Thanks to a misunderstanding about a missed phone call and a colleague up in Michigan, I recently had the privilege of attending the Further with Ford Trend Conference 2014 in Dearborn.
Over the course of two days, I saw the outer faces of the automaker both flesh-and-blood and bricks-and-mortar, some of its inner workings, its current offerings and one of its future products.
On the morning of Tuesday, June 24, I went to Ford’s Product Development Center to see the media unveiling of what an email told me would be “an all-new product.” I was hoping it would be the new Mustang Shelby GT350.
I admit that I was disappointed to see two tall vehicles under silky shrouds. Those were soon ripped away to expose a couple of examples of the 2015 Ford Edge.
However, the car nerd in me saw the silver lining in the situation. I was present for the debut of the next generation of a vehicle that is, according to Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of the Americas, the best-selling five-seat mini utility in Southern California. The upcoming iteration of the Edge will also be sold in Europe, making it a world-wide offering (Ford already moves a lot of Edges in China). Look for the new cute ute in North American dealerships early next year.
The 2015 version will offer buyers the choice of three engines. A standard 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4 with an estimated 245 horsepower will pack twin-scroll turbo technology to enhance low-end output. A 300+ horsepower 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 will power the Sport model. Ford’s 3.5-liter naturally aspirated six-cylinder motor will also be available.
Later, I was given a glimpse of the virtual reality environment the Edge team used to understand what customers will experience in the CUV’s interior, which appeared very Fusion-like in the real world.
The innovative men and women bundled numerous electronic aids into their newest product, such as ratio-changing adaptive steering, a 180-degree front camera and enhanced active park assist for parallel and perpendicular maneuvers. All of them should come in handy to the global customers for whom the new crossover is intended.
At lunch, I had the unexpected privilege of meeting the one and only Alan Mulally. He was Ford’s president and chief executive officer from September 2006 to July 1 of this year, when Mark Fields, Ford’s chief operating officer, succeeded him as CEO. People followed Mulally around the ballroom for pictures and autographs as if he were a rock star.
Wednesday afternoon, rainy weather briefly interrupted the festivities at Ford’s Dearborn Development Center. After the storm cleared up, I got the opportunity to drive three 2015 4X4 Super Duty trucks around the banked high-speed track at 70 mph: an F-250 and two King Ranch F-350s, one of which was a dually. Yee-haw.
Even though each truck was carrying around half of their payload, the weight didn’t seem to slow down the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8s. It did keep their rear ends planted to the tarmac, though. That is an especially good thing because the oil-burners crank out 440 horsepower and a staggeringly high 860 pound-feet of torque. For such tall, heavy beasts, the Super Duty rigs were surprisingly composed and easy to drive at highway velocities, even with one hand.
At dinner in the Ford Performing Arts Center, I watched the public debut of the new Edge. Fields, Harvard professor Clayton Christensen and designer Kenneth Cole sat on stage and discussed how to not only solve problems, but how to find them in the first place.
Years ago, Todd Walton, the manager of Ford’s environmental quality office, discovered a significant problem that affects more than just car companies. He spoke Wednesday, June 25 at the most interesting of the two trend sessions I was able to attend—Sustainability Blues—about water shortages in the developing world. (You can read more about all of the conferences here.) For instance, during one of Walton’s visits to the Indian city of Sanand, he observed men brushing their teeth, people bathing and women washing dishes—all with the same water from rooftop barrels.
Fortunately, the Blue Oval is doing its part to conserve. Walton said, “Since 2009, we’ve reduced water 30 percent per vehicle. Our target was to do that by 2015.” By decreasing usage of the valuable resource in processes ranging from parts washing to painting, Ford saved 10.6 billion gallons of water between 2000 and 2012.
The automaker has also been responsible with its finances. Earlier on Tuesday, Hinrichs said the end of this year’s first three months marked the 19th consecutive profitable quarter for the manufacturer. The current Edge CUV sells more than the Nissan Murano, Toyota Venza and Honda Crosstour combined. Let’s hope Ford can accomplish one more thing, in particular: carrying out its plan of adding 5,000 new hourly and salary positions in the U.S. in 2014. Doing so would help the company, as well as talented, passionate car-loving professionals, truly move forward in a big way.