Ford's new line goes further, but how far?
New technology for the car includes Sync, a voice-activated in-car connectivity system, and Active City Stop, a system designed to help drivers avoid low-speed collisions. The Sync system includes emergency assistance, which directly connects to local emergency-service operators after a crash.
The Fiesta will also feature the European debut of Ford’s MyKey system, which will allow owners to configure maximum speed and audio-volume limits in the car.
Aimed at parents who allow their newly licensed children to drive the car, it allows owners to programme the car so that when the spare key is used, the audio is mute until seat belts are fastened, and a maximum speed of 140km/h or 160km/h can be set.
Ford wants to use these technological additions to demonstrate it’s as much a tech firm these days as a metal basher. And therein lies the challenge: the reality is that car firms cannot compete with the tech giants in Silicon Valley but need to work with them to ensure cars can at least keep abreast of the high-speed advances in the communications and infotainment sectors.
According to Raj Nair, Ford’s head of global product development, the brand needs to be “device agnostic” when it comes to letting owners sync their mobile devices seamlessly with their cars, while offering world firsts in safety and driving aids for a consumer audience whose attention span flits from the new Nokia one week to the latest iPhone the next. When the latest gadgets have shelf-lives of barely a year, it’s a daunting task to create a new car that’s expected to stay fresh on the forecourt for at least four or five years.
Other models coming down the track include the EcoSport, a dinky little supermini-SUV with a small wheel attached to the rear door to make it look rugged. On sale already in South America, it bears some resemblance to the Daihatsu Terios of years past – and seems just about as practical. The EcoSport arrives in Ireland in January.
Far more tempting news is that the US-built Ford Edge crossover is coming to Europe, along with the next-generation Mustang. The Edge was the car that revamped Ford’s quality image in the US market as it struggled for survival back in 2006, and it’s still one of the smartest-looking crossovers on the US forecourts. As for the Mustang, it might be some time before we actually see them at Ford dealers here, but executives promise they are on the way.
While the financial message may seem to be the same – losses, future cutbacks, concerns about the European economy and oversupply of new cars – in terms of Ford’s new metal, big changes are on the way.
While these “go further” than turnaround plans from the past, with yet another year of losses and an industry overcapacity in Europe estimated at 40 per cent, it remains to be seen if they go far enough.