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Automakers Put Their Cars on a Diet

Bigger can be better -- and lighter, too.

by on Apr.13, 2015

The Cadillac CT6 - as big as a BMW 7-Series, but as light as a 5-Series.

With the launch of its 2016 CT6 sedan, Cadillac says it is setting out to “reinvent” itself, but some of the steps the maker has taken in the development of the new model will likely trigger changes across the industry.The new Cadillac CT6 is the same size as a big BMW 7-Series – but it weighs barely as much as the German maker’s smaller 5-Series sedan. In fact, the new Caddy flagship weighs less than its own midsize luxury sedan, the CTS.

“Lightweighting” has become one of the big buzzwords in today’s global auto industry as maker’s race to get the weight out of their vehicles.

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The primary reason is to meet the tough new Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that will jump to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Mass, explains Cadillac Chief Engineer Dave Leone, “is the enemy of efficiency.”

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Ram Diesel Claims Lead in Truck Fuel Economy

But will Ford take the lead with aluminum F-150?

by on Feb.04, 2014

The Ram EcoDiesel is leaving competitors behind with its 28 mpg highway rating.

In the race for supremacy in the enormously profitable full-size pickup truck market fuel economy has become an increasingly competitive issue – and is likely to become even more important going forward, so makers that once put horsepower and towing limits atop their ads are now just as likely to emphasize mpg.

That’s meant some significant changes in truck design, with a growing emphasis on so-called “lightweighting,” and the emergence of a new generation of higher performance V-6s, such as the Ford EcoBoost V6 that has left competitors domestic and foreign scrambling.

Fuel for Thought!

But Chrysler has struck back with its new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, landing a string of kudos, including the coveted Motor Trend Truck of the Year. And now, Chrysler is claiming what could be an even more significant victory, the EPA giving the diesel version of the Ram a car-like 28 mpg Highway Cycle mileage rating – the best ever recorded for a full-size half-ton pickup.

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First Look: 2013 Ford F-Series

A new crop of trucks.

by on Jun.05, 2012

Ford's 2013 F-150 Lariat displays its new grille.

By most measures, it should be a tough year for the full-size pickup truck market.  Yet even when fuel prices were running at near-record levels, earlier this spring, demand for the big rigs was running hot.  And that means Ford may be perfectly timed for the introduction of its updated 2013 F-Series line.

The 2013 pickups won’t see near as dramatic an update as they did in recent years but there are some notable revisions, nonetheless, including some bold new grilles, added technologies and an all-new luxury model dubbed the Limited.

Ford pulled the covers off the new 2013 F-Series models during a conference of the Future Farmers of America, in Bruceville, Texas.  No surprise, perhaps, as the agricultural community has traditional been one of the strongest markets for full-size pickups.

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“Farm families have always represented an important F-Series truck constituency,” said Doug Scott, Ford Truck group marketing manager and FFA sponsor board member. “For these multitasking customers, a Ford pickup means family transportation, economic livelihood, rugged capability and reliability. Like FFA, Ford pickups are an enduring agricultural tradition, and we are delighted to join forces with them to reveal the new F-150 models.”

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Ford Reportedly Aiming For Huge Bump in Sales

Maker sees the future in Asia.

by on Jun.07, 2011

Ford CEO Mulally is expected to announce plans to push for a 50% global sales bump.

Ford Motor Co. will aim to boost its global sales by as much as 50% by mid-decade, CEO Alan Mulally is expected to announce today.

That would see its sales jump from 5.3 million last year to around 8 million, putting it on a par with industry giants like General Motors, Volkswagen and the 800-pound gorilla of the auto world, Toyota, which sold 8.42 million vehicles in 2010.

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Though Ford is looking at growth in all its key markets, including North and South America, as well as Europe, Mulally is expected to put an emphasis on its Asia-Pacific-Africa division, according to a report in the New York Times.  Currently, those regions account for 15% of total Ford volumes worldwide, but the maker expects to bump that to a full third by 2020.

“We’re clearly transitioning into a growth mode after going through a horrific recession and industry collapse,” Mulally told the Times. “We are now positioned to serve customers where the market is growing.”

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Quantum Launches Plug-In F150

A big green pickup?

by on May.06, 2011

Quantum is launching a plug-in conversion of the Ford F150 that will get 35 miles on battery power.

Who says big can’t also be green?  A new plug-in hybrid Version of the Ford F150 Pickup Truck might argue otherwise.

The truck is the work of Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc., the company that is also providing a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the new Fisker Karma, which comes to market later this year.

“We believe this vehicle fills an important niche for fleet customers desiring a largely electric pick-up truck with extended range capability,” said Alan Niedzwiecki, CEO Quantum Technologies.

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Quantum’s plug-in hybrid version of the F150 isn’t targeting the average personal use or small business customer, but rather aims at demanding large fleet operators. The vehicle will be capable of matching the performance of the conventional F150 vehicle while achieving substantially higher fuel economy and producing lower emissions, Niedzwiecki said.

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Ford Seeks to Block Ferrari from Using F150 Badge

U.S. maker taking dispute to court.

by on Feb.09, 2011

Ferrari F150 - definitely not a pickup truck.

A simmering dispute between U.S. automaker Ford and Italy’s Ferrari has bubbled into public view and could soon land the two makers in court.

Ford plans to seek an injunction, this week against Ferrari over the use of the F150 name for the Italian maker’s latest Formula 1 racecar, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Similar disputes have occurred over the years, though were usually settled without going to court – or even appearing in public.

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Toyota, for example, once planned to adopt the 150 designation for its full-size pickups, an upgrade of the earlier T-100.  Facing Ford’s wrath, the Japanese maker eventually went with Tundra.

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First Look: 2011 Ford Harley-Davidson F-150

4-Wheeler invades annual bike week in Sturgis.

by on Aug.10, 2010

For 2011 Ford gives the Harley-Davidson F-150 a new 6.2-liter V8.

It’s normally supposed to be all about the bikes, this week, in Sturgis, South Dakota.  But there’s a spotlight shining on a big four-wheeler at this week’s event.

Sturgis Bike Week is the biggest and most eagerly-anticipated motorcycle event of the year, drawing countless thousands on everything from little off-roaders to the biggest, baddest choppers ever assembled.  But they’re getting some competition from Ford, which is unveiling the most powerful version ever of its Harley-Davidson-branded F-150 pickup.

The 2011 Harley-Davidson F-150 features a 6.2-liter V-8 churning out 411 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque.  If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same powertrain spinning the oversized tires on Ford’s over-the-top 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor.

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“The engine has tons of torque and already has been proven in the field,” says the V8 engine’s program manager, Mike Harrison.

There’s enough torque, in fact, to pull a 9,300-pound trailer, according to Ford, a big bump up from what the pickup could tow with the old 310-hp 5.4-liter V8.

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Ford Adding Three More EcoBoost Engines

Maker plans to boost production to 1.5 million annually.

by on Apr.12, 2010

A new 1.6-liter I4 version of the EcoBoost engine will be used in the 2011 Ford C-Max people mover.

Ford will announce this week three more versions of its high-mileage EcoBoost engine to its global line-up, with the maker planning to boost production of the powertrain to 1.5 million annually by 2013, half of them for sale in North America.

With the addition of the new EcoBoost offerings, the powertrain technology will be available on 11 different Ford models.  Plans call for EcoBoost engines to be available on 80% of the Ford global line-up, and 90% of vehicles sold in North America.

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“We are focused on sustainable technology solutions that can be used not for hundreds or thousands of cars, but for millions of cars, because that’s how Ford will truly make a difference,” said Ford’s vice president of powertrain engineering, Barb Samardzich.

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NHTSA Opens Numerous Investigations in January

Millions of Ford F150 and Escape, Mazda Tribute, Chevy Cobalt and Trailblazer, GMC Envoy and Denali models under scrutiny for fires, loss of steering, stalling and other deadly defects.

by on Feb.03, 2010

Ford F150 air bags blowing up for no reason?

Ford F150 air bags blowing up for no reason?

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened defect investigations into millions of non-Toyota vehicles last month.

The safety agency is under criticism, of course, for lack of action in the ongoing Toyota unintended acceleration matter, and faces at least two Congressional hearings (click here) over its conduct.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Republican – Illinois, has vigorously defended NHTSA in the media, while attacking Toyota officials for their foot dragging on safety issues, including the sticking pedal recall that was just announced at the end of January.

That’s not going to be good enough for Congressmen who will want to know just what Toyota and NHTSA knew about the complaints and deaths, precisely when it was known, and why it took so long to do anything about it.

It turns out that while NHTSA was pressing Toyota for recalls and telling it to stop sales, it was also asking Ford Motor Company about airbags inadvertently blowing up and causing injuries to at least 66 people. Millions of Ford’s best-selling F150 pickup trucks are potentially affected covering 2004-2006 production.

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NHTSA also has reports of at least 88 fires in previously recalled 2001-2004 Ford Escape and Mazda Tributes. In spite of repairs performed on almost 400,000 of the compact SUVs, the fires kept occuring.  NHTSA is now questioning the effectiveness of the previous recall covering an ABS brake controller. Stay tuned for more on this.

The safety agency also queried General Motors about several potentially severe problems. One is the result of a petition calling for NHTSA to open an investigation into the performance/reliability of the fuel level sensor installed in model year 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazers. Reports of engine stalling, and possible rear-end accidents are alleged. If further action were taken, it would include not only 2005 and 2006 Trailblazers, but GMC Envoy models as well. More than 600,000 trucks could be affected.

More serious, perhaps, are the more than 1,000 reports of the loss of electronic power steering assist on 2005-2009 Chevrolet Cobalt models. Most of the complaints have been received during the past six months, and at least 11 of them allege that an accident resulted. NHTSA is now taking a closer look at the issue.

In fact, in the current environment, it looks like NHTSA is going to be more active, and less acquiescent toward automakers than it has been in the past.  The web has made the gathering of information much easier. And publicizing problems results in yet more data, making it harder for automakers to dismiss customer concerns. The art and/or engineering science of this is deciding when a problem is large enough to justify a recall.

Ford Truck Design Boss Schiavone Off to Whirlpool

Latest in a series of senior departures from Ford design.

by on Dec.21, 2009

Ford Truck's Pat Schiavone, who was responsible for the 2009 Ford 1-50, is making a move...to Whirlpool.

There are car guys, truck guys and, it seems, appliance guys.  In a surprising move, the man credited with designing the last three generations of the Ford F-150 is leaving the automaker.

Turnover in the automotive business has been intense, lately, so the departure of Pat Schiavone is, in itself, not entirely a shock.  What is unexpected is his decision to leave the automotive industry entirely.  According to PickupTrucks.com, (ed: where our friend and contributor Mike Levine serves as publisher), Schiavone is on his way to the appliance maker Whirlpool.

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We’re having a hard time picturing Schiavone, Ford’s North American Truck and SUV design director, sketching out washing machines and dryers.  He’s spent the last 21 years at Ford, where he not only designed the 2009 F-150, but the 2002 Ford F-350 Tonka Truck and Ford F-150 Lightning Rod concepts.

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