Ford GT wins NEMPA’s Ritvo Award

FordGT-SilverStripes_06_HRAll-New Ford GT Earns the 2016 Gene Ritvo Award for Design and Elegance

  • The 2017 Ford GT has won the Gene Ritvo Award, which honors the best in design in the automotive world. The honor is awarded to the concept or vehicle that best defines elegance in design.
  • Entries were judged by the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) in conjunction with design experts from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass.
  • The groundbreaking design of the all-new 2017 Ford GT combines style and elegance in a sleek, stylish and powerful silhouette

BY GERRY MILES

It’s bitter sweet to write about the Gene Ritvo award for the New England Motor Press Association’s annual awards. First it recognizes a dear friend whose eye for beauty, elegance, symmetry and seemingly all things technical and non-technical were endless. Secondly it reminds us all that Gene is no longer with us.

His eye and his camera captured images in an outstanding way that made them timeless. To see what he captured in his camera, after you both stood in front of the same car, made you wonder in amazement “why didn’t I think of that angle” or “how’d he do that?”

Gene’s booming voice was as broad as his connections or the names of the folks he’d meet on the early morning lawn at a concourse or Pebble Beach. He knew them all and plenty about them. He had facts, not just a name to drop.

The 2017 Ford GT has earned the Gene Ritvo Award for Design and Elegance from the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) in conjunction with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Larz Anderson Auto Museum.

“The Ritvo” honors the best in design in the automotive world, whether it’s a concept car, production vehicle, a marketing campaign or a particular element of a vehicle that defines elegance in design.

“It is an honor to receive this award, an accolade that the entire team behind the all-new Ford GT can proud of,” said Moray Callum, vice president, Design, Ford Motor Company. “The 2017 Ford GT has a revolutionary design that maintains the essence of the original GT40, while making it into a 21st century car. This vehicle truly demonstrates our commitment to performance and innovation in every aspect of our business.”

“The challenge of producing a car like this is that the original is one of the most iconic and decorated cars in American automobile history,” said Zachary Dollar, Officer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “Ford kept enough of the soul of the original that it is still identifiable, but used modern tools, materials, and technology to make it a car of today.”

The Ford GT ultra-high-performance super car was first unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show and represents the ultimate execution of an enthusiast supercar. It sets new standards for Ford innovation through performance, with advances in light-weighting, aerodynamics and an ultra-efficient EcoBoost® engine.

“The Ford GT is the future in the present,” said NEMPA President Craig Fitzgerald, “but it never strays too far from the proportions that made the GT40 an instant classic. The Ford GT is no nostalgia car, but it looks back with enough fondness to make it appealing to every generation of car enthusiast. It’s a worthy recipient of the award named for our friend Gene Ritvo.”

It was the second “Ritvo” for Ford, which received the first in 2012 for its newly designed Fusion.

The cars, like the man the award’s named after, are timeless classics.

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Consultant pulls curtain on Big 3 in Detroit

After the Detroit Auto Show wowed everyone with new models, some were left noticeably nonplussed, skeptical and doubting. James Bell, an independent consultant for the automotive industry with nearly 20 years of experience, including Kelley Blue Book and General Motors, instead opined on what he saw at the Detroit Auto Show from the Big 3.

“Much has been made of the recent resurgence and sales success of the “Detroit 3”, said Bell, who also offered to look a little closer behind each curtain:
  • Ford disappointed many at the last month’s Detroit Auto Show when their “big news” was not a new car or truck but rather BIG investments in connectivity, autonomy, mobility/ride sharing, and the customer “experience.”

Not until later in the week did they make decent product news by announcing four new SUVs in next few years.

  • FCA provided some fun with the “this is NOT a minivan” Pacifica and lots of love for the high margin Jeep and Ram brands in effort to avoid its darker ironic reality of overall financial drama as evidenced by delayed updates to key products such as the Grand Cherokee and Ram. And they announced the death of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart sedans until another maker can be roped into producing one car for both brands. In both cases, it seems that, as in the early 2000’s, the hypnotic dance of the cheap fuel cobra has worked its magic once and lulled these companies into complacency thanks to profitable truck and SUV sales.
  • Only GM seems to be planning for a more realistic future by using today’s false windfall to keep the pedal down on alternative fuel vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Bolt, even in the face of fewer sales in the near term. Seems GM might have learned a lesson from bankruptcy after all.”

Ask Siri how to say Hyundai in 2015 Sonata

 

Apple Car Play

Apple Car Play

BY GERRY MILES

In another nod to the interactivity and connectivity that’s so intuitive with Apple’s wide range of products, Hyundai is introducing Appe CarPlay in its just announced 2015 Sonata.

CarPlay is the smarter, safer and easier way to use iPhone in the car and gives iPhone® users the features they want while allowing them to stay focused on the road.

Unlike Ford Motor Company, which has tried to justify its Ford Touch voice command system that’s improved but still frustrates, Hyundai already has a smooth, responsive Audio Video Navigation (AVN) system. There’s no need to scream or try to speak in a phony dialect for the Hyundai system to quickly adjust the radio, set the temperature, or make a hands-free phone call.

A spacious 8-inch touch screen will augment the user interface yielding a big screen for tired eyeballs and big icons for fat fingers. With CarPlay, Apple’s disembodied voice — Siri —  will provide drivers an eyes-free experience by responding to requests through voice commands and can be easily accessed directly through the Voice button on the steering wheel. CarPlay will work with the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5. It will also use Apple’s latest lightning connector that replaces the standard 30-pin white cord in previous models of all things Apple.

For more information about CarPlay, visit: http://www.apple.com/ios/carplay/.

 

Bill Ford answers questions on Mustang, F-150, Mulalley

BY GERRY MILES

There’s some interesting news out of New York with Ford and its chairman, Bill Ford, spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Matt Miller about the new Mustang and F-150.

Below follows some parsed remarks on several tops for a quick hit and here’s a link that will take you to the interview, courtesy of Bloomberg TV.

Ford on various subjects:

“Our [European] sales are getting better each quarter,” said Ford. “And we — you know, I’m feeling quite good about Europe. We still have a ways to go but we are definitely in a better situation today than we were a year ago.”

On the succession plan at Ford, he said “One of the things that Alan and I have talked about really since he hired in is how important it is for a great CEO to also have a great transition…the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.” He declined to say if Mark Fields would succeed Mulally.

Bill Ford on the debut of the special edition 50th anniversary Mustang:

“We cut it into five pieces, reassembled it at the top of the Empire State Building and had a great reveal this morning. And the reason we did that is we did that in 1964, with the original Mustang. So we thought to re-create it 50 years later would be kind of cool.”

On what makes the special edition different:

“It’s got Brembo brakes, a little bit of differentiation on the exterior, all chrome treatment in certain places, the Pony Corral badge, which hearkens back to the original Mustang. Some unique interior finishes, and really there are only two things that you have to decide. A, you want white or blue and, B, do you want manual or automatic. And for me it is always manual.”

On more carmakers are going only automatic and getting rid of the manual transmission:

“I understand but I do not like it. I love to drive cars and I — particularly a sports car to me should always be a manual. It is just a lot of fun to work through the gears. And I feel you can control the car better. But not everybody feels that way. So we do offer both. I will always get the manual.”

“Automated driving really does allow denser driving patterns that allows better safety. I mean, there are a lot of really great advantages to it. But I love to drive cars and always have and always will.”

“I mean, to me it’s a way for me to have great fun. So I’m very excited about the all the autonomous features coming into vehicles because people really do want them. A lot — not everybody feels the way I do about driving a vehicle. A lot of people just want to get from point A to point B and they want to do it quickly and safely. And so a lot of the automated features we’re putting in allow them to do that. But I will always want to be behind the wheel.”

On the Mustang being available all over the world:

“What’s very cool is I introduced this in Barcelona at the end of last year and they went wild over it. It was interesting; even though they have never had the Mustang in Europe, it needed no introduction at all. Everybody knew Mustang and everybody knew what it stood for. And really in many ways, Matt, it’s a brand unto itself. You do not have to say Ford Mustang. You just say Mustang like F-150. And that is true around the globe and so you’re right, finally people around the world are getting to have a Mustang.”

On the F-150:

“Well, we think the aluminum F-150 will be very cool for all the reasons you mentioned. One of the things we did it is we were worried initially that customers might not think it was tough enough, so we gave it to big fleets of mining companies for a year and said just beat it up as much as you can. And they came back with glowing reports about how well it held up that way surpassed their expectations. We’re going to always be looking to lightweight our vehicles as we go forward.”

On the 50th anniversary edition reveal:

“We’re going to reveal that one a little bit. And by the way, I’ve signed all 1,964 — well, they are on a plaque. I signed the plaque. And then each plaque will be numbered so you will know what number you have and it will be very cool.

On whether the aluminum will be more difficult to repair and more expensive:

“We do not think so. We’re spending a lot of time working with our parts and service group, with our dealers, and one of the things that we do know is that aluminum has great dentability characteristics. It will dent less easily. So but in terms of assembling it and repairing it, this will be new for some of our dealers. And so we are trying to get them up to speed.”

On whether Tesla should be able to sell direct to consumers or if they should have to have a franchisee network:

“I mean, look, we love our model. We have great dealers. They’ve been through thick and thin with us. And we have all gotten better over the last few years. We have — the manufacturer has, our dealers have as well. I think the issue will be, going forward, is not so much how you sell them but how you will service them in the market. That is something that I am not sure how is going to play out in the other model.”

On Ford’s relationship with its dealer network:

“Well, it’s hugely important. The dealers are the face of Ford Motor Company to our public, and our dealers do a really good job of taking care of their customers in their communities. The people in that community think that dealership is Ford Motor Company. So it’s a huge responsibility they have and they do it very well. And we work — both sides, dealers and ourselves, work very hard to keep the relationship strong.”

On the succession plan at Ford:

“We have got a great team. One of the things that Alan and I have talked about really since he hired in is how important it is for a great CEO to also have a great transition. And so we feel our team is really good and really deep and very experienced. So and it is interesting, a lot of great CEOs leave and then there is chaos behind them. And Alan and I have talked about that, the importance of the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.

On whether Mark Fields will succeed Mulally:

“Mark is really important to us. But, come on, man, I will not give you that this morning.”

On how key China is to Ford’s future:

“Well, long-term, it is very important. It is the biggest market in the world. It is growing at 7.5 percent a year this year and it’s a very healthy growing market. We are doing really well. Now we are also coming off a relatively small base. So we are growing as fast as we possibly can. The Ford brand is very well respected in China and that is why I am excited that the Mustang is coming to China because they will love that, too.”

On whether the future is bright as far as Europe reports:

“Yes, it is getting better thankfully. We have seen this — I have seen this many — all too many times in my career, both in North America, Europe, South America, where you’re going great guns and then things fall off and you have to rebuild. And we have had a few quarters now of things getting better in Europe. Our sales are getting better each quarter. And we — you know, I’m feeling quite good about Europe. We still have a ways to go but we are definitely in a better situation today than we were a year ago.”

RIP Ross Roberts, a straight shooting, rootin’, tootin’ Texan

BY GERRY MILES

It’s on the cusp of the New York Auto Show and a busy schedule that I recently learned of the passing of a Ford favorite of mine: Ross Roberts.

Ross RobertsRoss was notable for many reasons: an embraceable personality, a quick smile, a cut to the chase straight-shooting style from Texas ala former Olds boss John Rock, and the ability to admit he was wrong, didn’t know, or get the answer.

Roberts, by all known and credible accounts, was an indefatigable salesman at heart and his upbeat ways could swiftly turn many a dealer around from ordering just three copies of a model into 30 without any arm-twisting involved.

I loved Roberts for his attending our New England Motor Press Association meetings where he admitted that customer service and dealer warranties – many years ago – had to be changed so that a customer who was just two or three weeks or months out of warranty was met at least halfway or completely and kept in the Ford family.

Roberts recalled how many a demon dialer would go through whomever and eventual get to his line with the problem at hand that he would immediately green light. And while he hoped the decision was a “save” he realized that when it came time to trade in the car it might have been a “lost sale.”

To paraphrase Roberts that night, “we have to extend the same courtesy I want if my refrigerator’s compressor goes out just after the warranty expires. Things like that is simple, easy to do and it doesn’t cost that much to keep a customer and make them a loyal customer.”  I’ll never know how seriously he was able to enact that sea change for the industry at the time, but if you ever heard Roberts address a group or spoke to him one-on-one, you’d believe him. Straight up. No lie. He’s the guy with the big title that was as down-to-earth as anyone in any neighborhood anywhere.

Ford PR liked him as well for his willingness to do whatever it took to promote the company and any of its brands. I’ll never forget when Ford topped Toyota’s Camry for the third year in a row in sales. In ice hockey parlance, that’s called a hat trick. Approached about sitting in a convertible dressed like a hockey player in Detroit, which also bills itself as Hockey Town for its fervor with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, he couldn’t wait to jump in the car, wear a helmet and hold a stick to pump the title honors…even if it did have a bit of a  Michael Dukakis tank doofus look to it.

Another year in Charlotte for the then-new, fish-mouthed Taurus intro, Ross remembered me from Boston and raffling off a Drew Bledsoe jersey (no I didn’t win it that night) and that he was a Cowboys fan, naturally.

Asked what I thought about the new Taurus after the intro, I ran off a small laundry list of things that I thought needed correcting, especially its price of just under $22,000 if I recall. Roberts, surrounded by a phalanx of notebook toting PR folks, pressed for more details that I provided. When I then quizzed him on what it would cost for someone to swing 15,000 in a loan he blinked. He had no idea and the PR folks started to turn red. Had he been entrapped? Nah, he was smarter than that. He just hadn’t viewed it that way.

Having swung a loan in that range a few years prior for a Saab 900 I explained it all to him and that folks would do it for an import but it would be seen as too pricey for a domestic. He took it all in, told the flacks to make notes and he’d look at it all. I was not seen as attacking the man at his party, rather I provided information that he’d not known or seen in a different light.

The following spring, Roberts – who was still thumping the slow-selling Taurus that did not at the time have a base model  – greeted me warmly at the NY Auto Show, remembered our conversation and told me I was right. For instance, they had to change their commercials to say that even thought it appeared smaller, it had a lower step-in height, more head-room and such. A president of Ford Motor was telling me, months after the fact that I was right. Imagine that. That was Ross Roberts.

However, shortly after that talk, he took the podium to say to the assembled auto journos that Ford did not see a need for a de-contented Taurus, it was priced right and there would not be any rebates in sight any time soon.

Exactly a week later, Ford produced a de-contented Taurus G with crank aka Jack Armstrong windows and the very things he was quizzed about in NY City. Had someone ushered a directive he fall on his Mont Blanc for FOMOCO or had he know all along? We’ll never know but it put the Ford PR folks in a tough spot. They had no real answer when called about it other than to say all they could, which was essentially “write what you have to. We were there. You were there. So was he. Just write what you have to.”

Ross Roberts next to a purpler F-150 flareside pickup truck. Son, he told me, there's a color for every car and truck that sometimes doesn't make sense to you or me. Just as long as someone buys it he quipped. His honesty, frankness and smile let you know he meant what he said, that he had a sense of humor and that the product - color aside - would be a good ride. (Ford photos)

Ross Roberts next to a purpler F-150 flareside pickup truck. Son, he told me, there’s a color for every car and truck that sometimes doesn’t make sense to you or me. Just as long as someone buys it he quipped. His honesty, frankness and smile let you know he meant what he said, that he had a sense of humor and that the product – color aside – would be a good ride. (Ford photos)

 

But they got through it, over it and on with it.

Ford Division and Ross Roberts could hardly be uttered without one in the same sentence if one was talking about the Blue Oval in any kind of depth. They were interchangeable. They were inseparable. They were real people repping real products that were hitting the main stream.

You always got an honest answer from Ross Roberts.

He was upfront, personable and he looked you square in the eye every time.

You couldn’t ask for any more than that then or now.

For staying true to himself every time I saw him and talked with him, which he did for so many other auto writers, he’ll be missed.

He was a breath of fresh air that Ford needs back right now.

Rest In Peace, Tex.

 

Wraps are off 2015 Lincoln Navigator

2015 Lincoln Navigator

2015 Lincoln Navigator

BY GERRY MILES

Apparently, rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.

Lincoln, Ford Motor Company’s luxo brand, and its landlocked leviathan SUV Navigator live another day.
After friend and colleague Clifford Atiyeh tweeted pics of the grill under a wrap the other day social media blew up with pics and diverse opinions on the luxo land yacht.
Today, Lincoln released the details and pics of the revised luxury SUV  that sports a  redesigned exterior, updated interior, more powerful engine,  customer-focused technologies and appointments. Besides the ecoBoost engine, it will come in a standard length (207.4″) and extended (222.3″) or L version, similar to the new Cadillac Escalade. Navigator will be officially revealed at the Chicago Auto Show Feb. 6.
Chief among them will be:
  • A new 3.5-liter, t370 hp, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost® engine
  • optional Lincoln Drive Control with Continuously Controlled Damping
  • electric power-assisted steering for improved and quicker steering input and reaction
  • puddle lamps that create a “welcome mat” below both front doors,
  • optional Reserve Package includes 22-inch wheels and ultra-luxurious leather with premium Ziricote wood trim
Navigator comes standard with 20-inch, machined aluminum wheels, while Reserve Package vehicles are equipped with 22-inch, polished aluminum wheels. Reserve Package Navigators also offer optional chrome-accented running boards.
The new split wing grille is polarizing to say the least and harkens comments comparing it to the Infiniti QX 56 behemoth.
Navigator interior

Navigator interior

Luxuriously appointed interior
Navigator has long been synonymous with large-scale luxury. On the 2015 Navigator, the Reserve Package introduces a new level of luxury to the vehicle’s interior, providing customers with:

  • An updated cabin that extends ultra-luxurious leather to all three rows of seats, as well as to the armrests, center console and transmission shifter
  • A hand-wrapped, leather instrument panel with contrast stitching and leather glove box door
  • Premium Ziricote wood trim, a luxurious natural-grain wood new to the automotive industry, most commonly used as an accent in yachts

Designed to seat up to eight people, Navigator offers buyers second-row options that include two captain’s chairs, with or without a center console, or a fold-flat bench.  PowerFold® third-row seats, extended-length and standard wheelbase models are projected to deliver segment-leading cargo volume.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Extended-length models provide 128.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 86.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, and 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row; standard wheelbase models deliver 103.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 54.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and 18.1 cubic feet behind the third row.

A smoother, more powerful ride
Replacing the 5.4-liter V8 that has powered Navigator for years is a more powerful and fuel-efficient 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine.

The twin turbocharged, direct injection engine is projected to deliver at least 370 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft. of torque, according to preliminary test data. Final numbers will be available closer to production. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost is also projected to deliver best-in-class towing.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Navigator features a six-speed automatic transmission with Lincoln’s SelectShift, which allows the driver to manually control gears if desired. The vehicle is available in both four-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive configurations. The available Control Trac Four-Wheel-Drive system enhances traction on slippery surfaces, helps improve handling on dry roads and enables off-road capability.

The Lincoln Drive Control option adds Lincoln’s Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD), a suspension system that monitors multiple vehicle sensors and road conditions every two milliseconds and adjusts the suspension needs accordingly. CCD also provides a smoother and improved ride – best-ever for Navigator – and allows the driver to customize the ride of the vehicle by selecting one of three different control modes: Normal, Sport and Comfort.Navigator’s Hill Start/Descent Assist keeps the SUV still for up to two seconds on a five-degree uphill grade after the drive takes his foot off the brake pedal.

Standard-equipped Navigators will continue to offer Nivomat®, a load-leveling system that automatically raises a loaded rear end to optimum ride height for improved handling. The mechanical leveling system helps reduce uneven wear on front and rear tires and helps maintain better vehicle aerodynamics.

The latest SYNC® with MyLincoln Touch™ driver connectivity system is standard. The system allows drivers to use voice-activated or touch screen controls to make phone calls, play music, use the navigation system or set cabin temperature controls. The system includes 4.2-inch LCD displays in the instrument cluster, an 8-inch touch screen in the center stack and traditional knob controls for easy operation.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

The available Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) signals when another vehicle is detected in an adjacent lane behind either rear wheel. Standard for 2015, Navigator also introduces a new rearview camera, which displays a color image on the 8-inch touch screen for help when driving in reverse.

Rebirth of an icon

1998 Lincoln Navigator

1998 Lincoln Navigator

Navigator was wildly popular the moment it hit the streets in the late 1990s, and spent more than a decade as one of the top-selling vehicles in the segment. Featuring seating for up to eight passengers, luxury cues typically reserved for sedans and cargo space and towing capacity to haul virtually anything, Navigator set the full-size luxury SUV standard.

It was an immediate success, accounting for 41 percent of in-segment sales by the 2000 model year. Aiming to recapture that glory, the 2015 Navigator offers nearly two dozen upgrades from the current generation.

Production of the 2015 Navigator begins in late summer at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Ky. Vehicles are due in showrooms in early fall.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Fastback Sells for $300k at Barrett-Jackson

BJAZ_15MustAuction

The first retail unit 2015 Ford Mustang GT Fastback sold for $300,000 with proceeds benefiting JDRF, the leading diabetes research organization

With this sale, Ford has increased its JDRF charity car vehicle sales to more than $3.5 million

The winning bidder will personalize their new car with available 2015 Mustang GT options

Shelby GT500-inspired, 1956 Ford F-100 pulled in $450,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan in Canada. KISS bassist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Gene Simmons, his wife and Canadian-born actress, Shannon Tweed-Simmons, attended spurring on the auction crowd

At Barrett-Jackson Auction Company’s sale in Scottsdale, Ariz., a car collector and North Texas Ford dealer, Sam Pack, paid $300,000 to have the first retail production unit of the all-new 2015 Mustang GT when it goes on sale this fall. This purchase helped Ford Motor Company increase its charity vehicle sales to more than $3.5 million for JDRF, the leading diabetes research organization and a Ford partner since 1983.

The future Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan received a large donation through the sale of the 1956 Ford F-100 or “Snakebit,” as the truck is known. It is a blend of street rod styling with influences from the iconic Ford Shelby GT500. It boasts a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 breathing through a high-performance exhaust system. A six-speed manual gearbox feeds the estimated 550 horsepower to the 20-inch rear wheels.

The future Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan received a large donation through the sale of the 1956 Ford F-100 or “Snakebit,” as the truck is known. It is a blend of street rod styling with influences from the iconic Ford Shelby GT500. It boasts a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 breathing through a high-performance exhaust system. A six-speed manual gearbox feeds the estimated 550 horsepower to the 20-inch rear wheels.