The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced the winners of its 2009 Top Safety Picks. There are 72 winners in 2009; more than double in 2008 and more than 3 times as many as in 2007. Some key factors leading to winning results are better structure to protect from side impacts and increased application of electronic stability control which helps maintain control and minimize rollovers. Additionally, improved headrests are doing a better job protecting against whiplash.
IIHS works for auto insurers and publishes the results of its Top Safety Picks to help consumers select the safest cars and light trucks when they are in the market. AutoPacific’s research shows that safety features and feeling safe while driving are very important when a person selects their vehicle.
Ford Wins 16 Top Safety Picks – almost 25% of Those Awarded
A major result of the 2009 Top Picks was that Ford Motor Company (including Volvo) had 16 of the 72 Top Picks. Several years ago, after Ford acquired Volvo, Ford began adopting Volvo safety strategies in its designs. Several Ford vehicles are derived from the Volvo S80 platform – Lincoln MKS, Ford Taurus, Ford Taurus X, Mercury Sable, Ford Flex, Volvo S80. Using Volvo’s vaunted SIPS (Side Impact Protection System), Ford has been able to make its larger vehicles able to withstand significant blows from the side.
The Ford Fusion with ESC and Mercury Milan with ESC, Lincoln MKZ, Volvo C70, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Volvo XC90, Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, Ford F-150 also won IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2009.
Honda Comes In Second – Close Behind Ford
Coming in close behind Ford Motor Company products was another company that set an objective to become a safety leader several years ago. American Honda has Top Safety Picks for Acura RL, Acura TL, Acura TSX, Acura MDX, Acura RDX, Honda Accord 4-doors, Honda Civic 4-doors with ESC, Honda Fit, Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, Honda CRV, Honda Element and Honda Ridgeline. The Honda Fit is the first Economy (Mini) Car to achieve an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
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The IIHS Press Release Is shown below the fold.
And turn that radio down!
Today’s teens have grown up in a world of fluid and ever-expanding technology, with their parents using everything from V-chips to internet blockers to teddy-bear babysitting cams to GPS trackers to keep better track of them. For many, it is simply part of their world. Parents and kids have the same trust issues to sort through, just the same as when I was a kid and didn’t think my mom had any right to go through MY dresser, but parents have more direct tools at their disposal now.
Add one more to the arsenal. Ford is introducing the latest electronic nanny next year (2010MY) across several model lines, including the Focus. The system will be a no-cost option or standard equipment, depending on model. It turns out to be an inexpensive way to help teens stay focused in early driving years, when they are the least experienced, and for parents to feel better about teens driving.
On August 3, I finally returned to one of my favorite summer events, the annual Meadow Brook Concours d’ Elegance. Held the first weekend of August every year since 1979, this Concours is one of the premier events of its type. Not quite as prestigious as the Pebble Beach Concours happening the weekend of August 16 (yes, the same weekend as Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise), Meadow Brook has earned a strong reputation. For me, it’s simply a chance to wander among cars from storied brands of today and yesterday. Delahaye, Packard, Auburn, Duesenburg, Pierce-Arrow, Studebaker, Peugeot, Ferrari, Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler, Rolls-Royce, the list goes on and on.
As you enter the Concours d’Elegance, the show starts.
Meadow Brook is home to a mansion of the same name built by the widow of John Dodge, one of the two Dodge brothers that helped establish the automotive industry we know today. The home and its property now belongs to Oakland University. Aside from the sheer joy and pleasure of celebrating the automobile as an art from, the event’s purpose is to raise funds for upkeep of the 88,000-square-foot mansion and its grounds. Seems a fitting choice of fundraising event.
An iconic SUV since it hit the market in 1998, the Lincoln Navigator proves itself once again as it wins the 2008 Ideal Vehicle Award in the Luxury Sport Utility segment with room to spare. The Navigator scored well in all fifteen categories. From exterior size, passenger room and cargo space to unparalleled ride, safety and wheels and tires, the Lincoln Navigator still satisfies its owners.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice just drove the all new Lincoln MKS in Washington DC and rural Virginia. We were the third of three waves of journalists and analysts to evaluate the MKS, but our wave had the added advantage of driving through a microburst of wind, thunder and lightning that tested the car’s systems from its all wheel drive, rain-sensing windshield wipers and latest generation SIRIUS Travel Link system. So the first two waves drove the cars in perfect weather and we got the best of it – a challenge.
New Lincoln Design Cues Begin Appearing on MKS
Competes With Executive Luxury Products
The Lincoln MKS is a contemporary luxury car positioned against the Cadillac STS V6 and Lexus GS350. Other competitors Lincoln identifies are the Acura RL, Infiniti M35, and up-level Cadillac CTS. There was even mention of Nissan Maxima and Hyundai Genesis. The MKS is actually longer than the BMW 750Li and competes well in interior spaciousness even with the long wheelbase competition (BMW 750Li and Lexus LS460 L). Lincoln won’t have to apologize for the car being a “little Lincoln”… it is full sized.
Against its STS and GS competition, Lincoln has a good value story being base-priced thousands less and including gobs of standard equipment. In fact, loading up an MKS to the specs I would personally choose yields a price point of about $43,000 for the AWD version.
Styling is not particularly head-turning, but Ford’s stylists were able to push the design envelope a bit further than when the MKS was first seen at auto shows about 18-months ago. Since then, Ford Design has developed a palette of Lincoln DNA design cues that were rushed into production on the MKS. The result is an MKS style that incorporates Lincoln’s new bow wave grille, simple bodyside sculpturing and a kickup over the rear wheels in the rear quarter panel. There is a large Lincoln star placed on the rear surface of the front fender – a cue we will be seeing on future Lincolns. The rear end has LED taillamps distinguished by hockeystick shaped backup lamps on the inboard surface. A cue we particularly like – borrowed from the BMW 750Li and Infiniti M are the fore-to-aft bright inserts in the roof panel. Nice touch. The MKS can be had with large 20-inch tires and wheels that really fill the wheel openings but don’t deteriorate ride quality.
Receiving top marks in the Large Light-Duty Pickup Segment, the Cadillac
Escalade EXT brings home a 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Award. While owners would like better Fuel Economy, EXT scored very well in Power & Acceleration, Ride, Reputation and Exterior Styling.
Mark LT owners are happy with Lincoln
’s luxury interpretation of the Ford F-150. Mark LT owners appreciate the vehicle’s blend of utility and style. Top ranking was secured with a Comfortable Ride, great Driver Visibility and a Feeling of Safety When Driving.
Best of Show
You always go to an autoshow with the hope that there will be a truly outstanding example there. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific’s eight staffers at the 2008 North American International Auto Show were extremely impressed with the Lincoln MKT concept vehicle.
A vehicle we will call a Crossover SUV, the MKT is in many ways similar to General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs and especially the Buick Enclave. The thing that makes MKT special is its exterior styling which uses all six Lincoln design cues
(although they say seven at the show, Peter Horbury, Ford’s head designer in North America says he only really uses six) which are critical to the definition of a Lincoln design. Wow, this thing is beautiful. From the bow wave grille to the relatively fast rear end treatment, MKT comes across as a premium, substantial vehicle worthy of carrying the Lincoln badge.
Not only is the exterior stunning, the interior carries on new Lincoln cues which are very upscale, contemporary and modern. A four passenger concept with no pretense at transporting seven passengers, the MKT is decked out like a luxury business jet.
Only Thing Wrong… The Name
A few years back, Ford made the unfortunate error of renaming Lincoln vehicles with alphanumeric names – MKZ (Zephyr), MKX (Aviator), MKS (Continental), and now MKT. Another great concept is the MKR flagship sedan. Better with a real name. Only the Navigator and Town Car have not succumbed to this folly. I guess MKT means Lincoln “Truck”. No, it’s really “Touring”… guess that fits better. Well, MKT certainly ain’t no truck. It’s really special and deserves better… a name.
[Even Mark Fields, Ford’s President of North American Operations, botched up the name of the MKS when he introduced it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He first said “MKX”. If Ford’s biggies can’t keep ’em straight, think about salespeople at Lincoln dealerships and prospective buyers].
2009 Ford Flex Crossover SUV is Base for MKT
Based on Ford Flex (Ford Crossover SUV to be launched in mid-2008) underpinnings, MKT is powered by Ford’s 3.5L Twin Turbo GDI EcoBoost V6. This should give it enough punch to qualify as a high performance Crossover. In the MKT the 3.5L V6 has 415-horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque.
Only A Concept – Get them to Build It
In discussions with Ford design management, there was no confirmation that the MKT – codenamed D472 – has been approved for production. In fact, the designers contend that the MKT design has not even been proven feasible. The front fenders and rear quarters have a very crisp blade on the upper surface that would be practically impossible to stamp out of metal. MKT uses plastic to get around that particular problem.
In any event, write, email, telephone Ford to convince them to produce the MKT. If they give the vehicle the go ahead, we could expect to see it in 2010 as a 2011 model year vehicle.
Ford’s press release on the Lincoln MKT Concept is below the fold.
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In past discussions with Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s product development czar, he has stressed that Ford would be making their cars and trucks much more efficient by reducing their weight and using higher technology engines. One of the first examples of that strategy was when Ford dropped the V8 engine from the powertrain plan for the upcoming Lincoln MKS sedan and will use a twin turbo V6 as its high performance powerplant.
While we can’t fathom a Lincoln flagship without a V8, the proof is in how it drives and what the durability and reliability of a turbo powertrain turns out to be. In AutoPacific and VehicleVoice Internet research car buyers generally opt for displacement (larger) and less engine technology (non-turbo, for instance). The old adage that “there is no replacement for displacement” generally holds true. But we can’t ignore the issues of Global Warming (if it exists) or higher gas prices or impending CAFE rules that force new technology.
Ford has laid out its powertrain philosophy in an early January press release shown below the fold…
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On Monday, November 6 Ford gave Detroit-area journalists a glimpse of the 2009 Lincoln MKS Mid-Luxury Car. We had reviewed the concept of the MKS previously in VehicleVoice and found the car lacking. In its first incarnation, the MKS came across as a JapoEuro design exercise without much American flair. It was bigger than it looked and that is not necessarily a good thing. Given the somewhat lukewarm reception that the MKS concept received, especially in light of the very positive reception of the MKR Concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, Ford’s product development team went to work on upgrading the MKS in subtle ways.
Production MKS Execution Now Has Presence
The production MKS now has the presence and ambiance that it should have had all along. The former blandonymous grille has been replaced by Lincoln’s new double wing face grille. There is a Lincoln logo mounted in the space between the grille wings. Character lines are crisper. The taillights are reminiscent of Maserati European taillights of a few years ago… with backup lights mimicking the boomerang effect of the Maserati pieces.
The interior is very upscale and continues Lincoln’s interior themes first seen on the Navigator, MKX and MKZ. Ergonomics appear to be excellent, but this is characteristic of Ford’s large entries produced at their Chicago Assembly Plant (Taurus/Five Hundred, Taurus X/Freestyle, Sable/Montego).
But… a “Flagship” It’s Not – Four Reasons
Ford describes the MKS as its “Flagship”. While it will be its newest passenger car entry, the venerable Town Car is Lincoln’s Flagship until Ford simply cannot justify continuing the Panther lineup (Crown Victoria – now fleet only, Grand Marquis, Town Car) produced at Ford’s St. Thomas, Ontario assembly plant. But, with such a high percentage of Town Car sales to the fleet and executive car business, maybe Ford is not counting Town Car any more.
Another reason we don’t buy into MKS as a flagship is the MKR concept shown at last year’s Detroit show. A wow piece if ever there was one, the MKR showcased all of the Lincoln design cues in one place. A stunning piece of work! Now, if they would produce the MKR on a RWD V8 platform, I’d buy it.
The MKS is V6 only. In the beginning, the MKS program included the 4.4L V8 found in the Volvo XC90 and S80. This Yamaha-built unit is terrifically expensive and I guess Ford decided not to pony up to add it to the MKS. Mistake.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific have conducted several research projects on what makes an ideal $50,000 luxury car and the evidence is very clear that a V8 engine in the lineup is the price of entry for a car in this class. The V8 does not have to be standard, but it needs to be offered. Sure it may be a low installation rate – especially with $3.00 per gallon gasoline, but the image halo of a V8 is indisputable. Having a twin turbo direct injection V6 gives MKS some performance panache, but there is no replacement for numbers of cylinders and displacement.
You will be able to get into a base MKS for less than $38,000. This is not flagship pricing. Clearly, Ford is leaving room at the top of the heap for a premium priced flagship with the specifications necessary to really command price points over $50,000.
Let’s not forget Reason Five
: Nomenclature. Hopefully, once Jim Farley gets his feet on the ground he will review Lincoln’s present nomenclature plan and scrap it. Not clean or easy, but having Lincoln’s with alphanumeric nomenclature is folly. Go back to names!
Ford’s press release for the MKS is shown below the fold.
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The timeless Mercury Grand Marquis is the Ideal Large Luxury Car for 2007. Grand Marquis scored particularly well in its segment for cargo space and ease of getting in and out. These are attributes that are extremely important to its buyers. There was no area where Grand Marquis was rated significantly lower than the segment average.