By on December 6, 2019

2017 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback, Image: Ford

In July, we covered a scathing report that criticized Ford Motor Co’s usage of the DSP6 dual-clutch transmission found in the third-gen Focus and sixth-gen Fiesta. The hardware was surrounded by controversy, with company insiders highly critical of its implementation. Claims arose that the unit wasn’t performing as intended throughout its development, with corporate lawyers expressing serious doubts as to whether DTC technologies (which were relatively new at the time) were the automaker’s best choice.

Hindsight seems to have proven them right. The PowerShift DSP6 turned out to be a turd the company polished to the best of its ability and then put on sale, leading to more headaches. Officially, the manufacturer has said the vehicles were safe when introduced and have remained so. Still, Ford is well aware of the tranny’s issues; since the problems came to light, the automaker has extended warranties and encouraged service centers to repair their problematic transmissions.

While a kind gesture, some remain concerned that Ford appears to be sweeping the whole issue under the rug. Customers are angry, claiming the automaker should have never put the unit into production — a move that resulted in civil litigation. But that doesn’t appear to have ever been a real possibility. Those who tried to stop the DSP6 claim they were doomed to failure from the start.  (Read More…)

By on December 5, 2019

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Despite the average transaction price of your typical automobile climbing higher than ever before, there’s a lot of disagreement as to whether this actually amounts to more spending once inflation has been taken into account. Studies frequently show inflation-adjusted valuations climbing gradually over the years, resulting in MSRPs a few grand higher than what you might have spent in decades prior. Still, newer vehicles tend to have a much greater level of content and the ability to outlast something from 1970, helping to rationalize the difference. Data taken from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) actually suggests the average expenditure per vehicle actually peaked in the late 1990s before creeping back down.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing reports about the average transaction price of passenger vehicles settling above $37,000 for 2019. Cross referenced against the BEA data, that’s about $5,000 dearer than in 1999 — once you’ve shifted everything to present-day dollars. Blame people’s inability to say “no” to options, crossover popularity, or anything else you want. It won’t change the problem, especially as the wealth gap continues to widen between the haves and have nots.

Automakers know that sales are stagnating and Ford CEO Jim Hackett thinks he’s come up with a solution — and it’s a familiar one. It’s decontenting time.  (Read More…)

By on November 26, 2019

2019 Ford Ranger at MAP - Image: Ford

Ford announced Monday that it will recall 72,718 Ranger pickups over taillight malfunctions. This one is pretty cut and dried, without the mystique that make most recall notices so appealing. There’s no fire risk, no chance of the vehicle veering wildly out of control, and no reported accidents stemming from the issue.

Barring some inattentive motorist slamming into your backside, not realizing you were attempting to stop, the range of hypothetical dangers are pretty limited. Basically, someone forgot to crimp and plug the applicable terminals at the factory and Ford needs to give these 2019MY Rangers another look — something it seems to be doing rather often.  (Read More…)

By on November 26, 2019

As part of Tesla Motors’ debut of Cybertruck, CEO Elon Musk showed a clip in which the EV pickup yanks a Ford F-150 uphill against its will. The Blue Oval is also building an all-electric pickup, in addition to already manufacturing the best-selling truck model in history. Clearly, Tesla clearly wanted to place both on notice, though the video only provides evidence that Cybertruck can tug a rear-drive F-Series uphill in a video Tesla produced to show exactly that outcome.

Media outlets began musing if this was really a fair fight, apparently forgetting how advertising works, while science celeb Neil deGrasse Tyson offered a public physics lessons. “We all love Torque. But high Torque just spins a tire in place if there’s not enough weight to provide traction,” he said in response to the video. “Fully load the F150, giving highest traction to its rear wheels, then try to drag that up the hill. I otherwise agree: Load both to the max and the highest torque wins.”

Mr. Tyson’s new role as a Ford Truck Man remains unconfirmed, but the more likely scenario is that he’s simply trying to make sure the test is at least mildly scientific. Ford agreed, saying a fair test between brands was just what the doctor ordered.  (Read More…)

By on November 22, 2019

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Shelby has been synonymous with the Mustang since Ford started manufacturing the GT350 in 1965 — cementing the model’s role as a certified performance machine. While Shelby Mustangs haven’t been available every year, Ford has lately been careful to include them in the lineup (if you haven’t noticed, there’s a horsepower war raging between domestic manufacturers, and the 760-hp Shelby GT500 is one of the main combatants).

But what happens as automakers transition into electrification? With a greener mindset spurring the change, these companies don’t seriously intend on delivering unnecessary high-performance models — do they?

You bet your ass they are. We’re already seeing them entering production, and Ford is now tentatively planning a Shelby variant of its all-electric Mach-E. Given its transition from “Mustang inspired” to “part of the Mustang family,” it’s now fair game. (Read More…)

By on November 19, 2019

Back before we had standards and practices barring tainted food from store shelves, there was a colossal stretch of history when you could buy discounted meat that was well past its best-buy date. The older the cheaper.

These days, those kinds of discounts really only apply to inedible items — like cars. But you don’t have to suffer any of the ramifications of eating thrice-cooked, spoiled meats when you get a car that the manufacturer decides is no longer fit for human consumption. (Read More…)

By on November 14, 2019

Image: GM

A new report from Edmunds tries to make a case against Ford and General Motors placing their small- and medium-sized cars on an iceberg and setting it adrift. We don’t even need to see the metrics to agree. Ditching cars for higher-margin crossovers and SUVs always seemed a little short-sighted. Without entry-level models, you’re likely to get fewer entry-level (i.e. new) customers, and several of the models axed from North American lineups happened to be the most enjoyable to drive.

Selfishly, we like to see plenty of variety among mainstream brands.

Edmunds’ concern isn’t so much about Ford and GM losing money; rather, it’s more about the automakers setting themselves up for failure further down the line. The analysis revealed that 42 percent of Cruze and Focus owners are choosing to stay in the passenger car segment, rather than spending a little (or lot) more to purchase crossovers and SUVs. Meanwhile, 23 percent of Cruze owners and 31 percent of Focus owners who traded in their car in 2019 ended up buying something similar from a competing automaker(Read More…)

By on October 30, 2019

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The days of owning an automobile that’s not perpetually connected to various digital networks are quickly coming to a close. On Wednesday, Ford announced most of its redesigned vehicles in the U.S. with have over-the-air update capability after 2020. The automaker is framing this as a way to “repair” your vehicle at home and offer new features after a model has already been purchased.

“Nobody wants to feel like they’re missing out on great features right after spending their hard-earned money on a new vehicle — that’s where our over-the-air updates can help,” said Don Butler, executive director of Ford’s connected services. “We can now help improve your vehicle’s capability, quality and overall driving experience while you’re sleeping.”

While the prospects of giving auto manufacturers remote access to your car are vast, it’s also a double-edged sword. Over-the-air updates would undoubtedly save you a trip to the service center in the event of a code-based recall but it also opens vehicle’s up to privacy concerns and gives automakers new avenues for business.  (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2019

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Ford has filed a trademark application to register “Black Diamond” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. General Motors previously manufactured models using the name to denote limited edition models, such as the CTS-V Black Diamond Edition, which incorporated an especially sparkly paint color.

While the same could be true for Ford, there’s another possibility. The term is frequently used to denote a particularly rough patch of mountain trail or extreme ski run. The Blue Oval could adapt it for use on specialty off-road vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2019

Ads for the 2020 Lincoln Aviator are scheduled to drop this Saturday, but those of us with internet access got to see them a day early. Lincoln’s “Fresh Take” campaign is a bit of a misnomer, however, because the person who’s chiming in on the new model is Matthew McConaughey.

Ford has used the Oscar-winning actor to showcase its premium products for years now, and this writer is not ashamed to say that he’s grown to love them. While not particularly substantive, they’re difficult to look away from. McConaughey muses about the vehicle in a calm, dreamlike haze. Occasionally looking into the rearview mirror before casually reapplying his attention to the always clear road ahead, he’s presumably talking to himself — but it’s really for our benefit.

And that’s why I’m so fond of them. In my mind, McConaughey is a polished lunatic — not quite a Patrick Bateman, but definitely unhinged. And it translates into comedy gold. Yet another viewer might see the ad and think, “Boy he’s handsome and calm — it’s like nothing is ever going to go wrong inside that car.” (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2019

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe into four automakers that formed a pact with California to compromise on tailpipe emissions, effectively circumventing federal regulators, last July.

Over the summer, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group announced a joint agreement with the California Air Resources Board to adhere to fueling standards slightly lower than Obama-era rules but still significantly higher than the Trump administration’s proposal from 2018. The Justice Department is seeking to determine whether or not that qualifies as a violation of federal competition laws. (Read More…)

By on September 4, 2019

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My father has historically been a Ford man. Despite numerous forays into Chevrolet, Chrysler, Volkswagen and Toyota, he has always returned to the Blue Oval when the time came to purchase a keeper. Other nameplates came and went, receiving slightly less attention, but there was always at least one well-maintained Ford in the garage. As a result, I became familiar with dealerships using the suffix “Ford Lincoln Mercury” at a very young age.

For me, it was an opportunity to ogle the fancier sedans my father claimed didn’t make financial sense. “It’s the same car,” he would always say. “This one just costs more.”

When you’re eight and have nothing to distract yourself with other than the swizzle sticks you stole from the coffee area, fatherly advice has a way of sinking in. I’ve often wondered why automakers would even dare place their premium offerings so close to their less-expensive models. But times have changed.  (Read More…)

By on August 23, 2019

The United Automobile Workers are tallying strike votes as union leadership decides which contract terms are worth fighting over. While this is par for the course in any contract negotiation with General Motors, Ford, or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, this year’s talks have been mired in scandal and economic uncertainty.

Despite the continued strength of the U.S. economy, the automotive industry has been busily preparing itself for a global recession — encouraging quite a bit of restructuring over the past year. Meanwhile, the UAW finds itself the subject of a federal corruption probe that has severely undermined its credibility. We know that at least one automaker, Fiat Chrysler, was actively bribing union officials. Following the recent conviction of the former head of the union’s FCA Department, Norwood Jewell, General Motors has also been implicated(Read More…)

By on August 21, 2019

This week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Ford CEO Jim Hackett were among 181 corporate executives claiming their companies need to do more than just deliver value to shareholders. If you just blacked out, we’ll reiterate — chief executives around the country are suggesting businesses need to do more than pad their share price.

We’re wondering why the sudden change of heart.  (Read More…)

By on August 19, 2019

Ford may be phasing out the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans in the near future, that doesn’t mean you won’t see some the next time you’re visiting the dealership. Last week, the company announced a recall of 103,374 vehicles in the United States, 4,002 in Canada and 1,023 in Mexico due to bunk seatbelt anchor pretensioners.

According to the notice, increased temperatures generated during deployment of the driver or front-passenger pretensioner could degrade the tensile strength of the cable below the level needed to effectively restrain an occupant. (Read More…)

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