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Ford Turns Sales Champ F-150 into a Lightweight

Using aluminum body panels, lightweight steel, maker cuts 700 pounds.

by on Jan.13, 2014

Ford's F-150 rolled out onto the stage today 700 pounds lighter using aluminum body panels and a lightweight steel chassis. Photo credit: Len Katz.

With Joe Louis Arena – the home of the Detroit Red Wings – as the back drop, Ford Motor Co. kicked off the North American International Auto Show by revealing the new – and lighter –  Ford F-150.

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“We know our truck customers,” said Joe Hinrichs, who noted the F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S for 32 consecutive years and the best-selling truck for the past 37 years.

“When you’re the leader you set the standards and then you exceed them,” said Raj Nair, who said the new truck contains more than 11 major technological firsts, including a new frame of lightweight steel and a unique all-aluminum body that reduce the trucks overall weight by 700 pounds, which improves fuel economy and overall performance. (more…)

Ford’s Aluminum F-150 a Likely Star at Detroit Auto Show

Big challenge overcoming concerns about durability.

by on Dec.27, 2013

The Ford Atlas Concept at its January 2013 Detroit Auto Show debut.

While most major automakers have already dropped broad hints about what they’ll reveal at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, Ford has been unusually quiet about its plans for the annual show’s opening debut.  But the likely unveiling is expected to be a big one: an all-new version of the maker’s best-selling truck, the F-150.

And it’s not just a restyled pickup with a few more features.  The 2015 Ford F-Series is expected to mark a dramatic shift in a market segment that’s come roaring back over the last 12 months, the Detroit maker opting for a new, aluminum-intensive design that should shed 100s of pounds compared to the outgoing pickup – in the process improving fuel consumption by perhaps 5 miles per gallon.

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That said, the automaker could face a serious challenge with a redesign of what has long been America’s best-selling vehicle. Even though buyers in every segment of the market are demanding better mileage, the question is whether the generally more conservative buyers in the pickup segment will feel comfortable with this major shift from rugged, time-tested steel.  Ford will have to convince potential buyers they’ll not only save fuel but also get a durable truck that won’t offset those savings with higher maintenance costs.

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New 2015 Ford Mustang Had to Balance Old and New

New platform, new engine, new technology – but look still familiar.

by on Dec.05, 2013

The new 2015 Ford Mustang takes a bow.

She was just 22 years old, a fresh graduate from a teacher’s college and excited about life, so when Gail Wise went to the Ford showroom near her family’s home in suburban Chicago, she told the salesman she wanted something new, youthful and special.

He wasn’t supposed to show her the car tucked in the back of the showroom under the tarp. The official introduction wasn’t for two more days, but for some reason, he lifted the covers and then sold the powder blue 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang to the entranced young woman.

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It was the same Mustang that Wise, now retired, proudly showed off during the ceremonies marking the debut of an all-new, sixth-generation pony car designed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Mustang’s launch. (more…)

Ford After Mulally

Maker will need to fight urge to return to old ways.

by on Sep.30, 2013

Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

For the moment, at least, Ford Motor Co. officials are downplaying reports that CEO Alan Mulally will soon depart for a new job as the top executive at tech giant Microsoft – but even if the 68-year-old Mulally doesn’t head to Seattle his tenure in the Motor City is likely to come to an end relatively soon.

The question is what that will mean for Ford, the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy – and a subsequent federal bailout. What worries many observers is the possibility the second-largest domestic maker will return to the bad old ways that Mulally set out to change when he came onboard in late 2006.

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“There is no change to what we announced in November,” Ford’s new Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said when asked about the flurry of reports linking Mulally to Boeing.

Ford’s CEO previously worked in Seattle where he was one of the top executives at aircraft maker Boeing, and he retains strong ties to that community. But were he to return, Mulally might instead step into the shoes of Steve Ballmer, the controversial Microsoft chief who last month said he would step down within the next year, setting off speculation about who might replace him.

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Ford Beats Forecast with $1.2 Billion Q2 Profit

Maker keeps on trucking – thanks to strong pickup demand.

by on Jul.24, 2013

Driving hard - strong demand for the big F-Series line helped Ford set North American earnings records for the second quarter and first half of 2013.

Ford Motor Co. delivered a second-quarter profit of $1.2 billion, a jump of $193 million over year-earlier numbers, or 18.5%. On a per-share basis, Ford earned 30 cents, a 4 cent increase compared to the April – June 2012 period.

The maker was firing on all cylinders during the second quarter, reporting improvements in all of its individual regions, and delivering record earnings in both North America and the Asia Pacific Africa region. But Ford’s big F-Series pickups carried much of the load, the trucks a major factor in the $2.3 billion pre-tax profit in the home market.

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“Our strong second quarter with improved results in every region around the world is another proof point that our One Ford plan is continuing to deliver and is building momentum,” Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO said in a statement accompanying the earnings release.

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Ford Likely to Show Record North American Profit

But Europe still an anchor.

by on Apr.24, 2013

Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields will have to show that the changes he made in the Americas can translate overseas.

It’s likely to be both the best of times and worst of times for Ford Motor Co. as it reports its first-quarter earnings today.

Industry analysts are uniformly anticipating the second-largest domestic automaker will report record pre-tax profits for North America – but continue to linger deep in the red in a European market that has plunged to its lowest levels in nearly two decades, with little near-term upside potential.

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The troubles in Europe, as well as an anticipated loss in South America, should cut 37 cents out of the maker’s operating profit, according to a poll by the Bloomberg news service of 17 automotive analysts. Nonetheless, Ford should deliver a strong overall report, according to most, with pre-tax earnings in North America expected to come in at $2.7 billion, according to both JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.

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Henry Ford’s Great-Granddaughter Gets New Job

PR Chief Day takes on broader role.

by on Feb.15, 2013

Ford heir Elena Ford gets one of two big promotions approved by Ford Motor board.

Two familiar names have been promoted by the Ford Motor Co. board of directors.

Elena Ford, great-granddaughter of the company’s founder, was tapped to serve as vice president leader of the company’s new Global Dealer and Consumer Experience organization,  while Ray Day, a familiar figure to journalists following the company, was named group vice president of communications. He has led the Communications team as its vice president for the past five years. Both appointments are effective on March 1.

Day, who continues to report to Ford chief operating officer Mark Fields, remains responsible for the company’s global external and internal communications and public relations activities. His role includes building Ford’s reputation globally and leading communications efforts aimed at reach customers, employees, dealers, suppliers, news media, communities, governments and policy-makers.

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“Ray Day is a proven global leader who continues to take the company’s communications capabilities and the telling of our Ford story to increasingly higher levels,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. “Ray and his team are ensuring that everyone associated with Ford understands our One Ford plan and the progress we are making delivering profitable growth.”

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Chrysler to Add High-Mileage Diesel for Ram 1500

Ford softening its opposition to diesels, as well.

by on Feb.14, 2013

The Ram 1500 will begin offering a 3.0-liter turbodiesel.

Chrysler will add a diesel option for the Ram 1500 pickup, making it the only automaker to offer the high-mileage technology on a half-ton truck. It could be a significant additional inducement the announcement coming barely a month after the Ram 1500 was named North American Truck of the Year.

But Chrysler may not be the only maker to market a diesel standard-duty pickup for long. General Motors is reportedly considering such an option for its newly redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models, while Toyota and Nissan may add diesels when their redesigned Tundra and Titan models reach market.

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Meanwhile, diesels are rapidly gaining ground in other market segments. Chevrolet last week unveiled its new Cruze Diesel, the first passenger car model from General Motors’ largest brand to offer the powertrain technology since 1996. Mazda will add a diesel for its new Mazda6 later this year. And even Ford’s long-standing resistance to diesel power in U.S. passenger cars finally may be crumbling.

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Ford Q4 Pre-Tax Profit Best in Over a Decade

But Europe's woes drag down Ford's full-year earnings.

by on Jan.29, 2013

Demand for Ford's newest models buoyed North American earnings - but quality issues with models like Escape could also pose a drag.

Ford Motor says it made the highest fourth-quarter pre-tax profit in more than a decade. It earned $1.7 billion last quarter, due largely to increases sales of trucks and SUVs and higher prices for all models.

That was 31 cents a share, beating Wall Street forecasts which had ranged from 25 to 28 cents.

For all of 2012, the automaker’s net income was $5.7 billion, down $307 million than a year ago. It excludes some special charges.

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“The Ford team delivered strong results once again, underscoring that our One Ford plan is working,” proclaimed Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO. “We are well positioned for another strong year in 2013, as we continue our plan to serve customers in all markets around the world with a full family of vehicles — small, medium and large; cars, utilities and trucks — with the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value.”

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Atlas Concept Truck a Pick-Up for Ford Stock

Unexpected unveiling offers a hint of replacement for best-selling F-Series.

by on Jan.15, 2013

The surprise debut of the Ford Atlas concept pickup.

Ford Motor Co. stock took a sharp jump following the automaker’s unexpected unveiling of the Atlas Concept truck, a prototype offering a hint of what’s to come when the maker replaces its best-selling F-Series pickup in 2014.

In an appearance to an industry conference coinciding with the North American International Auto Show, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly marveled at the reaction to the preview.  The unveiling of the Atlas had been whispered about but unconfirmed by the maker until the huge silver truck descended from the ceiling of Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

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“How about that,” proclaimed Mulally in an off-the-cuff remark following  his speech to the Automotive News World Congress. By the time the NY Stock Exchange closed, Ford common was up 31 cents, or 2.22%, for the day, to $14.30.

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