For many, many years, I never thought much of Ford . I had been unimpressed with their cars (with a few exceptions like the Mustang) and especially with their styling and technology. In the 80’s and 90’s, to me, Ford was “just another American car” which said a lot. All of the technology, style and innovation had been coming from overseas (Japan and Europe). My position on this over the past year has literally flipped a complete U-turn. Last year, I got to test drive the 2010 Ford Flex and experience the Ford Sync by Microsoft for the first time. I also spent some time learning about the safety advances that Ford has been implementing across their fleets. And last week, I got to see some of their new technology and cars up close and personal at CES 2011 (the International Consumer Electronics Show), and the bottom line is, I’m really impressed.
At CES, I spent quite a few hours talking with various people from Ford, learning about what new innovations and technology (like MyFord Touch and Ford Sync AppLink) were being built into their next models and getting an up close and personal preview of the new 2012 Ford Focus EV (Electric Vehicle). If you really want to get a feel for how techy Ford has really become, just spend a few minutes on their Technology page.
Ford Sync AppLink
I had an appointment at the Ford booth at CES to learn more about the Ford Sync AppLink. Instead of just being handed a media release or a thumb drive with a bunch of information that my brain would surely gloss over and quickly forget, a Ford representative, Chris Demeniuk, Ford Product Design Engineer, gave me the following walk-through of some new additions to their already hugely successful Ford Sync technology.
Can your car do that? I know for a fact that mine can’t. As we are living in a time of instant gratification and countless distractions, knowing that your car manufacturer is actually working to not only make your driving easier but also safer by providing distraction-free technology to help you focus on getting from point A to point B safely is something to really honk your horn about. I only wish that I had the need (and money) to get a new car (yes, I just did go through the process of buying a new vehicle and unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get the right sized Ford that we wanted for the money we had that would accommodate our family fully – however, when my ailing Honda Accord finally conks out or simply falls apart which is seems like it is really starting to do, I REALLY want to replace it with a new Ford Focus!) Anyway, I seem to have taken an off-ramp here…
The new Ford Sync AppLink truly allows you to leave your phone locked away in a glove compartment or in your pocket or purse. With older-technology or no-technology equipped cars, it is just too easy to pick up your phone and try to launch Pandora to get music playing or make a phone call. The thing is, those few seconds looking at your phone and not at the road represent hundreds of feet of travel when you are speeding down a highway, or take away a few seconds of reaction time if you are driving through a neighborhood with kids running around. States are already mandating hands-free devices in all cars and you will get a hefty fine if you are caught even speaking on your phone without using a headset. I wouldn’t be surprised if these laws get stricter and the fines even higher. Ford hasn’t been waiting for this to happen – they have just been innovating to get these safety features built right into the car. My initial experiences with the Ford Sync were great. Yes, it does take a day or two to master the voice commands that control just about every distraction in your car (I’m just waiting for them to create some sort of a link to stop my kids from screaming), but once you master that, you can take charge of your auto’s environment just by using buttons on your steering wheel and your voice.
I have been promised some time in a Ford Vehicle to experience the MyFord Touch. Honestly, having taken a look at the new Ford Focus (not the one mentioned in the section below but just the non-EV one), I must say that I’m in love with it. Just being surrounded by lots of digital readouts that tell me every aspect of my driving experience makes me really happy! But obviously, this type of technology is not for everybody. I know plenty of people (including my own family members) who have “digital readout display-heavy” cars and they simply don’t use them! I’m the opposite. Just to give you an idea of what these dashboards look like, below is the one from the 2012 (or 2011) Ford Focus (which has been restyled and updated by the way).
And I love the styling of the Ford Focus (I’m not sure if this is the 2011 or 2012 model – was a bit too wowed to take note!):
2010 Ford Focus EV
I’m going to leave the really in-depth reviews of the Ford Focus EV to those trade journals whose job it is to do the deep-analysis of automobile. The thing that was exciting for me was the fact that I was invited to a VIP unveiling of this new, completely electronic vehicle from Ford. In a behind-the-scenes, pre-launch private briefing that happened the night before the Ford keynote, I spent some time getting up close with the new Ford Focus EV. The video below shows a quick walkthrough of it as well as the photos that I took while on stage (photos are also available on my Flickr stream):
For those interested in what this new Electric Vehicle from Ford offers, Ford did compile a very handy cheat-sheet (click to get a larger view of it):
But here are some of the highlights of this revolutionary vehicle:
- First fuel-free, rechargeable passenger vehicle from Ford
- 1st of 5 new electric vehicles that Ford will deliver by 2013
- Full charge capability in 3-4 hours (at 240-volts)
- “Value charging” feature, powered by Microsoft, helps owners save money by finding cheapest utility rates
- Special version of MyFord Touch designed for the electric vehicle
- MyFord Mobile Application allows users to receive instant vehicle status info, monitor car’s state of charge and range, alert user when charge is required or had finished charging and other important functions
Here are some photos that I took at the event:
Driving Towards the Future
I would think that by now you can see that I have a pretty high opinion of Ford and its achievements over the past few years. They have retooled, re-architected and given new life and vision to an aging company. Through what I believe to be very good foresight and perseverance, they have weathered a severe global financial storm and really come out ahead with new lines of cars, bolstered by powerful technology by Microsoft and styling coming from Europe.
I plan on watching Ford carefully, hopefully participating in some upcoming test drives to better understand how their refactoring of the company is making them successful as well as getting such a strong following of new and devoted customers. It’s very encouraging to see such innovations coming from the United States.
Disclosure Text: In the past, I have received a loan of a Ford Flex but apart from the loan, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: What is your opinion of Ford? Have they turned a corner? Is it working?