You have to give Ford credit for its aggressiveness in designing and marketing its 2008 lineup of cars, SUVs and crossover vehicles, which are just starting to hit showrooms. And if truth be told, a number of the automaker’s vehicles have all the markings of surefire hits. The Ford Escape Hybrid (above) is one such up-and-comer, as are the Ford Edge crossover vehicle (introduced in 2007) and the Taurus X crossover (a rebadged Freestyle that shows promise, though the exterior design needs some tweaking). I also like the Focus, which is a great little entry-level vehicle, and I think the new Ford Taurus (a rebadged Five Hundred) has the possibility of being a breakthrough hit for the automaker.
The 2008 Taurus is an interesting vehicle, in part because of the attention paid to it by Ford’s interior design team. According to press reports, it appears that Ford is determined not to screw up this vehicle. Instead, the automaker is paying close attention to the details, or what is often referred to as the vehicle’s “fit and finish.” Such components as the shift knob, the instrument gauges, the feel of the audio control knobs, and even the sound the door makes when it closes have come under intense scrutiny by designers, who are seeking to create an image of quality.
That’s admirable, and it’s a theme that’s beginning to resonate through the car company. For proof, just take a look at the “Top 10 New Product Features” for 2008 Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys. A partial list includes the following:
> Ford Sync, a “voice-activated, hands-free, in-car communications and entertainment system.” incorporates Bluetooth technology and USB connectivity to enable drivers to easily integrate their mobile phones and media players with the car’s systems. For instance, you can control your iPod simply by speaking to it. Cool. Developed with Microsoft, the Sync system will be available on 12 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles later this year, and on all of Ford’s vehicles in two years.
> Voice-activated navigation, which enables hands-free operation, will enable drivers to control the navigation system with more than 100 vocal commands. It will be available on 13 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles for 2008.
> A capless fuel filler will be standard on 2008 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer models. No need to ever worry again about losing the gas cap. Instead, the capless fuel system opens automatically when a fuel nozzle is inserted, and seals shut automatically when the nozzle is removed.
> Eco-friendly recycled seating surfaces, made from 100-percent post-industrial waste, are installed in the 2008 Ford Escape and Ford Escape Hybrid. This is an industry-first, Ford notes, and should save 600,000 gallons of water, 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, and 7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.
Other Top 10 new product features include a rear-view camera system, an LED ambient interior lighting system, one touch power-assisted flip-and-fold seats in the Taurus X, and a Tailgate Step in the 2008 Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks. All in all, that’s a pretty impressive list. All that remains is to see if drivers respond to these innovations with their pocketbooks.