Ford had the biggest and most bombastic new-car introduction of the whole Detroit Auto Show. More than that though, they introduced the best looking concept, and gave me a lot more to look forward to than minivans.
I already spent time griping about the C-Max, even though they are coming in plug-in and hybrid flavors. I have no family to cart to soccer practice, and even if I did, I couldn’t show up at a drag strip in a C-Max and still respect myself in the morning. Sorry. Just not for me. I may love Ford, but I don’t have to love every car they make.
But after the C-Max came the official introduction of the Focus Electric. This is the vanguard of Ford’s electric efforts, and it will launch in 20 cities in 2011 before a national rollout, which I think is a shame. If they can sell it in Detroit and Dallas, why not the rest of the country? Give people a choice. While Ford is just stepping into the electric waters, they do have one advantage; they know the benchmarks they must meet, and beat. It won’t be easy, but if I were to actually buy an electric car, more and more it looks like it’ll be a Focus Electric.
As great as the Focus Electric is though, Ford had one of the most compelling concepts of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, the Vertrek. With not-so-subtle hints that this could be a replacement for the old-and-getting-older Escape, I think the Vertrek really made up for the noticible lack of muscle on Ford’s stage. Under the hood is a 1.6 liter EcoBoost engine, 2+2 seating (that would never make it into a production model), and wing-like side mirrors. If I saw that car on a Ford lot, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, unless…
Ok, I want to admit that this is absolutely a long shot, and don’t get your hopes up if you’re a fan of fuel-efficient, powerful diesel trucks. However, after the announcements, the executives stayed on stage to talk with the press. I waited patiently to talk to Derrick Kuzak, Vice President of Global Product Development. This was the gentleman who talked about Ford’s overseas products, among them the new diesel-powered Ranger, so I knew this was the guy I wanted to talk to.
I started off by saying that, as a truck owner, I’m a bit concerned about Ford’s current crop of offerings. The F-150 is too much truck for me, but this Ranger I see other countries getting, that looks like a perfect fit. Why aren’t you bringing that Ranger to America?
Kuzak reminded me that Ford only sells the F-150 in North America. Then he said something that made my ears perk up; it’s still “possible”, he said, that the Ranger could come here, but that the small truck market has “shrunk from 8% of the market to about 2%”. I wanted to tell him that’s because small trucks have gotten too big, and that’s the automakers fault, but from a bussiness point of view, I can see why it might be difficult to make the case for the diesel ranger.
I think slow sales in a segment equate to a lack of a good vehicle as opposed to some change in buyer tastes; I still want a small pickup. I just want one that gets decent fuel economy, isn’t hampered by snow, and can still haul enough to be useful. It may be a lot to ask, but I think Ford’s diesel Ranger could be the answer. But what do I know?
As long as Ford brings the Vertrek concept to life though, I think I’ll be happy. It isn’t a pickup truck, but it looks pretty awesome. Do you agree?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.