By on February 13, 2020

Dave Pericak, former head of Ford Performance and now responsible for the brand’s icon models, told CNET on the sidelines of the Chicago Auto Show that evolving environmental regulations have forced the automaker to reassess how it views performance.

“A lot of countries are changing regulations so quickly, and so much, they’re almost forcing the performance products out,” he said.

“Our job is going to be two-fold,” Pericak continued. “One is to figure out how to continue to make performance that will exist in some of these regulated countries, even our own, and how do you do it so it’s a global offering?”

It’s a good question. Environmental regulations have indeed forced automakers to downsize displacement and re-familiarize themselves with turbocharging. Electrification is an option growing in popularity too, with many global automakers tossing battery packs into vehicles of all sizes at no small cost to themselves. 

Ford doesn’t plan on tailoring powertrains for select markets moving forward, meaning America’s propensity for more power won’t mean a whole lot. Pericak claimed the company’s research shows quarter-mile times may not be the most important factor at buying time, and says to expect the industry to focus on offering performance experiences rather than sky-high specs.

We’re inclined to agree. It’s exceptionally difficult to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment from a car that’s trying to compete with a Saturn V rocket in terms of peak output (on the street); meanwhile, there’s a real lack of affordable performance models prioritizing low-speed thrills on the market. Yet eliminating vehicles like that from the lineup will probably discourage a subset of buyers who like big engines and burnt rubber.

From CNET:

Say a performance vehicle will run the quarter mile in 11 seconds. That may be fine and dandy to a younger buyer, “But what are they going to feel? What are they going to experience? How are they going to engage with the vehicle in a way they can feel the acceleration and power?” Those are the questions that surround next-generation performance cars for Ford.

“It doesn’t mean we still won’t make the car go like a bat out of hell,” Pericak added, “But maybe (0-to-60 mph times) aren’t the way we talk about it.”

According to Pericak, Ford hasn’t really decided exactly how this theory will manifest in future products. It sounds like he’s trying to soften the blow as displacement sizes continue to shrink in adherence with rigorous environmental standards. Appearance packages marketed as performance upgrades may also become more prevalent. However, don’t expect every model to start arriving as a three-cylinder with a bodykit.

Pericak said Ford won’t bin the Mustang or neuter it in a bid to be greener. The manufacturer just doesn’t see itself trying to customize global models to regional tastes anymore.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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42 Comments on “Ford: Future Performance Less About Numbers, More a State of Mind...”


  • avatar
    SPPPP

    Ford doesn’t make cars anymore*, so they’ve pretty much decided to be irrelevant to performance car enthusiasts.

    *Except the Mustang**

    **Which is still a car “for now”***

    ***Except when it’s an SUV

  • avatar
    jack4x

    This kind of talk would mean a lot more if they hadn’t just done things like drop the 6 speed from the GT500.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      625 lb-ft of torque is generally where you start getting nervous about the strength of a single-countershaft manual transmission. ~700 lb-ft of input torque is about the practical limit. I know the Challenger Hellcat can be had with a manual, but I’d wager FCA is just more willing to take that risk. But there’s a reason the HO Hellcat and Demon are/were automatic only. I doubt too many people considering plunking down for a GT500 really cares that it doesn’t have a manual, and they figured it wasn’t worth the cost to validate and certify one for such a small number of vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        GM must have been just as nonchalant then to offer the Tremec behind the LT4 (650 lb-ft) and the LT5 (715 lb-ft).

        Still seems abrupt to go from manual exclusive on the 2007-14 to manual unavailable on the 2020. Not to mention manual exclusive on every other Shelby/ST/SVT vehicle up til 2020 except Raptor. And if they’re going to abandon that mindset, then stop giving BS quotes like this:

        “But what are they going to feel? What are they going to experience? How are they going to engage with the vehicle in a way they can feel the acceleration and power?”

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “Still seems abrupt to go from manual exclusive on the 2007-14 to manual unavailable on the 2020.”

          That’s what I think is kind of weird. From 2007-2019 many American performance cars were manual *only*, especially from Ford. Now the GT500 and Corvette are going automatic only. So what happened? Were automakers mis-reading the market the past few years? And, if that’s is the case, how about a 10A or DCT on the GT350 for the dirty automatic driving scum of the world ?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I’d wager it’s more than one thing:

            1) autos give better performance numbers
            2) autos (with more gears) bump fuel economy up
            3) as power levels have skyrocketed, autos have been better able to handle it
            4) they’re not going to lose any sales due to lack of a manual
            5) they can certify one powertrain configuration instead of two

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            “Were automakers misreading the market the past few years?”

            In some cases, I think so. I strongly believe there would be a 6th gen Viper right now if the 5th gen had offered the ZF8 or a DCT.

            On the other hand, in 2007 European exotics all offered manuals, now none do except Porsche and Aston Martin, both on a very limited basis. So the market is changing and it’s ultimately not surprising that Ford went this route, but I did think there would be one generation where both auto and manual were offered ala Z06, and I didn’t think there would be so much talk about experience and feel and downplaying acceleration times without a stick in their most powerful model.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            well even in race cars manual transmissions are rare, except for NASCAR. Indy and F1 both use semi-automatic gearboxes which handle almost everything other than the driver commanding shifts via paddles.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t trust Ford to get there from here, but it would be wonderful if people stopped caring about numbers in performance cars. They’re all way more than fast enough; in fact, most of them are too fast, because you can’t explore the envelope anywhere but a track without threatening lives and committing felonies.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      dal>>>>

      Yeah. You are right. I d love me some Challenger 392 (they can be had on the cheap ! ) but all roads are PLUGGED. You can barely use your cruise control. Speed up. Slow down. Get cut off. and so forth.

      I just drove from Lynchburg TN to Atlanta. Cruise could only be used about 1/2 the miles. TRAFFIC. Middle of the day. On a WED. in the middle of winter.

      One can only use the power on a closed circuit.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        You live in crazy world if you can’t use the 392s power daily. Everytime I drive my SS it stretches out every last Horse many times. Using an oddly specific case, where a 392 would still perform well in, does not negate the need for these types of vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I used to own a G8 GXP, nearly identical powertrain to your SS. I sold it because I almost never got to use its potential, so I was just stuck with its weaknesses.

          Most of my driving time is on city streets with speed limits between 20 and 30 mph and a high volume of cyclists and pedestrians. The rest is on traffic-clogged 45 to 60 mph freeways. A few times a year, I get out of the metro area and can actually exceed 65 mph.

          My primary car is now a Highlander Hybrid, and its gas engine rarely exceeds 2500 rpm.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “Most of my driving time is on city streets with speed limits between 20 and 30 mph and a high volume of cyclists and pedestrians.”

            Well, that would certainly be a problem. Fortunately for me, I live in a much lower density area with higher speed limits and there is an NHRA track close by.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            Paradoxically power is more meaningful to me in traffic than out of it. The slowest economy cars can coast along unobtrusively when there’s nobody in your way. It’s the constant stops and adjustments to the traffic around you that make you use the throttle enough to expose its flaws.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    If performance is just a state of mind then will we get the Mustang Cobra II back?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Well I as a paying customer will start paying Ford in magical unicorn horn based fairy dust and rainbows, if their products are more about a state of mind instead of selling me the best product for my money.

    I don’t give a rat about appeasing the EPA, either sell me a product that meets my needs or they can keep it.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    Total BS. Performance is never a state of mind thing – otherwise fools in Honduh Fits would rule the world in performance.

    I am so glad I divorced myself from Ford after owning their products for nearly 40 years. I own a Hyundai now (wonderful vehicle) and they get it about performance and are expanding their availability of performance products. And if I wanted something that gave me performance with room, I could get a Kia Stinger. Or I could get a Genesis version of the same.

    Goodbye, Ford. You are clueless. But you are truly out standing in their field.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “But what are they going to feel? What are they going to experience?”

    Millennials want a nice eco-story with everything the think and do.

    Millennials don’t want quench their thirst with a sip from a drinking fountain, they want to “Crush their dehydration with pure mineral water from an Alpine spring.” They don’t want a salad, they want “Sustainably grown organic arugula and kale greens dressed in Tuscan vinaigrette with fair-trade extra virgin olive oil.”

    As such, pitch performance cars as “Collection of Environmentally-conscious technologies produced using sustainably sourced materials from developing nations, and assembled by a unionized, LGBTQxyz-affirming, pronoun-correct workforce.”

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This guy must have been hanging around HACKett too much because hes talking stupid.

    Your company was building one of the most universally loved and praised performance cars on the planet…which got 28MPG combined and had a 0-60 time slightly faster than a stock V8 Grand Cherokee.

    But you didn’t see the need to continue building the Fiesta ST did you?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Rare you and I agree, but yeah, that last bit has lost them a sale when my 18′ ST’s lease is up most likely. Then again, much as I love it the thing that got me in the showroom in the first place was the 5 grand on the hood…that was fullsized truck incentive money on a 21k car. I’d have paid full price for it though and perhaps some others would have too had they not trashed the nameplate with all of the powershift nonsense. Ah well, theyll get me for a new F series every decade or so and loose the lease of the fun car every couple of years. No, I don’t want a Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      “But you didn’t see the need to continue building the Fiesta ST did you?”

      LOL. Yeah they stopped selling a high volume car that made big profits…..oh that’s right, they responded to market changes where few people were buying a tiny car they made very little profit on.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Obviously you don’t get it.

        The Fiesta never saw substantial updates and had an advertising budget of about $12.50. And it had the DPS6.

        If Ford can justify the Mustang (and it’s low volume), then they can justify the Fiesta ST. Killing the Fiesta was Ford responding to their own incompetence.

  • avatar
    dwford

    “Performance as a state of mind” doesn’t sell. Point proven by the dead Fiesta ST, the terrible sales numbers of the BRZ/86, and the variety of warm hatchbacks whose body kits write checks their engines can’t cash. The only “performance as a state of mind” car that is reasonably successful is the Miata.

    This guy is basically telling us that we are getting wildly overstyled EVs with fake engine noises. Zoom zoom.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I have yet to experience any downside to having a fast vehicle. Being overpowered at all times gives a complete feeling of luxury for me. I think that is why Roll-Royces come with a “power reserve” gauge.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      X1,000,000

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I would not say the downside is the “fast” part but models that emphasize performance often compromise things elsewhere. I love driving my C7 for fun, errands, and the like but if I had to commute for 2 hours a night in it, I would sour on it pretty quickly. That would be the perfect example of all the negatives. Can’t use the power, don’t get to build Gs in the curves, dealing with a firm ride, a tight interior, 17 MPG…yet on the open road all those things go away…

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Those are the downsides to owning a “sport” car though. Something like a Mercedes S560 is still quite fast and also supremely comfortable if that’s your desire. And, if you don’t want to use petroleum fuel for one reason or another the current EV crop has you covered.

        I guess a downside to a fast car is cost. But if you have the money, might as well do it.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Got a 17 year old on your insurance? That was the chief downside I noticed.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I drive a rather low-tier “performance” car – all screaming 3.7L V6 of Mustang 6-speed manual fury ;)

    Sure I can do 0-60 in the low 5s (tricky with 235 tires and RWD), which is pretty rare when I can actually have the space to do that. But for daily max 45mph roads it is fun to shift, wring all I can out of the engine… and the throw it in a high gear to cruise.

    I’ve been tempted by more power! A supercharger, suspension mods… or heck, just buy a V8 Mustang or a EV. But so far I’m pretty happy with my slow V6.

    And it is funny to see how much performance has changed over the years. In the 80s/90s, my V6 Mustang would have been considered wicked fast. Now it’s just middling.

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