Highlights of the year’s major events affectingMotor Co.:
• The auto maker in January seeks to keep its advantage in in-vehicle technology with the unveiling of MyFord Touch, which builds on the award-winning multimedia Sync system by providing consumers greater control over vehicle functions such as climate, audio and navigation while also minimizing driver distraction. Plans are revealed to launch nine new engines and six new transmissions in North America in 2010 as part of a 5-year endeavor to update the entire powertrain lineup.
• The ’12 Focus, to be sold in 122 major global markets, debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The new Focus, available in hatchback and sedan configurations, is to be manufactured inplants in Saarlouis, Germany; Wayne, MI; and Chongqing, China.
Following the Focus debut, it’s confirmed a unibody Explorer, based on the Explorer America concept, will enter production in the year’s fourth quarter and come equipped with a 3.5L V-6 or 2.0L inline 4-cyl. EcoBoost engine.
• Ford India says its first small car, the Figo, will make its domestic debut in dealer showrooms in India in March and be exported to South Africa and Asian countries in the coming months.
The Figo is a result of a $500 million investment in India over the course of the last two years and is expected to help the auto maker tap deeper into the Indian market, which it predicts will be the world’s third-largest vehicle market in the next 10 years.
• Ford reports in late February the Cleveland, OH, engine plant will build a new 305-hp 3.7L V-6 for the ʼ11 Mustang. To facilitate production, a $155 million investment is made to overhaul the plant, resulting in the addition of 60 new jobs.
Including money put into the Cleveland operation, the auto maker earmarks $1.8 billion for powertrain engineering and facility upgrades in North America in support of its ʼ11 model vehicle launches.
• Ford announces at the Geneva auto show plans to migrate its North American vehicle-electrification strategy to Europe. The initiative calls for five full- and hybrid-electric vehicles to be launched in the C, C-D and light-commercial segments by 2013.
While the European electrification strategy closely follows that of North America, it will lag by 6-12 months, the auto maker says.
• Ford in February surpassesin total U.S. light-vehicle sales for the first time since August 1998, a feat it accomplished just three times since 1980.
• The new Taurus-based Police Interceptor is unveiled in the U.S. in March. The modified car is slated to replace the aging Crown Victoria that is scheduled to cease production in September 2011. Long a favorite of law-enforcement agencies, the Crown Vic has helped Ford secure a 70% share of the segment.
• Lincoln says it will build its first-ever hybrid-electric vehicle, the ’11 MKZ Hybrid midsize sedan, which will sticker at the same prices as the traditional model. No volume expectations are given for the hybrid, unveiled at the New York auto show. But a Ward’s analysis shows sales will be tough to come by, as indicated by a handful of luxury auto makers that have had limited success with HEVs.
• Ford in April announces a $250 million investment to fund improvements to its Pacheco, Argentina, assembly plant. The investment, which will be made between 2010 and 2012, will prepare the plant to build an all-new vehicle “currently not in production in any part of the world,” the auto maker says, noting the model will be manufactured for Latin American markets.
It follows the announcement by saying it will increase funding for its Brazilian operations from $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion from 2011 to 2015, marking the single-largest investment for the auto maker in Brazil over a 5-year period in its 90-year history in the country.
• Ford’s first-quarter pre-tax operating profit of $2 billion marks a $4 billion gain on year-ago and bests many analysts’ predictions. In North America, Q1 revenue is $14.1 billion, up from $10.0 billion in like-2009.
• Ford of Europe says it will build a hybrid-electric vehicle and plug-in version of its C-Max cross/utility vehicle at its Valencia, Spain, plant for launch in 2013. The project entails a $410 million investment to accommodate production of the new hybrids, along with the conventional C-Max and 7-passenger Grand C-Max. Of the total, the hybrid programs are expected to account for $36 million.
• Ford of Australia in May reports its first positive result in five years, with a net after-tax profit of A$13 million ($11.6 million) in 2009, a dramatic turnaround from a loss of A$274 million ($244.2 million) in the prior-year. The profit is the result of an improved cost structure implemented at the end of 2008 and the end of several one-time actions association with a restructuring plan.
• Production of the Ford Fiesta B-car begins at the auto maker’s Cuautitlan, Mexico, assembly plant. To accommodate the launch, Ford invested about $1 billion in the facility, creating 2,000 jobs and at least 6,000 indirect positions.
• The auto makers says it will invest $135 million to develop a new continuously variable transmission at its Van Dyke, MI, transmission plant and lithium-ion battery packs at its Rawsonville, MI, components facility.
Some $10 million of the $135 million expenditure will go toward preparing Rawsonville for battery-pack assembly, while $125 million is earmarked for Van Dyke to tool up for CVT production.
• After months of speculation, Ford in June confirms it will end Mercury production in the fourth-quarter to concentrate more resources on its Lincoln luxury marque. The decision to axe Mercury is made following a vote by the board of directors.
• In late June, Ford deposits $3.8 billion in cash to the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Assn. retiree health-care trust in the U.S. The auto maker also makes a $255 million cash payment on other securities.
• Shipments of the Ford Fiesta, being built in Mexico and due to arrive at U.S. dealer showrooms in the summer, temporarily are stalled by hurricane-damaged railroad lines in the country. Some 15,000 units have been produced and 9,800 are scheduled to be built in July.
• Jim Farley is tapped in July as global head of marketing, sales and service. CEO Alan Mulally credits him with improving Ford’s position in North America and says Farley now will work closely with product-development personnel on strategy and planning.
• The all-new ’11 Explorer will be exported to 90 countries, except China, at least initially, Ford says. It’s expected the SUV will be the most-exported model from North America, with the top markets, in addition to Canada and Mexico, to include the Middle East, Russia and Japan, even though there will not be a right-hand-drive model.
• The sale of Volvo Car Corp. to China-based Zhejiang Geely is completed in early August, fetching $1.8 billion, including a $200 million note and the balance in cash. In a statement, CEO Alan Mulally says the deal will allow the auto maker to “sharpen our focus on the Ford brand around the world.”
• Ford secures a $250 million loan from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to facilitate sales of more than 200,000 vehicles to Canada and Mexico. The loan will finance $3.1 billion of export sales, with the vehicles to be produced at Ford plants in Chicago; Dearborn and Wayne, MI; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; and Avon Lake, OH.
• Four new powertrains are announced in August for the ’11 Ford F-150 pickup: a base 3.7L V-6, 5.0L V-8, 6.2L V-8 and 3.5L direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. Fuel- economy numbers are not announced, but the auto maker says, combined, they will be roughly 20% better than the ’10 F-150’s powertrain lineup.
• The Paris auto show in September brings confirmation of a global performance version of the new Ford Focus C-car, dubbed the Focus ST. Based on the next-generation ’12 Focus, the ST version is to be the auto maker’s first high-performance model developed under its global “Performance Vehicle” strategy.
• Ford in October stages the world premier of its redesigned, new-generation Ford Ranger compact pickup at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney. Developed in Australia for sale in 180 markets, the latest model is based on a new global compact-truck platform. However, the new Ranger will not be sold in North America.