX (CX7 to a lesser degree)
Mazda3/Volvo C30, S40, V50/ Euro Ford Focus/Freelander (LR2)/Mazda5
Ford Fiesta (Europe)/Mazda2/Ford Ecosport (Latin America)

Holy crap! I love this on so many different levels....

I saw this on Jalopnik and can't tell you all the ways this gets me excited!
The Mustang GT RTD Bio-Diesel racer. It's got a 2.0 liter Diesel putting out 280 hp and 369 lb ft of torque! And it runs on Bio-Diesel! Top speed? How about 152 mph!!

Now I know there's absolutely no way that this would ever get built, but it does warm the heart to see it. And the body is plastic, derived from natural plant fiber, developed in partnership with German Aerospace.

I like the idea of a sporty coupe with Bio-Diesel power, but I think I'm going to be lonely waiting for that one. Still it's encouraging to see FoMoCo develop something interesting. I wonder how this will trickle down to Ford's European customers?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

While Ford in the US just stagnates, look at this!

I know it's just a rendering of a concept but check out the Ford Kuga. I found this at Car Scoop.

Wow! Check out the Ka

While there's been attention given to the new Verve concpet and for good reason, I missed any news about Ford Europe's other mini car, the Ka.
But I clicked on over to Car Scoop and caught David's post on the new Ka.

I like it! Why can't we get something like this?

I'm a Ford guy! But it's tough sometimes

I'm a Ford guy, no doubt about it, but it's tough sometimes to be a Ford fanatic. I've owned quite a few Fords over the years and still have my Ranger. I love my Ranger, it's a great truck, but if I was going out to buy a replacement I'm not sure it would be a Ford. And that's not good for Ford, not good at all. Every company wants new customers, ones that haven't purchased their brand before, but in reality they rely heavily on repeat customers. When I bought my Ranger, it compared favorably to what was available on the market. Power was a little less and while others were growing and being re-designed Rangers had not had a major redesign and to be honest still haven't. But today the power is not competative and comparable models have been re-designed even further. To say the Ranger hasn't been re-designed isn't totally acurate either, obviously the rest of the world has a totally new Ranger with 2 great Diesel powerplants. And as I've said in the past, if I was in the market today the Nissan Frontier would be my choice, because of the powerful V6 and the 6 speed manual transmission.
Wow, that hurt to say, but it's true. I mean, I LOVE Ford! And I won't buy a new Ranger?
I have worse news for you, I'm not sure I'd buy a new Mustang either! And I love Mustangs. I had a 91 LX 5.0, the one pictured here. I bought this new in September of 1990, special ordering the Deep Emerald Green with T5 manual. And at the time, this was the best bang for the buck you could get. And because I ordered the notchback LX instead of the GT, I had one of the fastest offerings of the time. Yes a Z-28 had more power, but the lighter weight LX notchback still had 225 hp and would give a Z-28 a run for their money on street or strip for a lot less money. Combine the low cost of entry to the ease of modification and you had a potent combination! And I raced my Mustang from time to time.

And I drove to the track too! This picture was taken by my friend as we were heading towards Englishtown Raceway Park for a Mustang event. This was as I passed them at over 100 mph!
But Mustangs, while still being reasonable priced are not as great a bang for buck value. They're a value, but where's the bang?? Don't send me hate mail, send it to Ford.
Think about it folks, the base Mustang only has 210 hp! And while the GT has 300, is that realy competative? I mean look at the power in other cars. My Mazda has 161 hp out of 2.3 liters and if I had the MazdaSpeed version we'd be talking 260 hp. Ford has the new 3.5 liter V6 that cranks out 265 hp, but the Mustang has the 4.0 putting out 210? What else comes with 300 hp? How about the Subaru WRX STI and Mitsu Evo, and they have engines about half the size. But you're saying that those are expensive rice burners. Well, how much do you think you're going to pay for a Mustang? A base V6 mustang can be had for under $25,000 but would you want it? I mean look around, there are family sedans that have more power, a lot more power!
It's time for some real competative power in Mustang and maybe an IRS? Ford has proven they can build an IRS that can handle the power, so that's no excuse. I'm sure you've read about Hyundai's new Coupe that could be here as soon as 2009. It's supposed to have Rear Wheel Drive and Independant Rear Suspension. And rumors on AutoBlog say that the new 4.6 liter V8 could be putting out 360 hp! So, if Hyundai can do it, why not Ford?
I'm a huge fan of the retro styling and my dream was to have this latest version of the Mustang, but reality bites and it bites hard! Aside from styling what does Mustang offer? A solid rear axle, small trunk and low power and only decent fule economy. But Mustang is a lifestyle car, right? Well maybe, but even lifestyle cars need substance.

I say again, I'm a huge Ford fan, really it's true. Despite some of the harsh things I've said in the past. But maybe Ford needs to listen to their fans? I'm going to list my Fords over the years for you so you can see I'm true blue. Starting with a 67 Ford Fairlane Wagon, 79 Pinto sedan, 78 Thunderbird (pictured here in the staging lanes at Englishtown) 77 Lincoln Versailes, 88 Festiva, 91 Mustang (above photos) 92 Crown Victoria, 93 Taurus SHO and 99 Ranger.
I've owned and loved Fords for as long as I can remember. But I say Ford needs to improve everything. There's little on their lot today that I would buy. Maybe the Fusion or if I needed a full size truck an F-150, possibly the Edge or Freestyle, but what else? Not a Focus, not a Ranger, not the Fivehundred (even if you do call it Taurus.) There is little excitement at Ford these days.

But there are Fords out there that I would buy, just not here in the US. How about the Focus the rest of the world gets? How about the Fiesta or Mondeo? How about the Galaxy or SMax?
What about the Australian Ford Falcons?
It's not easy being a Ford fan these days. It's just depressing sometimes.