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Ford, GM Implement Expansion Plans in China

Makers invest in plants despite slowing economy.

by on Jan.30, 2015

Shanghai GM invested more than $1 billion in a new plant in China's Hubei province and expanded other facilities in the country.

Despite the fact that China’s economic growth has slowed, General Motors and Ford Motor Co. continue pushing ahead with plans to expand their production footprint there.

Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive officer, told analysts this week thatFord expects the Chinese economy to grow by 7% to 7.5%, which is ample enough to sustain an increase in sales of new vehicles. Ford expects sales to come in at between 24 million and 26 million units and the automaker, with its Chinese partner, is moving ahead with plans to open two new factories in China this year.

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Ford plans to open both an assembly plant and an engine plant in China this year. Ford sales in China grew 19% in 2014 to 1.1 million units and helped maintain the profitability of Ford overall operations in the Asia Pacific region despite losses in other parts of the region. (more…)

Ford Profit Sharing Checks Drop to Average of $6,900

Last year’s payout was a record $8,800.

by on Jan.29, 2015

Ford's hourly workforce will see their profit-sharing checks drop by nearly $2,000 this year.

Ford Motor Co. will continue to face major challenges in the first half of 2015, but the company’s executives expect better results for the full year after a disappointing 2014.

The company’s results fell in line with earlier guidance, but the net income of $3.2 billion for 2014 is down $4 billion from last year. The obvious hit resulting from the lower profits? Profit sharing checks for the company’s more than 50,000 hourly employees in the U.S.

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They are expected to collect an average of $6,900, which is nearly $2,000 less than last year’s record payout of $8,800 to 47,000 workers. That said, it’s an improvement over 2005 through 2008 when no profit sharing checks were issued. (more…)

Ford Takes Q4 Hit Due to F-Series Changeover

Maker reports profits in line with earlier guidance.

by on Jan.29, 2015

Ford reported pre-tax profits of more than $6 billion for 2014 led largely by North America.

Ford Motor Co.’s profits cratered during the fourth quarter as moved through the changeover of the company’s popular full-size pickup truck, dropping from 75 cents per share in the same period in 2013 to a single penny per share in the final three months of 2014.

The company’s fourth quarter pre-tax profit was $1.1 billion, excluding special items. That is $197 million lower than a year ago with after-tax earnings per share at 26 cents, 6 cents lower than a year ago.

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The net income for the quarter was $52 million: a decline of $3 billion from last year. Despite the decline, the fourth quarter of 2014 was the company’s 22nd consecutive quarter of profitability, Ford executives noted. (more…)

Ford Opens Silicon Valley Research Center

The lines blur between tech and auto worlds.

by on Jan.23, 2015

Ford expects to employ 125 at its new Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto.

As modern cars become increasingly dependent on digital technology, whether for safety, emissions or infotainment systems, the lines have been blurring between the rust belt and Silicon Valley. The latest example is a dun-colored office building in Palo Alto not far from such high-tech giants as Apple and Google. But this one will soon be staffed by 125 employees reporting to Ford Motor Co.

Ford was an early pioneer in the world of telematics with its Sync infotainment system. But as the maker – like its competitors – has come to learn, the pace of development in the electronics world operates far faster than in the auto industry. So, Ford’s new Research and Innovation Center will act as an outpost, tapping into the talent and technologies that have made Silicon Valley one of the world’s most important high-tech centers.

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“The valley here is a marketplace of ideas,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields, who was on hand for this week’s dedication of the Research and Innovation Center. “It’s about being in the right neighborhood because of all the collection of companies. Our folks going to the coffee shops will run into folks from other companies and strike up conversation.”

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Ford Teases New Focus RS Before February Debut

Flagship performance compact will be offered in the U.S. for first time.

by on Jan.22, 2015

Ford officials said a performance edition of the Focus, the RS, would be coming soon. Now we get a glimpse.

At an end-of-the-year briefing at company headquarters in Michigan, Ford officials confirmed that the maker would be launching an all-new version of the high-performance Focus RS. They just didn’t bother to say when or where.

With the release of the first teaser video of the new RS, Ford has at least confirmed that the new model will make its world debut on Feb. 3. And while it still isn’t revealing what’s under the hood, it appears the new RS will live up to expectations for some serious muscle – some estimates running as high as 400 horsepower bursting from a 2.3-liter turbocharged four.

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The video shows an undisguised Mk3 Focus RS blasting around Ford’s Lommel Proving Grounds in Belgium, performing some aggressive drifts that have raised questions about whether the compact model will maintain its front-drive layout or, for the first time, switch to an all-wheel-drive configuration. (more…)

Mustang Officially Takes on the World

First Ford pony cars ship off for markets abroad.

by on Jan.20, 2015

The 2015 Ford Mustang is the first to be sold globally. It'll be sold in 100 countries around the world.

America’s muscle car is going global. The first Ford Mustangs have been loaded on a ship bound for Asia, marking the first time in the pony car’s history that will be sold in more than 100 markets worldwide.

Sales of the 2015 Mustang will be launched in Europe later this year, according to the Detroit automaker, expanding the global One Ford program established by recently retired CEO Alan Mulally. The move should help firm up Ford’s position as one of the largest exporters of vehicles assembled in the U.S.

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“Mustang is just one more example of the international demand for Ford cars and trucks,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the America, adding that, “The success of our One Ford plan presents opportunities for growth in global markets.” (more…)

Ram, Nissan, Ford Show Mileage Matters, Even to Pickup Buyers

Who will be the first to top 30 mpg?

by on Jan.19, 2015

The new 2015 Ram 1500 Express equipped with the maker’s EcoDiesel delivers an impressive 29 miles per gallon on the highway.

It wasn’t all that long ago when light duty pickup buyers would have celebrated seeing fuel economy numbers approaching the high teens. Now, however, that’s something even heavy-duty models often deliver.

But can manufacturers crack the mileage ceiling with a truck that would get 30 mpg or better? Several makers are coming tantalizingly close.

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There’s been “a lot of noise around” fuel economy in the light truck segment, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said during an appearance at the Detroit Auto Show. Indeed, his own company has been crowing loudly about an updated version of its own full-size model, the new 2015 Ram 1500 Express. (more…)

Ford Slashes Global Product Platform Count

Fewer platforms but more new products.

by on Jan.19, 2015

Ford's new CEO Mark Fields with the 2015 Edge, one of many new models based on Ford's global platforms.

Hoping to improve its efficiency, driving up margins and driving down costs, Ford has been pushing to eliminate as many regional product platforms as possible. And it’s found ways to go further than originally planned, according to the maker’s CEO.

It will now use just eight separate platforms for its global product line-up, said CEO Mark Fields, during an appearance at an industry confab in Detroit. That’s barely half as many as it had at the beginning of the new millennium, when Ford’s North and South American, European and Asian operations functioned as virtually autonomous entities. And it’s one lower than the goal the maker had set for itself by 2016.

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“That yields tremendous benefits to improving the rate at which we introduce new vehicles,” noted CEO Fields during his comments at the Deutsche Bank Global Industry Conference.

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Hot, Hotter, Hottest? Ford Turns Up the Heat with Shelby GT350R

Maker debuts street-legal, race-ready Mustang.

by on Jan.15, 2015

The new Ford Shelby GT350R lets you go from two-track to race track. It's part of a trio of new powerful pony cars.

At 435 horsepower, the 2015 remake of the Mustang GT is an impressive piece of work. But in today’s new Golden Age of muscle cars, the number is almost middle-of-the-road. So, Ford is rolling out a series of pony car variants that go from hot to hotter to hottest.

It was only a few months ago, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, that we got a good look at the Shelby GT350 Mustang, with its unique new 5.2-liter V-8 featuring a high-revving flat-plane crankshaft bumping the numbers up to a more impressive 500 horsepower. Now, however, Detroit show-goers will get to see that taken up yet another notch, with the addition of the Shelby 350GTR.

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That’s “R” as in “racing,” Ford global product development chief Raj Nair declaring the latest Mustang iteration “street-legal, track-ready.” (more…)

Ford Won’t be Rolling Out Aluminum Passenger Cars, Says Top Exec

Benefits don’t justify the cost, complexity says Pres. Hinrichs.

by on Jan.15, 2015

Ford President Joe Hinrichs helps unveil the new Ford F-150 Raptor during the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

Though Ford Motor Co. has ballyhooed the benefits of the aluminum used to build its 2015 F-150 pickup, don’t expect to see the automaker start building passenger cars out of the lightweight metal, cautioned a top executive.

The benefits just aren’t as competitive when used on lighter vehicles, stressed Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, during an appearance at an annual industry confab in Detroit.

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“You don’t get those same benefits to a consumer on a car side,” he explained, adding that, “truck buyers will pay for more capability. Car buyers will pay for better fuel economy, but there’s other ways to get fuel economy in a car.”

Facing stiff new emissions and fuel economy mandates, automakers like Ford are struggling to find ways to improve the efficiency of their vehicles. They’re adopting advanced powertrains and alternate fuels, adopting more aerodynamic designs, and putting a premium on “lightweighting.”

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