Autofield Blog

Ford Gets Flexible on Mobility


By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. June 2015

Although there is a lot of attention on how technology is going to change mobility—as in, say, Big Data providing the means by which people will be able to access vehicles for short-term use by tracking vehicle location and availability or Autonomy, which will not only allow drivers to do something else than drive but also provide a better, more predictive traffic flow, consequently minimizing traffic jams and optimizing commute times—a recent announcement by Ford indicates that there is another part of its business that could have a more-immediate effect on different approaches to getting from one place to another.

Ford eBikes

Have you ridden a Ford, lately?

No, it is not the Ford just-introduced MoDe:Flex electric bicycle, the third bike that Ford has introduced this year. This bike is designed so that it can be folded up and stored in a Ford vehicle (and recharged while being stored). In addition to which, it can be quickly converted to road, mountain or city driving. It’s not that Ford is getting into the bicycle business per se, but they are using the bike as a means by which commuters can get to the proverbial “last mile” on a trip. (To keep one’s colleagues and coworkers more pleasantly oriented toward one who has, indeed, used the MoDe:Flex to get to work, there is a smartwatch running the MoDe:Link app, which includes a “no sweat” mode: it checks the rider’s heart rate and then has the bike provide additional electric motor assistance to the ride, consequently reducing potential perspiration during the ride.)

No, the big, sooner change is likely to come from. . .Ford Credit.

That’s right, the lending arm of the vehicle manufacturer.

Ford Credit is piloting a program called “Peer-2-Peer Car Sharing.”

This is being conducted in the U.S. (Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Chicago and Washington, D.C.) and London.

Ford Credit is asking select customers to “rent” their Ford Credit-financed vehicles to a group of prescreened drivers. The connection between the renters and buyers is made via the Web.

Explains David McClelland, Ford Credit vice president of marketing, “Consumers tell us they are interested in sharing the costs of vehicle ownership, and this program will help us understand how much that extends to customers who are financing a Ford vehicle.”

In other words, you buy a car and then rent it when you aren’t using it, thereby getting money that can be used to pay off the loan.

McClelland points out, “As most vehicles are parked and out of use much of the time, this can help us gauge our customers’ desires to pick up extra cash and keep their vehicle in use.”

Arguably, if this was to catch on in a big way, there could be a need for fewer cars or trucks, as if people knew that had ready access to short-term rentals, they might forego that F-150 that they might need periodically for mulch hauling or other occasional use requirement.

But Ford must get credit for understanding that if it doesn’t prepare itself for the mobility space, it might find itself on the outside looking in.


2015 Lexus LX 570


By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. June 2015

The owner of a Lexus LX 570 ought to be someone who:

1. Is wealthy

2. Has a lot of kids

3. Tows a horse trailer or yacht.

This is not a multiple choice selection. All three, or variants thereof, are required of someone who would behind the wheel of this eight-passenger uber-lux SUV.

Let’s take them in order.

LX 570 1

1. The base price of the vehicle as driven is $82,930. That’s before options. Options like $1,510 for semi-aniline lather; heated and ventilated front seats; second row heated seats; heated steering wheel, etch. Then kick in $2,350 for the Mark Levinson audio system including DVD playback capability. There’s “Intuitive Park Assist” with wide-view front and side monitor (a.k.a., cameras). That’s $1,000. Finally, there is a dual-screen DVD rear seat entertainment system with wireless headphones, adding $2005 to the tab.

Put in $925 for delivery, and the sticker is $90,720.

Presumably, there are more options to be had. For example, I was surprised to find that it doesn’t have blind-spot warning. You’d think for +$90K you would have a system that would provide an audible warning in the voice of a British butler.

2. Words like “capacious” and “cavernous” come to mind. The inside of this beast is big. It is also sumptuous. There are three rows of furniture in the LX570. Clearly, these are places where people ought to sit. They are comfortable. There is roominess. There is a power-sliding second-row seat. Thanks to an aforementioned option, there is entertainment. So the LX 570 is suited for lots of kids. Or absent that, lots of grownups. But let’s face it: Someone is more likely to be traveling around on a regular basis with children on board rather than a gaggle of adults.

Lexus 570 2

3. The nomenclature of the SUV, at least the numeric part, the “570,” goes to the fact that his vehicle has a 5.7-liter V8 engine. It produces 383 hp and 403 lb-ft of torque. This is a real-life off-road capable vehicle, not a vehicle that looks like one. It has a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential. There are switches on the center console for making adjustments like Crawl Control and Hill-start Assist and other things that you don’t want to even know about unless you are someone who takes their luxury vehicle in places were only goats should tread. It is the sort of capability that you like to have because, well, you have it. Just in case. The LX570 has the wherewithal to tow 7,000 pounds. Now that capability is something that is likely to be used by those with a Missouri Fox Trotter or something from Meridian. (If you don’t know, well, you don’t know.)

Lexus 570 4

One of the funniest line items in a spreadsheet detailing the various specifications of a vehicle is included in the one for the Lexus LX570:

Top Track Speed: 137 mph—electronically limited

While the entire notion of something of this magnitude being on a track is something that is borderline inconceivable. Something like this rolling in a stately manner up I-75 to a manse in Harbor Springs is readily imaginable.

Selected specs

Engine: 5.7-liter V8 w/dual variable valve timing

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 383 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 403 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Hydraulic power with variable gear ratio

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 197 in.

Width: 77.6 in.

Height: (w/std. roof rack): 75.6 in.

Curb weight: 6,000 lb.

Coefficient of drag: 0.35

Cargo volume (seats in place): 15.5-cu. ft.

Cargo volume (2nd & 3rd row adjusted): 83.1-cu. ft.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 12/17/14 mpg

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Bolloré, PSA Peugeot Citroën & a Problem with Electric Vehicles


By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. June 2015

This is the Bluesummer:

Bluesummer 1

It is an electric vehicle. It was designed by Bolloré. It will be built in a PSA Peugeot Citroën plant in Rennes, France, starting in September.

The car seats four. It has a 124-mile range on the urban cycle. It uses a 30-kWh lithium-polymer battery. It is 145.3-inches long, 67.3-inches wide, and 63.4-inches high. The Bluesummer has a steel frame and a body made with thermoplastic panels.

The plant will develop the capacity to build 15 vehicle per day, a maximum of 3,500 vehicles per year.

While this is clearly a car that is meant to be “fun,” it points to a bit of a problem vis-à-vis the proliferation of electric vehicles.

The Bluesummer appears to be something that one might find in a theme park.

Dimensions and range notwithstanding, it is a vehicle that has evident DNA with golf carts.

Bluesummer 2

And if OEMs outside of Tesla and Nissan want to be taken seriously when it comes to full-on electric vehicles, then it is probably a better thing to have a design that is somewhat more serious and less like something that would be ideal for the Barnum & Bailey Summer Tour.


Land Rover Off Road; No Driver


By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. June 2015

A few years back I had the opportunity to drive—with, I am not ashamed to admit, really white knuckles—the Poison Spider Mesa trail in Moab, Utah. The good news for me was that I was behind the wheel of a Dodge Power Wagon. The not-so good news for me was that there was a sudden rainstorm that blew through, creating fast-moving creeks where there were none before and making the already challenging terrain slippery.

When faced with sketchy obstacles a spotter would get in front of the vehicle, just a few feet ahead, and I remember fearing that I’d hit the gas a bit too aggressively and the tires would grip and. . .

Remote controlled Land Rover

 

Jaguar Land Rover has developed a smartphone app that allows a driver to be outside of a vehicle and yet control it—steering, braking, accelerating. Meaning that a driver could be the spotter.

Of course, this technology in the Remote Control Range Rover Sport research vehicle is more likely to end up in consumer vehicles used to maneuver into and out of parking spots at the local upscale mall than in some locale where mules and goats are more comfortable in.

But this is Land Rover, so they’ve got to be off-road capable.

It should be noted, this is still developmental. You can’t go to your local Land Rover dealership and select the “Remote Control option.” At least not yet.

According to Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, “Because our customers drive in all terrains and in all weathers, any future autonomous Jaguar or Land Rover must be as capable on rough tracks and unpaved roads as it would be on city streets.”

They’re working on creating a vehicle with sensor fusion—radar, LIDAR, cameras, ultrasonic, structured light—such that the result would be autonomous driving capability not dependent on lane markers and able to deal with prevailing weather conditions.

“Our research engineers have a nickname for a car with this level of capability,” Epple said. “The ‘Solo Car.’”

Presumably, a driver would have to be at least in it.


How to Design a Ford GT


By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. June 2015

When Craig Metros returned to Dearborn from a multiyear stint in Australia for Ford Design, he found himself engaged in a project that probably has more resonance—far more for automotive enthusiasts the world over—than an aluminum F-150: the Ford GT program.

That’s right. The third take on the Ford GT. There was the legendary first generation, the GT40. It is chronicled for its performance at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, as it handed Enzo Ferrari his posterior, with GTs finishing 1-2-3.

Oh, and it also won the race in 1967, 1968, and 1969.

Ford GT - FIA World Endurance Championship

The Ford GT: Introduced at Le Mans.  Going back 50 years after the gen-one car took the podium.

The GT moniker went into hiatus until model year 2005. Then a car developed under the direction of Camilo Pardo was revealed. It had a two-year run, with about 4,000 sold. While this car is certainly raced, it was really developed to be more of a tribute car to its forerunner, a car that could be pulled up anywhere that jaws can be dropped—and dropped they were (and are).

But when Ford started developing the 2016 GT, this time it was with racing in mind, and not just any race: Yes, it is going to Le Mans, where the racing version of the car was unveiled on June 12.

Metros, Ford exterior design director, The Americas, tells John McElroy of Autoline, Todd Lassa of Automobile and me: “From day one, we wanted to do a race car.”

Ford GT - FIA World Endurance Championship

Metros says the plan view is his favorite for the GT

And so the study in carbon fiber (and aluminum), a car that has not only aerodynamic functionality but a sensuous surface (“We put the sex in the surfacing,” Metros said, explaining how there was a considerable amount of work performed in the wind tunnel, after which the design team got to work on the results so that the hard edges didn’t necessarily look harsh), was developed.

Metros explains how the design of the 2016 Ford GT came to be—some of the aero features, like the flying buttress form from the rear fenders to the cockpit, were design led but engineering useful—and about how the excitement of the crowds in Le Mans when the car was unveiled proved to him that the vehicle truly has iconic status.

Ford GT at NAIAS

The consumer version, introduced at the 2015 NAIAS

In addition to which, McElroy, Lassa and I discuss various subjects, including the recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study and whether the miles-per-gallon figures on new car window stickers (a.k.a., monroneys) are accurate.

And you can see it all right here.

 




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