Finalists announced for 2011 European Car of the Year

November 11th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

While there are a multitude of automotive awards out there in cyberspace the one many automakers value most remains the European Car of the Year. To find a winner for the coveted title seven publications from seven different countries get together each year to nominate their collective Car of the Year, and then announce it in one united voice.

The process takes place over the course of months with the first step being the nominations, then the finalists and ultimately the solitary winner. The finalists for 2011 have just been announced, and as you’d expect it’s heavily loaded with European vehicles, but the list is not without some surprises.

The finalists include the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Citroën C3/DS3, Renault/Dacia Duster, Ford C-Max/Grand C-Max, Nissan Leaf, Opel/Vauxhall Meriva and Volvo S60/V60. The Alfa’s nomination is a decade after its predecessor, the 147, took the award in its launch year. The Nissan Leaf is an interesting inclusion and represents the first time an electric vehicle has made it this far in the competition.

The winner will be announced on November 29, so check back then.

Ford records $1.7 billion third quarter profit – time to pay off debts

October 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It seems like the dark clouds over Detroit are clearing with reports that the Ford Motor Company has recorded a third quarter net income of $1.7 billion USD. This marks a $690 million USD improvement over the third quarter of 2009, fueled mostly by solid sales in the North American market.

Ford has been nicely profitable for five consecutive quarters now, with a current pre-tax operating profit of $2.1 billion — an improvement of $1.1 billion from a year ago.

Revenue for the last three months reached $29 billion, which is $1.3 billion less when compared to 2009 , but Ford is still far down the road to recovery.

Ford North America did particularly well, with a pre-tax operating profit of $1.6 billion a impressive $1.3 billion improvement over last year.

Ford has also used the occasion to announce that it’s working hard on debt reduction.

Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally has this to say, “This was another strong quarter and we continue to gain momentum with our One Ford plan. Delivering world class products and aggressively restructuring our business has enabled us to profitably grow even at low industry volumes in key regions”.

2012 Ford Focus XR4 Turbo – promotional video released

October 21st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Following on from its debut at the Paris Motor Show, Ford has now released a promotional video showing off the performance-focused variant of its all new Ford Focus.

Called the Focus ST in European markets the second quickest model (after the RS) is likely to be sold here in NZ as the 2012 Ford Focus ‘XR4′ Turbo. Why not the XR5?

Because with the discontinuation of Ford’s five-cylinder turbo engine last month, the ST’s new Ecoboost four-cylinder engine will probably see the XR5 Turbo badge dropped in favour of the XR4 Turbo moniker.

“The ST will be the performance flagship of our new Focus range, and we were excited to provide our enthusiast customers with an early preview in Paris,” Ford’s Global C-car boss Gunnar Hermann said. “The ST represents an ultimate expression of Focus driving quality and performance and we are confident that the new model will strengthen the reputation of Ford’s ST heritage among enthusiast drivers and attract new fans as well.”

Motivated by the strongest incarnation of Ford’s turbocharged 2.0 litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, the new Focus ST will output a very strong 184kW.

Little else is known in terms of torque, performance figures and other technical details but more will be revealed shortly.

A three door model is expected to join the new Focus line-up around a year after the five-door hatch reaches showrooms. However, the three-door model may not be offered locally, in regular or XR4 trim.

Click on the video below to see the Focus ST in action. Continue reading “2012 Ford Focus XR4 Turbo – promotional video released” »

Ford Start concept to replace Ka in 2014

October 20th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Initial details on the production version of the 2014 Ford Start have begun surfacing on the web this week. The 2014 Ford Start was first unveiled back in April as a concept car at the Beijing auto show in China. But now it has been revealed that the Start concept car will be the base for the replacement to the Ford  Ka and will be ready for sale in 2014. The Start will be powered by a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine equipped with a turbocharging and a spark-ignited, direct-injection fuel management system. This modern powertrain will be mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

It’s too early for power outputs and performance figures, however, it’s speculated that the new model will develop around 75kW. Just like the concept, the production model will have a low CO2 emissions level of around 100 g/km of CO2.

In automotive years it’s a long time between now and 2014, so expect the Ford Ka replacement to offer various new technologies that are only being developed now. Ford predicts one new technology used on the car will be a voice activation system that will control the air conditioning, vehicle diagnostics and various other features. The Start will be built on an aluminum and steel chassis, with a lightweight aluminum safety cell.

Check out more images in the gallery below. Continue reading “Ford Start concept to replace Ka in 2014” »

All-new 2011 Ford Ranger ute revealed!

October 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Unveiled last Friday at the opening of the 2010 Australian International Motor Show, Ford’s all-new 2011 T6 Ranger has already been well received by show attendees and ute fans.

Nearly ready to go on sale in 180 markets around the world, the new Ranger has been developed in cooperation with the new Mazda BT-50. This new-generation Ranger is an integral part of Ford’s ‘One Ford’ strategy and was developed in Australia with 450 local engineers working on the project.

“In Australia, Ford reinforces its tough-truck credentials by revitalizing the Ford Courier and re-branding Ford Ranger around the world,” Ford Australia President and Managing Director Marin Burela said. “It’s anchored by work credibility, versatility and bolder styling, which will make it more appealing to a dual-purpose user.”

In terms of styling the 2011 Ranger moves a step closer to passenger cars in aesthetics, interior appointments as well as equipment levels. The Ranger’s interior design is intensely modern with Ford’s designers looking to ergonomically-designed tools and Casio’s G-Shock watches for inspiration.

Ford has revealed details on the available engines in the Ranger’s line-up, although pricing remains a secret for now.

Two new diesel engines will be offered with the Ranger, along with Ford’s new 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission and the MT82 six-speed manual transmission. Ford’s new common rail Duratorq TDCi diesel engines will see duty under the bonnet, starting with the 2.2 litre four-cylinder unit offering 110kW and 375Nm of torque. At the other end of the scale is Ford’s 3.2 litre five-cylinder producing 147kW and a stump-pulling 470Nm of torque.

Unlike some current ute ranges Ford will be offering a petrol model that uses a 122kW 2.5 litre Duratec four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to the MT75 five-speed manual transmission.

The new 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission will have two driving modes, Normal and Sport mode which will provide quicker shifts and a general sportier feel. Another feature of the six-speed auto is Ford’s Grade Control Logic, designed to automatically shift down on a downhill grade when sufficient brake pressure is sensed.

The 4WD models are equipped with an electronically controlled transfer case that allows drivers to shift from 4×2 to 4×4 through an electronic switch located on the console, while low range gearing can also be enabled when required.

In size the new Ranger is larger than its predecessor in almost every way. The new Double Cab model is 190mm longer, 43mm wider and 63mm taller, while its wheelbase has seen an increase by 220mm to 3220mm.

Carrying capacity has also increased with the more powerful engines now reaching 1500kg.

Continue reading “All-new 2011 Ford Ranger ute revealed!” »

Ford UK celebrates the iconic Transit with special edition SportVan

October 15th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

When it comes to delivery vans, no one knows them better than the Brits. Here in NZ we often use large trucks and utes, the Brits favour the good ole panel van and the king of them all is the Ford Transit. For the past 45 years the Transit has been the best-selling van in the U.K and to celebrate Ford is releasing a special edition of this faithful workhorse.

The Transit SportVan is based on the popular 260, short wheelbase model with front wheel drive, the 104kW 2.2-litre TDCi diesel engine and a six-speed transmission. The red SportVan will be the first medium-sized van to come with DAB radio as standard.

The exterior features Colorado Red paintwork, Le Mans-style white bonnet stripes, twin exhausts, 18in graphite colour alloy wheels, low profile 235/45 tyres, front and rear lower spoilers, side skirts and extended wheel arches. Standard safety features include ABS, ESP and driver and passenger airbags.

Inside the cab: velour trim, air conditioning, six CD-player with remote steering-column-mounted controls, cruise control, power windows, powered and heated mirrors, leather steering wheel, tinted glass, leather gearshift knob and a perimeter alarm are also standard.

Power deadlocks, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, front fog lights and a load area protection kit similarly come on every SportVan. Optional are leather seats, Satellite Navigation FX system with 5in colour screen, LED cargo lights in rear and LED daytime running lights. Continue reading “Ford UK celebrates the iconic Transit with special edition SportVan” »

The Falcon XR8 will survive Ford’s new ‘One Ford’ policy

October 14th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

If you’ve read recent reports online you’d be forgiven for thinking the Ford Falcon XR8 is dying a slow death. But in a recent interview Ford Australia’s big boss Marin Burela has confirmed that the XR8 will return to the company’s Falcon line-up in Australia, despite being absent since the introduction of tougher emissions legislation in June this year. The current model XR8 remains available here in NZ.

Across the ditch the adoption of Euro IV emissions laws forced the retirement of the XR8′s 5.4 litre Boss V8, and also FPV’s naturally-aspirated 5.4 V8. Last week FPV revealed its all-new Euro IV compliant 5.0 litre supercharged V8 (read news), but a replacement for the XR8′s hasn’t been sorted yet.

But, Mr Burela has put the fears of Falcon fans at ease.

“Performance cars are part of our heritage,” Mr Burela said. The [XR8] is very much part of our lineup, and it will be for many many years to come. We have an incredible desire to make sure that we don’t let go of things that actually work for us. We thought that it was the right thing to do to make sure that we bring out the FPV range first and get that established and moving first.”

Mr. Burela hasn’t confirmed if the 2011 XR8 would make use of FPV’s locally-developed supercharged “Miami” V8, or if the Mustang’s naturally-aspirated 5.0 litre “Coyote” V8 would be picked.

The Mustang’s engine produces 307kW and 529Nm in its strongest form and would provide an exciting replacement for the current 290kW/520Nm Boss V8.

Continue reading “The Falcon XR8 will survive Ford’s new ‘One Ford’ policy” »

Next-gen Ford Falcon may use Mustang platform

October 6th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Ford has managed to stay strong through the tough economic times with a large part of its success attributed to the “One Ford” policy installed by boss Allan Mulally. But not all Ford enthusiasts are fans of this policy particularly with recent speculation, after Mulally’s comments at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show, that next Ford Falcon would be transferred to a front-wheel drive platform, shared with the American Taurus.

We love our RWD machines and most Falcon fans turn red at the thought of it going front drive, but new reports that comments by Mulally at the Paris Motor Show may calm those fears. The Ford CEO has now acknowledged that rear drive vehicles are still commercially viable, and continued that the automaker would continue to make vehicles that customers want.

While Mulally didn’t exactly announce that the Mustang and Falcon would one day share a platform, he hinted that it’s a possibility. Mulally said that rear-wheel drive platforms will be global in the future, adding “we love our rear-wheel drive platforms and we love Mustang, and they’re global platforms.”

This isn’t the first time rumours about the Falcon and Mustang sharing a rear drive platform have surfaced. In January of this year it was revealed that the next Mustang would house an independent rear suspension set up. Making it even more likely that the Falcon and Mustang would share that platform.