Ford Joins IBM To Jump To The Future

Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields is joining IBM as a board of director as the No. 2 U.S. automaker explores alternative mobility options beyond selling cars and trucks.

“Mark led the highly successful transformation of his company in a competitive industry where technology has driven innovation. He is leading Ford into a future where cars are not only vehicles, but increasingly becoming mobile technology platforms,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chairman, president and CEO.

Under Fields, Ford has looked at alternatives to traditional car ownership, including mergers and acquisitions and partnerships.

Ford and other automakers are increasingly focused on self-driving cars and the potential disruptive influence autonomous cars may have on future car ownership. They face potential threats from new competitors from Silicon Valley. Ford is exploring alternatives like car-sharing and other options to meet future transportation needs.

Fields told Reuters earlier this month the automaker is exploring various options to boost its move into car-sharing, self-driving technology and services built on staying connected with customers during the 900 or so hours a year they are behind the wheel.

The company has repeatedly declined to comment on reports that Ford is pursuing an alliance with Internet leader Alphabet Inc.’s Google to collaborate on development of self-driving cars. Reuters reported in December that the companies have held talks and Fields met with Google co-founder Sergey Brin that same month to discuss the status of the talks.

Ford is pursuing its own efforts to develop autonomous driving technology, and said earlier this month it would triple the size of its self-driving car test fleet to 30 vehicles.

Ford spokesman Mike Moran said “IBM is a global company with a rich history of innovation and disrupting its business model to deliver results – which is very complementary to what we are doing at Ford. Mark will bring unique insights to IBM, and his experience and new relationships serving on the IBM board will bring equal benefits back to Ford.”

Ford Crossover-Dodges and Chryslers?

FCA is selling a lot of SUVs and pickups in the U.S. and not so many compact and midsize cars.

On the one hand, U.S. demand for white-hot FCA products like the Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee exceeds supply. The company is running several of its North American factories around the clock — and still, its dealers are clamoring for more of the popular vehicles.

But at the same time, sales of its compact and midsize sedans, the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200, are slumping. FCA’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, the high-tech factory that makes the 200, will be closed for the entire month of February because of weak demand.

Marchionne thinks the shift in demand away from sedans and toward car-based “crossover” SUVs is a permanent shift in the market — or at least permanent enough to make plans for the next several years around. That’s why he said last week that FCA would look to a partner to manufacture the successors to the Dart and 200, while it put those cars’ factories to use making SUVs and trucks instead.

So where does Ford come in?
Fields said that Ford won’t be getting out of the small-car business anytime soon. “We believe very strongly that it’s important to have a balanced portfolio, to anticipate changes in customer demand, changes in the economic environment, or in the regulatory environment,” he said. So could a “crossover” brand or business deal become possible?

That makes a lot of sense. Fields and the rest of Ford’s senior executive team are determined not to forget the hard lessons learned last decade, after Detroit’s overreliance on SUVs (and neglect of fuel-efficient small sedan models) cost the U.S. automakers big when gas prices jumped and the economy soured. Today, Ford has strong, competitive, and profitable small and midsize car models in its lineups around the world — and Fields isn’t about to neglect their ongoing development.

But Fields pointedly didn’t rule out the idea of building small cars with a partner. “We’re always open to talking with others,” he said. “We’re always going to look at different opportunities to improve the profitability of all of our vehicles including our small cars.”

“[When] we identify a need in the marketplace, we look within ourselves and we say, what are our core competencies? In some cases, we convince ourselves that we can fulfill that need on our own. In other case, we can say, listen, there are other great companies out there that we can approach and partner with,” he said.

Ford Freedom Unsung Takes To National Level

Ford Motor Company is taking its Ford Freedom Unsung program to a national level by collaborating with Tom Joyner Foundation. The Ford Freedom Unsung award honors the outstanding achievements of ordinary people performing extraordinary work in the African American community.

Prior to the program’s national kickoff, Ford Freedom Unsung celebrations have taken place over the past four years in Atlanta; Southern California; Anchorage, Alaska; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; and San Francisco Bay Area.

Individuals are invited to nominate their favorite living unsung hero in the African American community. Nominees must reside in the United States and be 21 years of age or older.

“Ford has a legacy of honoring African American achievement,” said Pamela Alexander, director, community development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We are excited to launch this national contest and reward an unsung hero who uplifts our community.”

Judges will narrow the nominees to the top 10 finalists, then the public will have the opportunity to vote for the grand prize winner. Online voters will represent 25 percent of the vote for the winner. The winner will be announced no later than March 16, and will receive a trip for two aboard the 2016 Fantastic Voyage. Nominations are due no later than Feb. 14, and may be submitted to http://www.blackamericaweb.com

Ford Makes a Showing at Daytona

Billy Johnson and Scott Maxwell drove the Ford Shelby GT350R-C to its first win at Daytona International Speedway on Friday in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race.

Johnson hunted the lead, trading spots for p1 several times in the closing stint. It’s the duo’s second win and third podium in the Shelby GT350R-C since the car debuted at Watkins Glen in 2015. They first won at Lime Rock last season. It was the Shelby GT350R-C’s third overall win in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

After primary challenger Matt Plumb suffered a fuel pump failure in his Porsche, the battle was between two Shelbys – Johnson in the No. 15 Multimatic entry, and Pierre Kleinubing in the brand new No. 76 AERO Advanced Paint Technology/Children’s Tumor Foundation Shelby GT350R-C fielded by Compass360 Racing, the first customer team for the Shelby GT350R-C.

Kleinubing and co-driver Paul Holton finished p2 in their first race together in the Shelby GT350R-C.

“It was great to see two Ford Performance Shelby GT350R-Cs on the podium after all the hard work everyone’s done getting the car to where it’s at,” Johnson said. “It’s the first time the car’s competed at Daytona and we’re really happy to be in victory lane with the car and a 1-2 finish for the GT350R-C. Scott did a fantastic job on the first stint and I just can’t thank him and the team enough for all the hard work and good job they do.”

Maxwell qualified the No. 15 Multimatic entry p3, while Holton put the No. 76 AERO Advanced Paint Technology Shelby p4 on the grid.

There were also 2 Ford GTs in the competition mix, but their showings were a bit less successful.

Both Ford GTs suffered gearbox issues that quickly set them too far behind to catch up. The news was better for the two-car EcoBoost-powered Prototype team until the No. 02 Target/Claritin Riley was sidelined twice with brake problems in the overnight hours.

Mustang and F-150 Are Award Winners

The Ford Mustang and Ford F-150 are winners of a 2016 Most Popular on Edmunds.com Award.

Ford’s iconic pony car was tops among entry-level sports cars, while the toughest, smartest, most capable F-150 ever won for large trucks.

Most Popular on Edmunds.com awards are decided by the Edmunds audience, based on which vehicles are most researched. The awards reflect what car buyers are focused on purchasing, and show Mustang and F-150 are top of mind.

2017 Ford Models

Even as the new year begins, there’s no better feeling than having things to look forward to-which is why we’re so excited to announce what we have to look forward to in 2017:

2017 ESCAPE
Available Spring 2016
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For 2017, Escape boasts a bold new style, starting with a confident grille, sculpted hood and daring stance. A host of new, features include a new center console with convenient media bin to stow all your tech essentials, plus ample storage capacity. The Available SYNC®3 has the great standard SYNC features plus new hardware, new software and a new easy-to-use design. The addition of available Auto Start-Stop Technology can help reduce fuel consumption and vehicle emissions during city driving. For 2017, Escape offers three exhilarating engine options: the standard 2.5L iVCT I-4 engine, the available 1.5L EcoBoost® engine and the available 2.0L EcoBoost engine.

2017 RAPTOR
Available Fall 2016
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The next-generation 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor was unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. For Raptor fans, it was the star of the show. Powered by an all-new 3.5L EcoBoost® engine, the 2017 Raptor has high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy in its body and bed, and weighs 500 lbs. less than the 2014 Raptor. Other features include larger FOX Racing Shox,™ standard 17-inch BFGoodrich® T/A KO all-terrain RWL tires designed specifically for Raptor and a new standard torque-on-demand transfer case.

FORD GT
Available Late 2016
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This is what game‐changing innovation looks like. This edition of the Ford GT is what happens when you tell the best automotive engineers in the world not just to push the envelope, but to bust right through it. From its twin‐turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost® V6 engine projected to produce over 600 hp to its aerodynamically optimized carbon‐fiber fuselage, every aspect of the Ford GT screams innovation. This is how far truly inspired automotive engineering can take you. And how fast.

2017 SUPER DUTY
Available Late 2016
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The all-new 2017 Super Duty was introduced at the 2015 Texas State Fair. It’s the toughest, smartest, most capable Ford Super Duty ever. Why? Because the weight savings from the high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body have been reinvested in the places that matter most. The frame is fully-boxed, with through-welded cross members. And engineered for extremes, with 6 times more high-strength steel and up to 24 times stiffer. Bigger, stronger, and more capable axles. Upgraded suspension and steering for better ride and handling. Upgraded powertrains with more torque than ever. Bigger brakes for better stopping. And the hitches are bigger and stronger to handle larger loads.

2017 CHASSIS CLUB
Available Late 2016
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The all-new 2017 Super Duty Chassis Cab was introduced at the 2015 Texas State Fair. It’s the ultimate in upfitting. No other truck offers you this many configuration options with this easy an upfit. With more towing, more payload and higher GCWR, it’s the most capable Super Duty ever. As jobs get more demanding, it’s good to know your Super Duty can unleash the right amount of fury from under the hood with upgraded powertrains. The frame is fully boxed under the cab and C-Channel behind the cab. Providing better safety, better ride and handling, and is still as adaptable as ever for easier upfitting.

Mustafa Koc, Ford’s Biggest European Partner, Has Died

Mustafa Koc, the head of Turkey’s massive conglomerate Vehbi Koc, has died yesterday of a heart attack. He was 55 years old.

The group of companies accounted for roughly 5% of Turkey’s GDP. In addition, he carried on his father’s (the founder) business partnership in Ford. Ford has seen particularly significant growth all around Europe, and its relationship with V.K. has certainly helped propel its popularity in Southeast Europe and Western Asia.

Bill Ford, Ford Motor Company’s executive chairman, released the following statement regarding the passing of Mr. Koc:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Mustafa Koc and extend our deepest condolences to his entire family. Mustafa was an outstanding business leader, a man of true integrity and a loyal friend and partner to Ford over many decades. He also was a very close personal friend. His family and mine have a special relationship that goes back to Henry Ford and Vehbi Koc. I will miss him personally and professionally.”

What Is Happening To Gas Prices?

Whether it appears as a top headline for every news outlet, or the signs next to gas stations everywhere, you probably noticed that gas prices have hit a downward spiral lately. And, boy, a gallon is really, really cheap. The Southeast region, which includes Louisiana, also features the Gulf of Mexico as a next-door neighbor. So Louisiana’s gas prices have traditionally been among the lowest on average compared to all other states.

But this is different. You could purchase a gallon of gasoline, aka a liquid with the capability of taking you 10-25 miles, for the same price as (or occasionally even less than) a single bottle of water. Now, why is this happening?

Over the past few years, the U.S. began to produce more and more of its oil domestically (and importing from Canada), therefore curbing its reliance on importing from international producers such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran. South American nations, particularly Mexico and Brazil, have the same story. This has come at an enormous cost to international countries that once thrived off exporting to nations such as America, but that’ve now lost that (and other) major piece of business.

So, demand reduced, and in order to keep prices at equilibrium, so should production. However, none of these countries are curbing their operations- they’ve decided that they’d rather take the hits of high production costs than lose market share. These international countries are essentially in a battle with each other-and because they’re all continuing to produce mass amounts, we now have an enormous oil surplus. Low demand + high supply= lower prices.

And as we’ll dive into soon, this phenomenon has a great amount of winners, and a great amount of losers.

Gas Prices: Its Winners and Losers

Long story short, gas prices have plummeted over the past few months due to an international production glut and stagnated demand. As always, low oil/gas prices has its winners and losers:

WINNERS:
-The middle/lower class- gas prices are always a tricky expense for those within low-to-average income brackets. For those driving every day, spending less and less money on gas during every pump visit will add up to relatively significant savings over a period of time.
-Convenience/mega-stores- Savings compiled from spending less on gas, especially for the middle/lower class, are often spent on food and other necessities at stores such as Target, Walmart, Wallgreens, CVS, and 7-11.
-Airlines- lower gas prices are a significant operations expense for airlines, making gas prices a factor in setting price-points for plane tickets. When prices are this low, airlines get to lower their airfares, which leads to more travelers, which leads to both lower operating costs and higher revenues for airlines.
-Frequent air-travelers and drivers- for the same reasons already listed above.

LOSERS:
-Stock traders/investors- the stock markets have gotten crushed lately over plummeting oil prices. The DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) hemmoraged nearly 10% of its value over a disastrous 2 weeks in the stock market. This could also mean trouble for 401k account holders who invest their savings in publicly traded companies.
-Southeastern economies/ oil industry- in states such as the southeast, where the oil industry remains a large part of its economies, lower gas prices (lower oil prices), causing less revenue for oil companies, usually means large lay-offs for the sake of lowering production costs, whose effects tend to trickle down to other industries in those states.

Self-Driving Cars In the Works

Self-driving vehicles are certainly not ready for the road just yet, but they are quickly getting there. So how long until we all have our own personal chauffeur vehicle? Business insider predicts 10 million self driving cars will be on the road by the year 2020. But are these vehicles ready for the hustle and bustle of rush hour traffic, the delicacy of school zones and the every so tricky decision to run through or stop short at a yellow light?

These automobiles are still in prototype phase, but don’t be disappointed, there may be cars in nearby neighborhoods with self driving features that have gone unrecognized, until now.

Parallel parking
Intelligent parking assist was first released to the public in 2003 and it quickly led to further innovations. The first system was designed to allow vehicles to parallel park themselves without any input from the driver, simply pull up to the desired parking spot and let parking assist do the rest. The success of this autonomous maneuvering feature inspired most major manufacturers to implement their own similar features into their vehicles. Parking assist can now park your car parallel, angled or perpendicular to the road. An unreleased program claims to have developed a fully automated parking assist that can be activated from a smartphone or smartwatch, allowing the driver to exit the vehicle and essentially valet park their own vehicle.

Blind spot recognition
Checking your blind spots is an essential of every day driving practice. This can make or break the success of your merging efforts, so what happens if you think your blind spot is empty and you try merging into someone else? This happens all too often, and luckily this problem has been addressed and solved. In 2007 the Blind Spot Information System was released to the public, it offered the ability to check the vehicle’s blind spots and use a small light indicator to inform the driver of a potential obstacle in the blind spot. This feature was taken a step further, and can now prevent the driver from merging lanes if the software detects an obstruction in the way. This automated feature has undoubtedly removed a significant amount of human error collisions.

Collision aversion
Blind spot collisions aren’t the only accidents vehicles can prevent automatically. Collision warning systems along with brake support have the ability to stop the car if the driver is unable to do so, or unaware of the surroundings. Sensors and monitors in vehicles have the ability to recognize if the car ahead of you has made a sudden stop or change in speed, the system can then alert the driver via audio and visual indicators, and even stop itself if the driver does not react. This has proven successful in reducing rear end collisions as well as back up collisions.

Although these autonomous vehicles have the ability to prevent some human error, they are not flawless and remain as test subjects. Having our own personal chauffeur vehicle may not be right around the corner, but our cars are beginning to drive themselves more and more with each new model release.