Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ford - Shaken But Not Stirred

Like a lot of car manufacturers Ford has struggled financially in recent years and has been forced to sell a number of major assets in an attempt to return to profitability.

During this time the company has seen its market position fall in 2007 from the World's second largest car manufacturer, a position it had previously held for some 56 years, to become third placed behind Toyota and General Motors respectively. To make things worse Ford then dropped to fourth place behind Volkswagen.

Ford underwent some rather rapid restructuring as a result and has jettisoned its two quality brands Jaguar and Land Rover to the Indian car manufacturer TATA Motors. It has also sold Aston Martin to a consortium of businessmen led by Prodrive Chairman Dave Richards, although it has retained a financial holding in the company. Financial restructuring has also taken place at Volvo who are part of the Ford group.

Despite these recent problems Ford continues to develop its successful model range and it is very much business as usual for Ford Europe as Ford USA attempts to get back on a stable business footing.

Ford's European model range is now based on the new 'Kinetic' design platform and has consolidated its designs to offer an attractive collection of small, medium and large vehicles.

The vehicle which has attracted a lot of interest recently is the new Kuga. Not to be mistaken with the Cougar which along with the Probe was an attempt to revive the Capri but proved to be a failure.

Ford has been out of the 4x4 market for a while largely due to its involvement with Land Rover and Volvo so the Kuga has been eagerly awaited. The Kuga is a five door crossover vehicle and is only designed for occasional off-road use and is not intended to have the same capabilities or ground clearance as larger 4x4 vehicles.

This may not have been made clear to the presenter of the Channel 5 motoring programme Fifth Gear. He was quite complimentary about the Kuga but could not resist driving it into really punishing terrain that ultimately caused a reported £7000 worth of damage.

The Kuga utilises an intelligent AWD (All Wheel Drive) Haldex four wheel drive system whereby power is supplied the road wheels where necessary according to the terrain. It is powered by a 2.0 TDCI diesel engine which has been improved by Ford engineers so that it now has the lowest CO2 emissions in its class and also delivers an impressive 44mpg combined which should pacify some environmentalists. The engine has improved torque and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The current model range consists of the Zetec model and also the Titanium with the Titanium having a slightly higher spec although both are very well equipped.

The Kuga has very good safety levels with an impressive Euro NCAP rating of five stars for adult occupants, four stars for children and even three stars for pedestrians so you'll even be OK if you are unfortunate enough to get knocked down by one! There are a large number of passive and active features including multiple air bags and a rigid safety cell. The Kuga also boasts ABS, Traction Control, and Electronic Stability Programme. Keyless entry and start can also be found as can a variety of different 'packs' which manufacturers now offer according to customer needs. The specifications of both are very generous though and come with 17" Alloy wheels although 19" are available. The Kuga will never match the capabilities of bigger 4x4's but then its not really meant to and therefore will be happy to occupy the position in the market for which it has been designed. Ford has created yet another winner here and seemingly refuses to be beaten.