AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford’s Transit Connect should go after Scion xB

September 9th, 2008 at 5:30pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Ford Transit Connect

Scion xBThe Scion xB is that boxy car aimed at young hipsters, and now Ford has the kind of vehicle that could go after the same kind of customers.

The Ford Transit Connect is a boxy, delivery van kind of vehicle. But it’s small. Think of a miniature version of the Dodge Sprinter van. But the Ford Transit Connect is a front-wheel-drive vehicle with a 4-cylinder engine.

And it’s so homely looking that it’s got all the potential to become an underground hit. Ford thinks it can sell about 20,000 of these things a year, with 80 percent being cargo van versions, and 20 percent used for carrying passengers.

But I think Ford has a shot at boosting sales of passenger versions by also pitching this as a cool vehicle that fits all kinds of lifestyles, and not just as a staid, commercial cargo van. They should aim it right at the Scion xB. The Transit Connect could absolutely become a cult classic that connects with customers that want to be different.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: GM’s Hybrid Pickups

September 9th, 2008 at 9:45am

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Silverado Two-Mode Hybrid Sierra

Everybody’s jumping on the hybrid bandwagon these days and GM’s going to be the first to put a hybrid in the pickup truck segment.

GM’s full-size pickup sales have taken a nosedive mainly because of high gas prices, that’s why GM is going to offer a hybrid version of its full-size pickups. This is the same two-mode hybrid that’s in the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe SUVs. It uses a 6.0-liter V8 and a 300 volt battery which can run on pure electric mode up to 30 miles an hour even when it’s towing. And speaking of towing, a two-wheel-drive model is able to tow up to 6,100 pounds, and fuel economy is improved 25 percent overall with a two-wheel-drive model getting 21 MPG in the city and 22 on the highway.

No word yet on pricing but look for the Silverado and Sierra Hybrids in showrooms during the first half of next year.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford Builds Cars from Organic Materials

September 8th, 2008 at 3:59pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Mustang SeatFord is experimenting so much with how to make cars out of organic materials, you might even be able to eat your car for lunch.

There are a lot of ways to reduce how much CO2 a car causes, and it starts with the materials that go into making a car. Ford is experimenting with soybeans, corn and sugarcane as feedstocks to make car parts.

For example, Ford is making seat cushion bottoms out of soy-based polyurethane in the Mustang, F-150, Fusion, Focus, Escape and Navigator. It’s making head rest covers and seat fabric from a corn-based material. And it’s using sugarcane to make side shields.

Amazingly, if you look at these products, they look normal. They don’t look like they’re made from corn or soy or sugarcane. And that’s the point. The idea is to use materials in new ways to cut CO2 yet do it in a way that the customer can’t even tell the difference.

GM’s Oil Life Monitor

September 4th, 2008 at 5:30pm

GM Oil Life Monitor

Runtime: 3:29

Mechanics have always recommended that drivers change their car’s oil every 3,000 miles. That may have been sound advice years ago when motor oil refining technology was relatively crude (no pun intended) and engines were not built to tight tolerances like they are today, but now it’s totally obsolete. GM is busting the 3,000-mile myth like an old wives’ tale with its oil life monitoring system.

Video after the jump …

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford Changes Door Design to Stop Wind Noise

September 4th, 2008 at 10:36am

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Ford is going to change the way it designs the front doors on its cars and trucks, all in the interest of reducing wind noise.

For a couple of decades now Ford has used what it calls a limo-style door design, where the front door actually covers the outside of the A-pillar. It provides a good, clean look to a vehicle.

But when you’re driving, as the wind comes off the sides of the windshield, air can get diverted into the leading edge of the A-pillar. And if the seal on the door is off by even the slightest amount, you can get wind noise.

So Ford is changing the design so that when the front door closes, its tucked into the side of the car, behind the A-pillar. So as air comes off the sides of the windshield, it just wraps around the side of the car, and that greatly cuts down on any potential wind noise.

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