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Ford Hints at Future Features


AutoPaciific’s Future Attributes Demand Study – An Industry Blble
One of AutoPacific’s specialties is Future Attribute Demand. Each year, AutoPacific surveys thousands of new car and truck buyers to determine what features they want on their next vehicle. AutoPacific then publishes a report called the Future Attribute Demand Study (FADS). FADS is used by the industry to help guide their decisions in which features to offer on their upcoming cars and trucks.
In addition to FADS, automakers also conduct their own research and use this information to determine where their design and engineering resources for advanced features should be expended.
Ford Features Cadence Will Bring Needed New Technologies to Ford’s Products
Ford has given us a glimpse of the cadence of future features that American car buyers can expect to see from the Company in the coming years. In Ford’s case, they conducted the research and have been closely evaluating what their competition is doing. Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s new head of worldwide product development, states that, “Ford will offer a new feature when it appears that two of our major competitors have offered or appear to be ready to offer it.”
In the past Ford has hesitated, often too long, in introducing new features that consumers want. When their internal analysis determined that a new feature might not achieve immediate acceptance and result in incremental sales volume, the Company hesitated. Now, that will change. Competitors, in addition to internal studies, will help guide Ford’s features.
So, what new features can we expect from the Dearborn car company?
First, their research shows a strong demand for capless fuel filling. Beginning in 2008, some Ford cars will begin offering capless fuel filling. In this system, behind the fuel filler door is a system that allows the fuel filler nozzle to be inserted without unscrewing a cap.
Ford also will be offering audio systems from Sony and THX surround sound audio on Lincolns. Ford is teaming up with Microsoft in a broadbased vehicle communications, information and entertainment system that will finally give Ford vehicles Bluetooth capability. Up to now, Bluetooth has been an accessory at the Blue Oval.
Lighting is also getting attention. Ford will begin to use interior ambient lighting for things like door handles and cupholders. Even door sill scuff plates on some vehicles will be lighted.
A really cool feature is light through paint. Using this technology rear high mounted brake lights can look like they are bodycolor. Ford’s signature keyless entry system buttons can be muted using bodycolor light through paint.
On the safety side, Ford will begin offering some technologies that has been available elsewhere for some time now: blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation systems.
Will Ford’s Fast Follower Strategy be Fast Enough?
It appears that Ford’s strategy is to be a “fast follower” in technology and not a technology leader. This is OK, as long as they follow fast enough. Having Fords without Bluetooth, iPod integration, playlist management, adaptive cruise, etc puts them well behind their competition. In today’s rapidly moving world, this is competitively unacceptable.

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Will you Bluetooth in 2007?

Many technologies that apply to the cars and trucks we drive originate from auto racing – seat belts, rear view mirrors, and so on. One technology that has huge implications for every car, truck, SUV and Crossover doesn’t come from the world of motorsport. It comes from the tech sector. It’s called Bluetooth and for anyone who hasn’t learned about it, now is the time.
Bluetooth originated as a wireless method of syncing personal computers with other devices, such as a hand-held PDA or a printer. Its early uses were not all that successful. Toshiba put tremendous effort into Bluetooth in the late 1990s, but never utilized it in a manner that drew public acceptance.


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LA Auto Show – Honda FCX Concept


Since the late 1980s, Honda has been evaluating, exploring, and testing fuel cell solutions. The 1999 FCX-V2 and 2001 FCX-V3 prototypes began testing on public roads and in everyday driving conditions. In December 2002, the City of Los Angeles was the first to lease a fuel cell vehicle, in the form of the 2003 FCX, followed by San Francisco and testing in the state of New York. In 2005 the first FCX was leased to a family. Further driving hydrogen expansion in California is the government initiative for installing hydrogen stations around the state’s highway system, known as California’s Hydrogen Highway.


At the L.A. Auto Show in November, Honda introduced the next step in their fuel cell, hydrogen-powered vehicle development. The FCX Concept is a four-door sedan and previews the car that will be on sale in 2008 (2009MY), albeit with a limited roll out. The FCX takes Honda’s traditional look and rachets it up at notch. Aside from the cutting edge propulsion system, the sedan just looks great.

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VW Axes Traditional Car Ads for New Media


Volkswagen NA has turned another corner in its quest to turn traditional marketing programs upside down. Following up on its successful FAST campaign, VW has upped the ante with a new multimedia program called “VDUBSROCK.” While it’s too early to know if the program will be a success, there’s no doubt it is establishing the importance of community marketing and new media in the sales process.


Buy a Guitar, Get a Car… Reminiscent of Buy a Bike, Get a Jetta – Jetta Trek
The VW program promotes an unusual opportunity. Purchase one of four VW models (GTI, New Beetle, Jetta, and Rabbit), and get a new guitar – and not just any guitar, either. The First Act Garage Master guitar includes a built-in pre-amp, so you can plug the axe into your new car and literally play along with music in the car.

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CG Tech Renders Autos Obsolete


Television commercials are designed to grab our attention – to motivate us to take some action, based on the emotion created. As such, national TV spots are often expensive (as in millions of dollars for a 30 second spot), and in some cases risky, too. Thanks to some new automotive technology, at least one part of the formula is about to change.


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New Hydrogen 7 BMW Introduced


Even thought the cost of oil is dipping a bit this month, the overall outlook for fuel prices does not alter the issues of oil dependency. German automaker BMW has taken a significant step at reducing its product requirements for fossil fuel.


The new BMW Hydrogen 7, is the world’s first hydrogen-drive luxury performance automobile for daily use. According to BMW, the new car is equipped with an internal combustion engine capable of running either on hydrogen or on gasoline and based on the BMW 7 Series.

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MyGIG: Chrysler Puts a Hard Drive in the 2007 Sebring


Chrysler launches an all-new Sebring this fall and among the new options is a hard-drive navigation system. Other all-new cars with similar systems this fall include Mitsubishi Outlander (see image) and Lexus LS460/460L. Using a hard-drive navigation system, versus DVD or the old CD systems, gets faster navigation recalculation and better graphics and interfaces. But these systems bring an even more fun feature: The ability to store and play audio files from the hard drive. It’s like having a permanent iPod in your car; being a relative newcomer to the iPod world, I’m still enamored of almost all things iPod. All three vehicles arrive in dealers in October and November 2006. MyGIG gets a late introduction, but Chrysler expects availability by the end of 2006.
On behalf of VehicleVoice and AutoPacific, I was among the journalists and analysts with the opportunity to participate in a backgrounder and first-drive opportunity for Sebring (more later this month on the driving impressions). MyGIG first goes in Sebring, followed by Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Nitro. Availability will spread to other Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models as they are updated and this is the future of Chrysler’s navigation/audio systems.


The beauty of MyGIG is its integration of features offered independently on other models. MyGIG integrates Sirius radio, UConnect Bluetooth capability, the navigation system, the 20GB hard drive, a USB 2.0 port, and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players. Operation is by voice controls or touch screen. It offers real-time traffic information and can re-route a destination based on that information, depending on preferences set by the driver. Chrysler is not first on the scene with these features, but MyGIG integration takes a significant step forward in performance and affordability. It also pulls Chrysler out of the also-rans into the lead in this department, as their prior GPS navigation was weak at best.

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2007 Lexus GS 450h – Seduced By The "Electric Turbocharger"


We all know that until gas prices go up to somewhere over $4.50/gallon and stay there for a goodly bit of time, the wonder of gasoline/electric hybrid technology won’t deliver enough in fuel savings to pay off the incremental cost of most systems for the average driver. So the reasons for hybrid interest lie somewhere beyond economy. Honda, purveyors of the Civic Hybrid and the amusing but impractical Insight, decided that the concept of a performance hybrid might have some traction. The company teased us with the concept of a performance-based hybrid in the guise of the Accord Hybrid. But for several reasons, not the least of which was the combo of less-than-earth-shaking acceleration with a $30,000+ price tag, the anodyne hot-rod hybrid Honda has failed to perform in the market. In the case of America’s most popular hybrid vehicle, Toyota’s Prius, the obvious reason for its success and buzz is the car’s distinctive styling that makes the petit five-door hatchback stand out for the crowd. It all but screams “I’m making a statement.” And in the case of the Prius that statement is one of saving the environment.
Beyond the Prius and Insight, hybrids are far less distinctive on the road. Pretty much all that differs the majority of hybrids from their conventionally propelled sister vehicles are wheels, badging and, in one or two cases, a specific grille.


Invisible Lexus GS 450h Tests Consumer Demand for Distinctive Hybrid Styling
So it is with the latest addition to the Toyota/Lexus lineup of Hybrids. Beyond a set of chrome-trimmed 18-inch wheels, a small “h” on the rear and an even smaller Hybrid badge in its lower-body moldings, the 2007 Lexus GS 450h could pass for the V8-powered GS 430.
Jim Hall, AutoPacific Vice President and VehicleVoice contributor had a recent opportunity to drive a GS 450h during one of his frequent trips to the mother ship in California. Impressed, he coined the term “electric turbocharger” to describe the impact of the Hybrid Synergy Drive on the performance of the GS.

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Diesels – Destroying Three Decades of Stereotypes Twelve Hours



VehicleVoice correspondent and AutoPacific Vice President Jim Hall attended the 12-hours of Sebring in February. Audi won the race with its revolutionary R10 diesel-powered racer. Jim provides an interesting perspective on diesels in the USA and the future.
Diesel cars are nothing new in America. Oil-fueled Mercedes of various numeric monikers have been sold in this country since the mid-fifties. With a reputation (earned) of being near indestructible and overengineered to the nth degree and the reality of superior fuel economy to comparable 1950s and 1960s cars, the slow but parsimonious engine gained a following of bunker oil enthusiasts who were forced to buy Mercedes-Benzes and a little later Peugeots. Still, the loyal didn’t mind the fact their cars were pokey, noisy and smelled emitted sooty, funny smelling exhaust.

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Ford's New 3.5L V6 Finally Puts Out


When Ford announced its new 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V6 engine, many were underwhelmed by its 250-horsepower output. After all, similar displacement modern V6s from Ford’s Japanese competitors have achieved that level of output for years. Gads, even Japanese Minivans were approaching 250-horsepower with the Honda Odyssey at 244-horsepower. The Acura MDX gets 253HP from 3.5L. The Nissan Altima gets 265 from 3.5L.
Those of us at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice were wondering if Ford just didn’t get it. Couldn’t they read competitive specifications?
Ford’s New 3.5L V6 Gets 265-Horsepower
Well, Ford finally has let the “official horsepower” number slip and it’s good news. The 3.5L V6 gets 265-horsepower on regular grade fuel. That means the first vehicles to get it should feel pretty darn nice. Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKZ all get the new powerplant. And, Ford says that the 3.5L will be its high volume powerplant of the future.
Hope it feels as good as it sounds.

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