Ford continues to push further

Alan Mulally and Steve Wozniak

We’ve seen many large companies, particularly automakers, rest on their laurels and become insular organizations. It’s easy to get into this rut when you measure profits in the billions and you have a huge bureaucracy.

But we’ve also seen how this attitude can lead to disaster, with the auto industry being just one example. Remember Atari? The flip side to measuring profits in the billions is measuring losses in the billions as well when things go wrong.

The culture at Ford seems very different today as the company tries to demonstrate each year in its Further with Ford conferences, where media members, bloggers and social media influencers from a wide variety of backgrounds are invited to hear from company officials, attend panel discussions from thought leaders, and of course get introduced to new Ford products and initiatives.

We were happy to attend the Further with Ford conference again this year, and CEO Alan Mulally kicked things off with an address on Monday night and was joined on stage by tech icon Steve Wozniak who would join the technology panel the next day.

Along with Chairman Bill Ford who spoke to us the next morning, Mulally has set the tone for the new Ford. The company is fiercely competing in the marketplace, while also trying to identify and adopt to trends in our fast-changing world that can impact their products on how consumers use them. Bill Ford repeated the example of car-sharing service ZipCar and how companies like that are challenging past assumptions about the auto market. Rather than ignore this development, Ford persuaded his skeptical executive team and decided to partner with ZipCar, which then ended up being an effective platform to promote Ford vehicles.

What’s most impressive about these conferences is Ford’s willingness to have real discussions with independent thought leaders who will speak their mind about the topics at hand. In one panel called “Returning to Your Senses,” the panel addressed how gadgets are infiltrating every waking moment of our lives. While Ford executive Gary Strumolo was touting new ways to interact with Ford vehicles to monitor health, MIT professor Sherry Turkle was explaining how our addition to devices was potentially harming our children, our relationships and our ability to have much needed moments of solitude. The resulting discussion was a very good one, but it showed that Ford was less interested in a scrubbed-over PR message as opposed to generating a real conversation. This willingness to address the ideas that challenge company priorities is critical to having a dynamic culture that will make a company thrive, as opposed to an insular culture where the executive team’s decisions are treated like dogma. By listening to concerns of thought leaders like Ms. Turkle, hopefully Ford can make better and informed decisions as they add more technology and interactivity to our vehicles.

The same dynamic was present in the technology panel. Ford unveiled a series of videos showing the Ford Evos concept car and how it might interact with a driver in the future. Some of the ideas were interesting, while others seemed to be trying to find a driver need or desire to fit a technology. The personalization features prompted a series of privacy questions and concerns from the media, and Steve Wozniak didn’t hesitate to emphasize that concern, pointing out that Ford and other large companies couldn’t just rely on acceptance of terms and conditions when someone starts using new features, because we always say yes in order to proceed. Instead, a real system that lets users know how their information is used with easy opt-out options for each feature is critical. That discussion probably wasn’t at the top of the Ford representative’s list as he wanted to focus on the cool new features, but again the panel was able to have a real discussion about privacy along with the technology.

The best panel by far covered design and included author Seth Godin, Jay Ward from Pixar, retailing entrepreneur Rachel Shechtman and Ford design chief J Mays. Godin touched on one of his favorite topics, as the concept of “normal” is fading away as society becomes more interconnected, making it easier for like-minded people to interact. With that in mind, companies who try to please everyone by aiming at the middle are having less success, while targeting groups who were once considered weird, or outside the mainstream, with excellent products can now lead to greater success. We’re seeing that thankfully in the auto industry as we’re seeing far fewer vehicles that seem to have been designed by committee. In trying to please everyone, you please no one.

Seth Godin

Another interesting story came from Jay Ward, who explained how Pixar approached one unnamed Detroit automaker about collaborating when Pixar was making “Cars” but was turned down. But J Mays and Ford gladly accepted the invitation. It may seem like an obvious decision now, but in old Detroit it’s not surprising that wouldn’t consider such a partnership.

Lastly, I got to drive some great cars as well and I’ll be following up with reports on each of them. The one that stands out was the Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid, which is just one example of Ford’s push into electric vehicles. In this hybrid Fusion, the braking system helps to recharge the battery, and each time you brake the dashboard will let you know how efficient you were in terms of transferring energy to the battery as a percentage all the way up to 100%.

Innovation requires a culture that is willing to challenge established beliefs. It can be difficult for large companies to develop and then maintain such a culture, but it appears Ford has found a formula that works.

Ford Fusion plug in hybrid

  

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Ford is creating 100 Ford Fusion videos

Want a cool vacation instead of a crappy one?

Joel McHale, Ryan Seacrest and Kate Micucci are taking 100 all-new 2013 Ford Fusion to the awesome places all over the country and filming real people having amazing experiences. You can check this out by Visiting RandomActsofFusion where you can enter for a chance to win amazing prizes like trips to Ryan and Joel’s hometowns or 5-star vacation do-overs. Or sign up to see the all-new Fusion in your hometown. It has a completely new look that we think will be a hit.

  

Adrian Grenier discusses green living at 2012 Go Further with Ford event

Most Bullz-Eye readers will recognize Adrian Grenier as Vincent Chase from HBO’s “Entourage.” But there’s much more to him than that. Grenier has always been passionate about the environment and living a sustainable lifestyle, and eventually that passion led him to co-found a company dedicated to this purpose.

I recently attended Ford’s 2012 Go Further event will several hundred other bloggers, and Grenier was featured on a panel with his SHFT.com co-founder Peter Glatzer to discuss green lifestyle issues along with other experts and activists. Frankly I came away very impressed. So many activists in this area can become very preachy about the subject, and that’s particularly true with celebrities. But Grenier is much more interested in inspiring people to make their lives more sustainable, and that’s the mission of SHFT.com according to their website:

SHFT is a multi-media platform founded by film producer Peter Glatzer and actor-filmmaker Adrian Grenier. Our mission is to convey a more sustainable approach to the way we live through video, design, art and culture.

The website covers a wide variety of topics, including architecture, art, business, conservation, design, energy, fashion, food and home & garden. They’re aiming for an audience looking for innovative ways to change the way they live their lives in order to better take care of our planet.

One effort is called “The Big SHFT” which involves a partnership with Ford Motor Company.

The night before, we heard from Bill Ford who recounted his own commitment to these issues and he candidly discussed how the powers that be at Ford looked at him like he was an alien when he brought up these issues years ago. But he wouldn’t give up, and now Ford has become a leader in this area.

Among the presentations at the Go Further event involved some of the innovations coming out of Ford’s research labs that are changing the materials that go into their cars. One example is Ford’s use of soybean-based foam in seat cushions, backs and head restraints that saves about 5 million pounds of petroleum annually. The next step according to the researchers is making these foams biodegradable.

Ford is also focusing on recycled materials like plastic bottles, denim and old tires. They also working on other initiatives, like retired US currency of all things. With its strong, tensile characteristics, they are looking into shredding these old greenbacks for use in the manufacture of plastic parts like trays and bins. Currently retired currency is simply burned.

The possibilities are endless, as long as we put our minds to it. Ford is one of the many companies pushing for these solutions, and SHFT.com wants to inspire more companies and individuals to look for more innovations. You don’t have to be a multi-national corporation to make a difference.

Check out the SHFT.com website for more cool content in this area. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter. For some the green issue has become very political and polarizing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All of us can learn more about simple changes we can make for a more sustainable lifestyle, and this bottom-up approach can have a huge impact.

  

Driving the 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302

There are few things quite as exhilarating as driving a muscular sports car on a track. Driving on the open road or through winding mountain roads can be great, but pushing a beast like the Mustang Boss 302 around the tight turns of a racetrack and then flooring it on the straightaway will give you a thrill you’ll never forget.

We naturally jumped at the chance to participate when Ford invited us to its first “Mustang Masterclass – Something Every Man Should Know” event for the opportunity to drive the 2013 Mustang Boss 302 at Miller Motorsports Park. The idea was to teach us how to drive this incredible muscle car on a track regardless of our skill level. I was pretty comfortable driving a stick but was anxious to learn more from some of the best driving instructors in the country, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Mustang is one of the most iconic American nameplates, and the Boss 302 is a special version of the Mustang that was born on the track. The first generation Mustang Boss 302 was made from 1969-1970 specifically for buyers who wanted to race their Mustangs, and it was revived in 2012 for the same purpose.

Most importantly, the new Boss features a beast of an engine that yields 444 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. The Boss mandate is to provide the best-handling Mustang ever, so the already strong Mustang GT suspension system has been further refined. The Boss 302 also features unique, lightweight 19-inch black alloy racing wheels in staggered widths: 9 inches in front, 9.5 inches in the rear. The result is an incredible machine with a growl that will turn heads and bring a smile to your face.

Miller Motorsports Park was about 30 minutes away from our hotel, so we loaded up on some coffee and were greeted by a fleet of colorful 2013 Mustang Boss 302s that we would be driving to the track. From a design point of view, one minor change stands out this year involving the side stripes. The 2012 version featured a reflective “c-stripe” on the side of the vehicle inspired by the 1969 model, and the 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 builds on the heritage of the 1970 Boss 302 with new, reflective “hockey stick” graphics package. The LED lights in the front and back also stand out. We hopped in and revved up the engines and were off. This gave us a preview of what we were in for at the track as we cruised through the Utah countryside. The Boss 302 may be built for the track, but you’ll have plenty of fun driving this beautiful vehicle in any setting.

When we arrived at the track we settled in for some serious classroom work. The goal here was to teach us how to drive on a race track, and the instructors were extremely knowledgeable and safety was always the number one goal. A lot of time was spent on the proper line to take going in and out of turns, focusing on the apex and the entry and exit points. It was fascinating stuff and it also turned out to be extremely helpful.

We got suited up in our racing suits and helmets, and then we headed out to the garage to find our cars. The good folks at Miller had each of our names put on the windshield of our car and it was quite a thrill to climb into a personalized Boss 302 racecar. Mine was orange, though later in the day they switched me into the #57 black car. The track cars had thick safety bars in the interior like you’d find in all race cars. We went through some test laps and then we had some specific lessons on braking and downshifting, and then we were ready for some high-speed laps.

When we got back on the track, the instructor always set the pace in the lead white car with blue stripes with three of us following in our 302s, and following the instructor’s line on the track was a huge help. I was lucky to be in the fastest group, and our instructor really challenged us to keep up. The car was a pure joy to drive and it handled beautifully, and the power on the straightaways and coming out of turns was amazing. I could have spent the whole day in that car.

The entire experience was amazing. We enjoyed many more activities that day at Miller in between our track times, including go-cart racing and zip lining. I’ll follow up with a separate article on all the activities available at Miller Motorsports, but the highlight was the Mustang Boss 302 and taking it out on the track. People from all over the world come to Miller to work with the instructors to improve their driving skills over several days, and we got a very good taste of that experience.

As I was driving back to the hotel, I was stuck behind a truck on a two-lane road so I floored my Mustang Boss 302 and easily blew by it. It was a nice reminder that I didn’t need to be on a track to enjoy this car, but I still can’t wait to do it again.

  

Drink of the Week: The Campari Cocktail

The Campari CocktailSo, you’re starting a new job requiring a long enough commute from your home that it will ultimately require a costly move. Then, the second day of your aforementioned lengthy commute, your car starts hesitating in stop-and-start cross county traffic. Next thing you know, you’re staring down the barrel of a big, big transmission repair bill while suddenly finding yourself with a rented Ford Focus in your driveway instead of your charmingly banged-up Buick.

When that happens, you don’t want a drink that requires a lot of fuss. It’s better if it trying it out helps finish up some nearly empty bottles, lightening your liquor load on your impending cross-megalopolis move.

So, I’ll spare you the usual classic cocktail history lesson as well as the tortured connection to current events or this weekend’s holiday. (Could any cocktail possibly be appropriate for Memorial Day, anyway?) This is clearly a time when you — by which I obviously mean “I” — want my evening cocktail to be simple, stimulating for the taste buds, and strong — which is why I’ve gone and doubled the amounts for my version of today’s DOTW. Feel free to halve it if you’re situation is different or if you’ll be driving anytime soon.

The Campari Cocktail

2 ounces Campari
1 1/2 ounces vodka (preferably 100 proof)
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Lemon or orange twist (fairly optional garnish)

Combine Campari, vodka, and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Shake as vigorously as you can manage and strain into — what else? — a chilled cocktail glass. If you like, throw in a lemon or orange twist — it can’t hurt and it might help. Sip and, if you you’re not likely to give a significant amount of your personal worth to a mechanic, thank your freaking lucky stars.

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I’ve praised the oh-so-sweet and then oh-so-bitter one-two punch of Campari before while discussing the hugely underappreciated Negroni as well as the oh-so-refreshing Americano. As the name implies, here’s a drink where the Campari flavor is really and truly front and center, perhaps too much for some folks. Certainly, replacing the gin in the Negroni with vodka (and actually using less of it), doesn’t do anything to complicate the drink or stand in the way of the Campari flavors, even if they could use a bit of leavening. That’s why I think I found adding in the stronger flavor of 100 proof Smirnoff resulted in a more satisfying taste experience as well as a more effective attitude adjuster.

Vodka-disliking cocktail snobs won’t be surprised that, while I’ve tried this drink with a number of brands, the results with the 80 proof vodkas, however, didn’t vary by much. Indeed, the very cheap Seagram’s and the much more high-endish Kettle One I used to make it didn’t really change the experience by that much. Still, since I like Campari, I’m declaring that a reason to like this drink. In fact, next week’s drink will also feature it, but it’ll be just a mite more complex…unless something else happens to my car.

  

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