Ford Performance: 12 New Vehicles Due Through 2020

Ford Focus RS.
The next generation Ford Focus RS will be US bound.

The Ford Motor Company announced on Thursday its new global Ford Performance team. Ford Performance takes existing regional performance engineering and racing teams and places them under a single umbrella, one that the automaker says will produce more than 12 new performance vehicles through 2020. One of those vehicles is the Ford Fiesta RS, a model that will be sold globally, including in the United States.

Ford says that the new entity will make more parts, accessories and vehicles available to markets around the world. At present, Ford has held back certain vehicles from various markets. Under the new plan all “major markets” will be covered. The Focus RS will be the first of the planned dozen or so models we will see.

Ford Performance

The move to Ford Performance follows Ford’s “One Ford” initiative launched in 2008 that promised to make available to North American vehicle shoppers an assortment of European models that were not sold here previously. Those models include the Fiesta, Focus and its most recent introduction, the large Ford Transit van.

“Ford remains committed to innovation through performance,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “Our new global Ford Performance team ties together racing, performance vehicles and parts. It will allow us to more quickly introduce products and accessories that meet the needs of customers around the world on-road and on the track.”

Ford Performance Logo

Ford RS to Focus RS

The Ford Focus RS is one model enthusiasts will be happy to see. A late 1960s era Ford Escort RS1600 was the first model in the RS line, a collaboration between Ford and Britain’s Rallye Sport (RS) dealer network according to Auto Express. That 16-valve, twin-cam engine made 120 horsepower — a big number back in the day.

In its later years, the Ford Focus RS has upheld the RS mantle, as the most recent model was introduced in 2009 and rated at 301 horsepower. A new model is due out in 2016 and that one will be sold in North America.

With the Focus RS in the Ford stable, it will join existing performance models, including the Shelby GT350 Mustang, F-150 Raptor, Fiesta ST and Focus ST. Ford claims that demand for performance vehicles is strong worldwide and has increased by 70 percent in the United States since 2009. Europe’s growth has been more modest, coming in at 14 percent over the same period.

Ford Fiesta ST
The Ford Fiesta ST now falls under the Ford Performance umbrella.

Young Buyers Drawn to ST Line

Ford reports that its ST line is attracting younger buyers to the brand. The company says that approximately two-thirds of Fiesta ST and Focus ST buyers come from outside of the brand. Moreover, Ford claims a retention rate of more than 50 percent for buyers who purchase a performance model and are looking for a new vehicle.

At the heart of Ford’s performance portfolio is a family of EcoBoost engines. These engines have variable valve technology, turbochargers and direct fuel injection. As of this writing Auto Trends is testing a Fiesta ST. A review of the product will be published later this month.

Charlotte, NC Facility

Ford Performance will bring together several teams — Ford Racing, Team RS and Ford SVT. In addition to developing new products, Ford Performance is tasked with improving aerodynamics, advancing light-weighting, introducing new electronics and enhancing powertrain performance and efficiency. The company says that its new state-of-the-art facility in Charlotte, NC, “…will help the team deliver racing innovations, as well as advance tools for use in performance vehicles and daily drivers alike.”

The company traces its performance credentials all the way back to Henry Ford himself. In 1901, Mr. Ford won the Sweepstakes race, defeating America’s greatest racer, Alexander Winton. Since then, Ford has rolled out a variety of performance models, most notably the ground-breaking Ford Mustang in 1964.

See AlsoHot Hatch: 2017 Volkswagen Golf R

Ford Performance logo and Focus RS photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.

Ford Bets $5 Billion on Lincoln

Lincoln gets another lease on life.

2015 Lincoln MKZ.
This Lincoln MKZ is just one example of a Ford-based model.

Ford’s Lincoln brand may have some life left in it after all. Last week, Reuters reported that Ford has committed to invest at least $5 billion in Lincoln over the next several years as well as to introduce an all-new modular platform for the brand and for select Ford products. Reuters also said that its previous CEO, Alan Mulally had considered shutting Lincoln or selling it. The new boss, Mark Fields, plans to revive Lincoln and has gained the backing of Bill Ford and other board members to carry out the initiative.

Lincoln Motor Company

The Lincoln Motor Company, purchased by Ford in 1922 and championed as the company’s luxury brand, has seen good times and bad times. The good times were as recently as 1998 when Lincoln held the top spot among luxury makes in the United States. Today, Lincoln sells far fewer models and is in eighth place, selling about half as many cars as its arch-rival, Cadillac.

Much of that neglect can be found in two areas: financial support and products.

Financially, the Ford Motor Company has provided $500 million or less in annual support. That amount covers all expenditures, including product development, engineering, tooling, facilities and related costs. Introducing a new platform alone typically costs at least $1 billion.

Ford, Lincoln Product Similarities

As for product, Ford has kept Lincoln’s costs to a minimum by building models that are based on Ford platforms. Look at any Lincoln product and there is a corresponding Ford model. For instance, the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition are similar as are the MKX crossover and the Ford Edge. Over the past few years Ford has sought some differentiation, but the Lincoln MKZ is still closely related to the Ford Fusion. One of its most recent new models, the MKC crossover, is built on the Ford Escape’s platform. But at least it has its own skin and interior.

News of Ford’s additional investment in Lincoln follows the brand’s introduction to the Chinese market, with the first customer deliveries having already occurred this month. The United States and China will likely be Lincoln’s two largest markets going forward, with Ford estimating 300,000 annual global sales by 2020, an ambitious number that would nearly triple sales within five years.

D6 Modular Platform

The modular premium platform (dubbed D6) Ford has in mind for Lincoln would produce front-, rear- and all-wheel drive vehicles. Likely, its introduction is at least five years away and that means the current model line would be revived once before any new models roll out. Reuters says that the first model would be a midsize sedan followed by a crossover. That could mean replacements for the MKZ and MKT, the latter based on the platform underpinning the Ford Flex.

In the interim, replacements for the MKX crossover and MKS sedan will arrive in early 2015 and in early 2016 respectively. A stretched wheelbase version of the MKS is in the offing too, but is slated for the Chinese market only. Message board comments from Lincoln dealers and supporters expressed dismay that the US market isn’t being considered for the stretched model, underscoring what some see as continued neglect for the brand.

After all, with the Lincoln Town Car no longer produced, there is no model to fill its place. Lincoln has attempted to do so with the MKT crossover, but that effort has failed.

The Competitor Factor

That Ford wants to make good on its Lincoln revival is a step in the right direction. Whether it pulls it off is another matter, especially as its competitors continue to grow and produce the types of vehicles customers want.

See AlsoLincoln MKC: Luxurious, Entry-Level Crossover

Photo copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Ford to Share Inflatable Safety Belt Love

Innovative seat belts provide enhanced crash protection.

Nearly five years have passed since Auto Trends first shared news about Ford’s inflatable safety belt technology. This writer called the technology “nifty” in recognition of the innovative thinking and engineering behind this important safety device.

Over the intervening years, Ford has introduced inflatable seat belts to several Ford and Lincoln models, and has plans to make them available with the next generation Ford F-150 arriving later this year. Inflatable safety belts are available for second row, outboard seating passengers only.

inflatable safety belt
Ford provides an innovative way to protect passengers with its inflatable safety belt technologies. Ford announced that it will license the technology, including to its competitors.

Inflatable Safety Belts

Inflatable seat belts deploy in the same way as regular airbags: in an accident and within 40 milliseconds following an accident. These belts inflate with cold compressed air and provide protection for the occupant’s torso and shoulders.

Ford says that the safety belts spread crash forces across and up to five times the area of conventional seat belts. Specifically, pressure is spread across a passenger’s chest; the safety belts help to control head and neck motion. Moreover, they look and operate just like regular seat belts and can be used in conjunction with both infant car seats and child booster seats.

Technology to License

The Ford Motor Company patented its inflatable seat belts and is the only car manufacturer offering them. However, it is willing to license the technology to other companies including competing car manufacturers in a bid to reduce injuries everywhere.

And not just passenger vehicles can make use of inflatable safety belts. Ford says that that military vehicles, boats and aircraft might also benefit from the technology.

Ford’s longstanding commitment to democratizing technology goes beyond our customers,” said Bill Coughlin, president and CEO, Ford Global Technologies. “In this case, the wider adoption of inflatable safety belts has the potential to make travel safer and help mitigate passenger injuries – especially among children and the elderly.”

To prepare inflatable seat belts for licensing, Ford purchased additional safety patents from United Technologies Corp. Ford is also working with the AutoHarvest Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for collaboration of innovative technologies including advanced manufacturing intellectual property.

Additional Licenses Available

Ford has several other patented technologies it is willing to license as well. Its roll stability control or RSC system utilizes sensors that provide steady surveillance of a vehicle’s movement in relation to the road surface. Braking is automatically applied and/or engine power reduced if a rollover situation is detected.

Ford’s belt minder system reminds people to buckle up and has received plaudits from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its success. Other licensable technologies include a surveillance mode for law enforcement and a driver alert warning system that senses when the driver has become distracted.

Additional Safety Articles

Nifty Idea: Inflatable Seat Belts!

IIHS Research Underscores Child Safety Seat Problems

The Rise of Automotive Safety Features

How is Tech Making Car Travel Safer?

Chart courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.

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