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Old 4th February 2012, 19:58   #1
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Default Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012

Day 1: Visit to the Henry Ford Museum

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The trip started with a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. Contrary to what the name sounds like, the museum is not an exclusive Ford museum but a collection of various items related to the automobiles (of course), bicycles, airplanes etc and is independent of the Ford Motor Company. There are thousands of collectibles that belong to the museum but it is said that less than 10% of them are on display at a particular time.

I entered the premises thinking that I would see a fleet of cars, but the very first thing I saw surprised me: A Ford branded airplane – The Ford Flivver.

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Powered by a 3 cylinder, 35 hp engine, this was the 3rd or the 4th machine Ford built back in the mid 1920s. The engine was supplied by the French company Anzani (3 Cylinder, 35 hp) and the plane hit a top speed of 85 mph.

Coming to some of the interesting cars that were being prepared for display, the first one that caught my eye was the 2010 Edison2. The car was designed to accomplish an engineering goal – accommodate 4 passengers and deliver more than 100 miles per gallon. The design of the car used low weight material while optimizing the aerodynamics to achieve its goal. The car did not run on electric power because the batteries added significant weight to the machine. The 1-cylinder turbocharged engine sips fuel (called E85) that is 85% Ethanol & 15% Gasoline. Top speed is about a 100 mph and 0-60mph in about 14.2 seconds, but the performance was never the priority.

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Going further, we were told that the display area was being prepared for an exhibit that would focus on the evolution of the auto industry in the US.

The historical Ford Model A runabout – Ford Motor Company’s first ever car, and was seen as a “typical horseless carriage”. About 1700odd such cars were manufactured and sold and this was the Henry Ford’s first successful business venture.

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Then I saw a car and the first words that came to my mind were – Hey, that’s a retro sports car. This was the 1967 Ford Mark IV Sports Car. This was the car that beat a Ferrari (by 32 miles, no less) to finish first in the 1967 Le Mans 24 hour race and set an average speed record of 136 mph. Oh, and this was the race which started the now popular trend celebrating the victory with a bottle of champagne.

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When I was on the way to the museum, I was really excited to see the early Ford Mustang, and was really hoping that I would actually get to see the first one ever built. That was my first question to the Bob Casey, the curator, who led me to the car that many believe was amongst the first Mustangs that Ford built. Even though it was the Ford Mustang Serial # 1, we were not too sure if it was indeed the first one, since both of us believed that the first Mustang would not have been a convertible. So, this might have been the second version but the question remained unanswered.

Presenting the 1965 Ford Mustang convertible:

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Apparently the car was a hit in its times due to the fact it was highly customizable (choice of about 70 permutations). The sporty Mustang was targeted at first time buyers below the age of 30 and as a second car to the generation older than that. The car was powered by V-8, 260 cubic inches engine mated with 3 speed auto box. My favourite of the lot, and the one that I would love as my daily ride
Interesting piece of trivia:
Price of the car = $ 3,334
Avg 1965 wage = $ 5,810 / year
Time you’d work to buy this car then = 7.5 months.
I would post a pic of the latest Ford Mustang which I saw at the Detroit Motor Show later.


The next interesting one was the 1901 Columbia Victoria. Show of hands, how many of us know that electric cars were popular as early as 1901? I certainly was surprised.

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The car was manufactured by Electric Vehicle Company, Hartford, Connecticut and was powered by a 80 Volt DC battery. The car was very popular for intra-city rides, since the maximum range between recharges was about 30 miles.
Price of the car = $ 3,500
Avg 1901 wage = $ 454 / year
Time you’d work to buy this car then = 7 years & 9 Months.
The next thing that caught my eye was not a car, but an engine.

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This was the V-8 engine, an important engine for Ford since this was the first V-8 engine that was light & cheap enough to power a relatively inexpensive car like a Ford. This was an important cog in the Ford wheel as it made Ford rank amongst the fastest cars around and while Chevy was advertising its cars as “6 cylinders for the price of 4”, Ford went a step ahead with “8 cylinders for the price of 6”. To put it in perspective, while Ford’s V-8 car cost from $ 460 to $ 600; the next cheapest V-8 was priced at $ 2400.


Jeep lovers ahoy !! – The 1943 Willys-Overland Jeep runabout. This WWII product went on to become one of America’s favourite vehicles and gave rise to an entirely new segment – SUVs. This particular car weighed at 2450 pounds and produced 54 @ 4000 rpm.

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Price of the car = $ 1,447
Avg 1943 wage = $ 2,107 / year
Time you’d work to buy this car then = 8.5 Months
.

The next car of interest was important because it was launched at the time of the 1970 Energy Crisis when the prices of petroleum shot through the roof, and beyond (a rise of almost 80%). To counter that situation, cars like the 1978 Dodge Omni Sedan from Chrysler were launched that were almost double in terms of FE compared to large sedans and maximized internal space giving rise to the term “Econobox”.

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Price of the car = $ 3,976
Avg 1978 wage = $ 13,263 / year
Time you’d work to buy this car then = 3.5 months.
And then came the Japanese!!

While traditional American manufactures focused on trucka and SUVs (read more profit margins), the Japanese set their foothold in the traditional car market, and how ! The 1989 Honda Accord became the first Japanese car to top the sales charts.

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The car hit the sweet spot with space, power (98hp @ 5500 rpm & 4 speed auto) & typical Honda quality.
Price of the car = $ 13,460
Avg 1989 wage = $ 22,568 / year
Time you’d work to buy this car then = 7.5 months.
And now for the future – Hybrids and arguably the most popular of ‘em all : Toyota Prius. The hybrid technology is quite old but its only recently that hybrid cars have become affordable.
Price of the car = $ 19,995
Avg 2002 wage = $ 31,000 / year
Time you’d work to buy this car then = 7.5 months.
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Now for one of the most interesting cars on display, this car was labeled as the world’s safest car at that time: 1957 Cornell-Liberty Safety Car. This was a concept that was developed by a team of auto researchers and insurance companies (35,000 deaths in road accidents per year). It took almost five years to develop and many of the features became standard in later production cars. Lets look at some of the safety features:
- Panoramic windshield for a 180 degree view
- Front seat passenger restraints
- Steering handles, replacing the traditional steering wheel
- Center seat for the driver, away from all crash points.
- Rear facing passenger seat
- Bucket seats & Head Restraints
- Wraparound energy absorbing bumpers

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And last but not the least, a shot of the Kennedy Car – the car in which the President was shot dead. Credit for the pic goes to a friend Juan.

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Parting shot is the autograph of the man who inspired Henry Ford a lot - Edison.

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This one hour was only the taste of things to come and left me all excited for the North American International Auto Show that we were supposed to visit the next day.

Last edited by GTO : 17th February 2012 at 09:57.
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Old 15th February 2012, 22:38   #2
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Day 2: A visit to the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) 2012

We reached the COBO Center in Detroit for a visit to the Detroit Auto Show. Though the trip was primarily focused to cover Ford cars, we did get some free time to have a look at the show. It was easy to identify the pulse of the auto companies this year – which obviously reflects the consumer mindset in this age and time- Fuel Efficiency. Nearly all the manufacturers focused on fuel efficient cars and hybrids. I do not recall even one of ‘em advertising power & performance without mentioning the efficiency bit. Our very own Maruti advertisements would have been a hit here.


The day started with the Ford Press Conference with the Exec Chairman Bill Ford speaking about Ford’s focus areas for the future – Safer, Cleaner, Smarter & Fuel Efficient cars. He was followed by President & CEO Alan Mulally who announced that 2012 was a landmark year for Ford as they launch more products globally this year than ever in their history, and across all platforms. He mentioned the Ecosport launch in India as the starting point to expand presence in the major growth markets. Ford would also be starting the manufacture of five new electrified vehicles in North America, wanting to triple the volumes of ecoboost engines. They also plan to expand manufacturing jobs in USA by 12,000 & by 3000 in the Asia Pacific region.

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He mentioned the mid size C/D segment as being the most competitive and important in the industry in the USA. To put it in perspective, 4 out of the top 5 selling cars belong to this segment. He introduced the car that Ford is banking upon for success in the segment called Ford Fusion (North America) and to be launched as Mondeo in Europe & Asia later this year. This car would compete directly with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord that have traditionally ruled the market, but have been facing a decline in the sales.

Ford officials also talked about the Ford Fusion influencing the brand Ford more than any other car in their lineup , along with a constant increase in sales & market share.
Here is a look at the new car. The car offers three variants:
1-Gasoline Ecoboost engines- Ford claims that the 1.6 litre engine will deliver class leading FE and 2.0 engine will be the one for the enthusiasts and will have an all wheel drive.
2-The hybrid version sees better Lithium ion batteries that are lighter but provide better power and a better top speed of upto 62 mph in the electric only mode. It featuers a 2 litre engine, which is a downgrade from the 2.5 litre in the outgoing model.
3-In terms of efficiency, the third variant takes the cake. Ford claims the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid will deliver more than a 100mpge (miles per gallon equivalent for electrified vehicles)
In short, there was talk of features like Lane Keeping System, Park Assist, Cruise Control, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), but above all – Fuel Efficiency. It almost felt like India

Post the press conference, we were then taken to the Ford stall at the NAIAS. Some more pics of the Fusion:
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Last edited by Eddy : 17th February 2012 at 01:58.
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Old 16th February 2012, 00:31   #3
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2012 C-Max hatch, priced at $ 22,700. I like this car better than the latest hatch version of the Fiesta. Will make for a good buy in India, provided they price it sensible

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2013 Ford Escape.

Not great looking, but not bad either - especially the side profile. The rear does not look nice, and by the time I finished with the Ford pavilion, I was positive that the rear design of Ford cars was not to my linking. And I think that a lot of you guys share this opinion with me.

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The Ford Focus, in a cute yellow color, looked better than the Fiesta hatchback. I loved the blue color too, especially the black grill goes well with it.
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Old 16th February 2012, 00:56   #4
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The very familiar Ford Fiesta sedan. I am not a fan of this car, can't digest the rear looks at all. Easily, the most boring car at the Ford pavilion.

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And now for the car that I wanted to see the most, the 2013 Ford Mustang and it did not disappoint me at all. Just, look at the tail lights. Loved 'em.

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The next one on display was a very interesting Edsel Ford’s 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster. This was a car that had been restored to its 1940 mechanical state when it was owned by Edsel Ford himself. This was amongst the most stylish cars in its times and shaped the Lincoln brand of automobiles.
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Old 16th February 2012, 00:59   #5
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That's got to be the hottest looking Mondeo ever! Ford has always made great looking cars, but their new cars make me go weak in the knees like no other. The new Focus looks mental!

Loving the pictures Eddy!
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Old 16th February 2012, 01:28   #6
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Now for some pics from other major makers participating in the Auto show.

Chevrolet: Spark , Sonic – Hatch and Sedan

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BMW drool. The concept cars at BMW scored above the other ones on display, and was a good handshake between style and practicality.

The all new 3 series was BMW's big launch and was well appreciated.

By far, my favourite car in the entire show was the The Audi R8 GT Spider. Look at that color and the finish. Very unique and beats all cars hands down on style, IMO.

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The 6000cc, V12, 620hp Excellence in Luxury – Maybach.

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Old 16th February 2012, 02:28   #7
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Although not as big as the Ford pavilion, Toyota was a fairly large display with most of the cars also relevant for the indian market though the focus was on hybrids. The cars on display were the Highlander, Prius, Camry, Yaris, Fuel Cell FCV-R and a funny looking concept Fun –Vii

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Old 16th February 2012, 02:47   #8
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The VW Beetle looked its cute self. Saw it live for the first time, and must say that it looked way better than the pics. Personally, would prefer this over the Fiat 500.

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On the contrary, the Porsche stall had all the cars in one boring color- Silver.

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The Hyundai Elantra that may soon be coming to India. Thumbs up on the design, love the tail lamps.

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The other big launch on day 1 was the Mercedes' new SL Class. Good, but I prefer the 3 series bimmer

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And then there was TATA....

I almost missed this since this was outside the main display area but felt nice. Alas, there was nobody around to share more info about the car but here are the pics.

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Day 3: A visit to the Ford Headquarters

The day started early and we were scheduled to visit the Ford Headquarters (Product Design Center). It’s a sprawling campus, but the chill in the air and a tight schedule meant that we could not spend any time outside and were taken inside the building to get to sample how various design facets of a car are conceptualized and implemented.

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Flags of all the countries where Ford does business donned the roof of the office

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The day was divided into presentations about various things happening at Ford. The first one educated us about the work & research being done to use renewable resources (like soyabeans) to produce parts like seat cushion, seat backs etc instead of oil that goes into making foam. The aim is to decrease dependency on foreign countries for oil supply and go green – reduce carbon dioxide to increase the environment footprint.

The use of Soy foam in about 3 million Ford vehicles has helped Ford to reduce 15 million lbs CO2/ year and the petroleum oil consumption has gone down by 3 million lbs per year.

Ford also delved over the use of natural & recyclable materials in their cars with the usual benefits like using a lot of natural fibre, corn based plastics & fabric for parts like doorpads and underbody systems.

We were then taken to their state of the art digital theater – EDPR (Electronic Display & Presentation Room) used for car designing and presentation. A demo of real time car rendering and a virtual simulator where designers visually inspect the design at various angles and in motion were shown by the Ford engineers . The system is also used to similate, for example, how different interior combinations would look on the car. The amazing bit was the level of resolution that the system was able to replicate – to the extent of matching the texture of the plastics used for the dashboard.

While all of this did look impressive, but I am sure that Ford is not the only company to do so. Would really to love to find out how the other auto makers go about digital processing of their cars, which incidentally is the source of all the advertorial pics that we see, but you already knew that didn’t you?

While the digital session was mostly on expected lines, the next one was actually very interesting because it looked old school – The Clay Modelling Laboratories. We saw life size clay models of the cars and we were told that clay modeling was the follow up step after digital design and completed the design process. Interestingly, the clay models of the cars were heavier than the production cars themselves, and the focus of clay design was too see how the light reflections and the body lines would look like. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to click pics inside.

We were then given a demo of the driver interaction system in Ford cars (uses Microsoft Sync). Its your usual voice command & recognition system that gives you details on the weather, traffic, news etc. Not very different from what you see in cars nowadays, and frankly the technology has still some way to go to work seamlessly. Personally, I am amazed why this is not considered as a safety hazard while driving.

We were also taken to the HOP lab where the driving conditions are simulated to measure the driver reaction to events like adjusting the seats and how the ergonomics are affected by the positioning of various controls in the car.

Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012-img_0965.jpg

And this was it. The tour had ended, almost as soon as it began. Time flew, but they were interesting times

The one thing that stood out in the entire visit was the enthusiasm & flawless co-ordination between the Ford employees. A special thanks to Tony McCloud who ensured that the arrangements were absolutely fantastic.

Disclaimer : Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodation at the 2-day Innovation and Design Fantasy Camp event.

A quick change of clothes and I was ready to say goodbye

Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012-img_0997.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 17th February 2012 at 10:21.
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Old 17th February 2012, 10:21   #11
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Default Re: Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Int'l Car Scene. Thanks for sharing, Eddy!
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Old 17th February 2012, 10:31   #12
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Default Re: Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddy View Post
2012 Ford Fiesta hatch, priced at $ 22,700. I like this car better than the latest sedan version of the Fiesta. Will make for a good buy in India, provided they price it sensible


But this is not Fiesta hatch! This is C-Max. Please make correction.
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Old 23rd February 2012, 14:43   #13
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Default Re: Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012

Ford must be having 2 design teams who dont get along well: 1 for the front, Driver side & another for the rear passengers/rear seats. It completely stumps me when the car which looks so gorgeous from the front, the most comfortable driver seats, innovative dashboard also has the most outrageous ugly design in the rear, cramped rear seats & drab looking tail-lamps.

Clearly I think its time they fire the second team.
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Old 25th February 2012, 14:22   #14
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Default Re: Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012

I used to at the Ford IT center in Detroit for 3 years between 2005 to 2008 and used to regularly visit the Henry ford museum. Brought back memories of the happy times I spend there along with the family. As for Ford Mustang, I would call it the "lay mans" sports car. I had the privilege of visiting the Ford Flat Rock Plant were Mustangs are produced and must be one of the very few guys who was allowed into the paint shop !!. Thanks for the snaps.
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Old 25th February 2012, 22:38   #15
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Default Re: Ford Innovation & Design Fantasy Camp and a visit to NAIAS 2012

It was interesting to know that autoboxes were there in cars way back in 1965!
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