Ford tops GM in US vehicle sales in May, driven by fleets

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Ford, bolstered by heavy sales to fleet customers, surpassed General Motors in US new vehicle sales in May, according to figures reported Thursday.

Ford said May sales rose 2.2 percent from a year ago to 241,126 units. GM sales dropped 1.3 percent to 237,364.

GM said it had been trimming sales of heavily discounted vehicles to car rental companies. Such fleet sales made up about 19 percent of its total sales in May.

Ford’s fleet sales rose 8.4 percent, representing more than 34 percent of total sales. The industry average is around 20 percent.

Analysts had expected mixed results for the industry, with sales likely propped up by heavy discounts.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said May sales dipped 0.9 percent to 193,040.

Toyota’s US sales dropped 0.5 percent to 218,248.

Nissan said US sales in May rose 3.0 percent, to 137,471.

After demand fell in March and April, analysts estimated May sales at just over 1.5 million. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales in May was estimated at 16.8 million to 16.9 million vehicles, about the same as April. A year earlier, sales stood at 17.55 million vehicles.

Early reports indicated that sales over the three-day Memorial Day weekend were helped by heavy discounts.

“While demand for new vehicles is still relatively strong, it’s a bit of smoke and mirrors,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds, the car shopping website.

Manufacturers and dealers “really pushed the deals over the holiday weekend to prop up their May numbers,” she said. “Incentives were up sharply, and it seems automakers are putting more cash on the hood to nudge car shoppers to buy versus lease.”

General Motors dealers were offering discounts of up to $12,000 on the full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickup, while some dealer discounts on Ford Motor Co’s F-series pickups were more than $10,000 on 2017 models and more than $14,000 on leftover 2016 models. The 2017 model year started eight months ago.

Ford is sending the Focus RS off with a red, LSD-equipped bang

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Ford is discontinuing the current generation Focus RS after the 2018 model year, and so it’s making a special edition to cap off the car’s run. The car doesn’t get any special moniker, but it is loaded with some nifty goodies and visual changes. Immediately apparent is the new color, Race Red. It’s one of two available colors, the other being Nitrous Blue. Both colors are accented by a black roof, mirrors, and rear wing, the latter of which has blue RS logos on each side.

The limited-edition RS also gets a significant mechanical upgrade. Unlike normal Focus RS models, this one gets a Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential for the front drive wheels. Ford says this should improve traction under acceleration and aid corner exit speed. Along with limited-slip differential, the car comes standard with forged 19-inch wheels. Naturally, they’re painted black to match the mirrors, roof, and wing.

[Source: Autoblog]

 

 

Ford will ‘create or protect’ 800 jobs, invest $350M in transmission plant

Ford announced today the latest in a line of multimillion-dollar investments in American factories. It will pump $350 million into its Livonia, Mich., transmission plant in order to add another transmission line. According to Ford, this new investment will either add or preserve a total of 800 hourly jobs. The move is also a notable contrast to the company’s plans of reducing salaried staff this year.

That wording means the number of new jobs will likely be less than 800. In fact, a Ford representative told us that most of the new positions will be filled by current employees. Hiring for the new positions begins a the end of this year, and will continue through the next two years.

As for the new transmission Ford will be building at the Livonia plant, the company provided few details. It said it will be for a front-wheel-drive applications, and that it will be efficient and use techniques and designs developed for the 10-speed transmission in the F-150 and Expedition. This transmission line will join lines that build gearboxes for the Mustang, F-150, Transit, and Expedition.

[Source: Autoblog]

Shelby’s widebody Mustang is a concept, but its Super Snake F-150 is production bound

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Though Shelby already offers a Super Snake version of the current Mustang, the company clearly wanted more. Specifically, it wanted more width. The result is a new Super Snake concept with a wide body kit, and apparently it’s the first Shelby-designed concept in over 10 years. You would be forgiven for at first mistaking it for a normal Super Snake, as the spoilers, diffuser, and side skirts are very similar, but the fenders have been significantly pushed out, and the correspondingly wide wheels fitted underneath. The rear wheels are 12.5 inches wide, and the front wheels are 11. These modifications increase the track by 4 inches at the rear, and 2.5 inches at the front.

The Super Snake concept receives various other expected upgrades. The Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 has a supercharger that allows it to make about 750 horsepower. Fully adjustable coilover suspension is found at each corner along with larger brakes. The front discs are 16 inches in diameter with 6-piston calipers, and the rears are 14 inches with 4-piston calipers. But if you want a widebody Super Snake of your own, you’re out of luck, since it’s only a concept at the moment.

What isn’t a concept is the Super Snake F-150 Shelby. The company will build 150 of the trucks this year. It also has a 750-horsepower supercharged V8 under the hood, and buyers can choose to mate it to a two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive drivetrain. And of course, being a Shelby product, it has stripes and flashy bodywork so no one will mistake it for something else. It isn’t cheap, though. You’ll have to shell out $96,880 to take one home. To put that into perspective, just $10,000 more would buy you a new F-150 Raptor and a Shelby GT350 Mustang.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford to add Android Auto and CarPlay to 2016 SYNC 3 cars via update

Ford is updating a large number of 2016 model year cars equipped with SYNC 3 infotainment software, adding Android Auto and CarPlay to the vehicles with a free, over-the-air update via Wi-Fi, or using either USB or going through their dealer. The upgrade will be available for around 800,000 vehicles in total, giving a huge number of Ford car owners the chance to get big infotainment improvements without having to buy a newer model car.

The OTA update option is also a big step for Ford – it’s the company’s first for software ever, and it’s one of the major reasons that Ford recently hired around 400 new mobile smartphone engineers, the company tells me.

For CarPlay, users will still also need to upgrade their vehicle’s USB hub to make this work (which will also incur a dealer visit and a cost), but for those on Android, all that’s required is a simple software installation. The USB install method is also faster, but the Wi-Fi update option is the start of the company’s efforts to really increase its OTA update program, which will be used for security improvements as well as infotainment bumps.

Even with a dealer visit and hardware upgrade for CarPlay, this sounds like a worthwhile thing for 2016 vehicle owners to do. CarPlay and Android Auto are huge upgrades vs. most in-car software, offering navigation and entertainment options that follow you from your phone to your car.

Retroactively offering this kind of thing to car owners is a definite change in tone for carmakers, since they typically use these kinds of things as incentives to get people interested in vehicle model updates. But as data becomes increasingly important to automakers as a business, it makes sense to encourage greater in-car use of devices.

One family named Speed, one passion, a whole stable of Mustangs

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Ford this morning introduced us to the Speed family – yes, that’s their name – and their current stable of Mustangs. Here’s how the family went all-in on pony cars, and it started with an actual pony.

The patriarch, the late Gilbert Speed of Valdosta, Ga., and his wife had seven children, and one pet pony. So he sold the pony and bought a 1965 Mustang, and they were off to the races. “One Saturday, Dad said, ‘If you guys won’t ride him, I know what I’ll do with him,'” as son Daniel Speed tells it. “Then he came back with that car.”

Next, the youngest Speed sibling, Chester, purchased a 1965 Mustang in 1980. Following that, four other Speeds started buying Mustangs of their own, and Daniel and Chester restored them. Daniel works in aerospace now, but before that he was a mechanic for his dad’s trucking company, where the fleet was all-Ford.

The Speeds currently own nine Mustangs ­– seven are Mach 1 versions, and there’s a 1973 convertible. The Speeds take them to car shows twice a year in honor of their late father. They live spread out across Georgia and Florida, so the shows are a chance to get together.

“We really enjoy getting the Mustangs out on I-75 and just kind of have our own little parade – our own rolling car show,” says Daniel. They have another stable of Ford pickups to transport the cars.

“We’ve owned Ford vehicles throughout our lives and had good experiences with them,” Daniel told Ford. “So we gravitate to what keeps us going.”

Here’s a Ford van you actually might want to sleep in down by the river

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Motorhomes sales are on an upswing, with van-based units posting double-digit growth in 2016. Whether the increased popularity is due to a certain television show about a high school chemistry teacher or simply people taking advantage of cheap fuel, sales are stronger than they’ve been in years. Winnebago is releasing two new motorhomes based on the highly malleable Ford Transit platform, the Paseo and the Fuse.

Ford and Winnebago have a long and storied relationship, especially with E-Series vans. The Transit is a popular platform thanks to its wide variety of body styles and powertrains. The Winnebago Fuse uses a cutaway chassis with a dual rear wheel setup. The 24-foot motor home has a kitchen, bath, and slide out area for sitting or sleeping. The Paseo – not to be confused with a mid-1990s Toyota compact – is a high-roof, long-wheelbase Fuse with a full bath, kitchen, refrigerator and sleeping for two.

E-Series based motorhomes are still hugely popular with Winnebago customers, though the company says more and more people are moving to newer and more refined Transit-based vehicles. Prices vary depending on options, but models can be found at any one of Winnebago’s 130 US and Canadian-based dealerships.